The SVR-20 is a 20-item checkist of risk factors for sexual violence that were identified by a review of the literature on sex offenders. The checklist was developed to improve the accuracy of assessments for the risk of future sexual violence. Sexual violence is defined broadly as 'actual, attempted, or threatened sexual contact with a person who is non-consenting or unable to give consent'. The goals of the SVR-20 guidelines include the following:
- Make risk assessments more systematic
- Increase agreement among evaluators
- Provide detailed guidelines grounded in the scientific literature
- Assist in the planning and delivery of interventions (treatment and supervision)
- Objectively evaluate the adequacy of risk asessments.
Risk assessment does not fall exclusively within the domain of any profession or discipline. Risk assessments are routinely conducted by correctional, psychological and medical professionals, as well as by multidisciplinary teams. Evaluators need to understand the factors associated with general crime and violence as well as those associated with sexual violence. The SVR-20 manual provides information about how and when to conduct sexual violence risk assessments, research on which the basic risk factors are based and key questions to address when making judgements about risk.
The SVR-20 specifies which risk factors should be assessed and how the risk assessment should be conducted. The list of risk factors is:
a) empirically related to future sexual violence
b) useful in making decisions about the management of sex offenders
d) reasonably comprehensive without being redundant.
The 20 factors essential in a comprehensive sexual violence risk assessment fall into three main categories: Psychosocial Adjustment, History of Sexual Offences, and Future Plans. The actual risk for sexual violence depends on the combination (not just the number) of risk factors present in a specific case. Coding of the SVR-20 involves determining the presence/absence of each factor and whether there has been any recent change in the status of the factor. This item-level information is integrated into a summary judgement of the level of risk (Low, Moderate or High),
which can easily be translated into an action plan.
Developed primarily for use in criminal and civil forensic contexts, the SVR-20 is appropriate for use in cases where an individual has committed, or is alleged to have committed, an act of sexual violence:
- Pre-trial release decisions
- Pre-sentence assistance to judges
- Development of treatment programmes at correctional intake
- Prior to discharge to assist in post-release management
- Custody/access assessment
- Determination of need for a community warning
- Quality assurance or critical incident reviews
- Education and training.