By Melissa Scaia, Global Rights for Women Director of International Training
On July 13, 2018 police authorities in the Republic of Georgia made a milestone policy shift in the police response to domestic violence. Global Rights for Women worked with the Georgia Ministry of Internal Affairs and the United Nations to make this transformative change. Now, all police officers in Georgia will evaluate risks for lethality and re-abuse by domestic violence offenders in order to identify and protect victims.
Effective as of September 1, 2018, police officers called to domestic violence incidents will use the risk assessment tool entitled, Georgia Risk Assessment for Domestic Abuse (GRADA). The process to develop GRADA was a collaborative effort by Global Rights for Women, the Georgia Ministry of Internal Affairs, UN Women, advocacy agencies and many other criminal justice agencies seeking to address the safety of victims of domestic violence in the Republic of Georgia.
“I would like to congratulate you on this success and once again, thank you for the excellent cooperation over this project. The whole GRW team provided top-notch work and we have been continuously impressed with the quality of your work throughout our cooperation, including during the recent Training of Trainers (ToT) which Melissa Scaia and Marcus Bruning of GRW handled with exceptional professionalism,” said UN Women Georgia.
The tool will be used by law enforcement agencies to gauge the danger that perpetrators of domestic violence pose for on-going abuse against the women and children. This collaboration is an initiative under the “United to Fight Violence Against Women” project funded by the European Union.
“We are thrilled that the Ministry of Internal Affairs has decided to institutionalize this critically important practice. We believe that women and children will be safer because of it. We have been honored to have the opportunity to assist in implementing a domestic violence law in Georgia that Global Rights for Women staff helped draft over 10 years ago,” said Cheryl Thomas, Executive Director of GRW.
GRW achieved its goal to create a standardized practice among police throughout the country that makes the severity and frequency of the domestic violence visible to all criminal justice practitioners. GRW staff, along with a consulting police officer, probation officer, and judge who have years of first-hand experience working with risk assessment tools in Minnesota, travelled to Georgia three times over the last year.
A core component of the work to develop GRADA came from conducting focus groups with victims of domestic violence in Georgia. While there are many similarities across the world amongst victims of domestic violence, each cultural context brings different experiences. Indicators of re-abuse and risk of lethality must be identified in a local context. To do this, Global Rights for Women centralizes the voices of victims of violence in each country where we work. In Georgia, three particular forms of violence were common among the victims in the focus groups: 1). Victims experienced severe levels of violence while pregnant; 2) Abusers exerted a high level of control over resources such as money, food, and everyday items in the home; and 3) Family members of abusers actively participated in the physical violence and control of the victims of domestic violence. This critical input from victims was incorporated into the development of GRADA.
It is essential for responders to accurately anticipate the likelihood of repeat violence to be able to effectively protect victims from future harm and possible death at the hands of the perpetrator. GRADA is a relevant and valid domestic violence risk assessment tool that will make the violence visible to all practitioners who work to intervene in cases of domestic violence. An effective response and risk assessment leads to an end to the violence.
About Global Rights for Women
GRW collaborates with partners around the world to promote women’s human rights to equality and freedom from violence through legal reform and systems change. GRW assists in creating new laws and improving legal systems primarily in response to requests from dedicated nonprofit groups eager to deepen their expertise in ending violence against women and girls (VAWG). GRW recognizes that, due to the diverse array of communities around the world dealing with VAWG, each face different and unique challenges. By collaborating with groups, including grassroots organizations, that are intimately familiar with what is needed to improve the lives of women and children in their communities, GRW can be confident that it is responding to real needs and establishing ongoing relationships that allow the organization to adaptively respond as those needs evolve.