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More and more campuses are looking to in-source the capacity to perform violence risk assessments by behavioral intervention and threat assessment teams. The Structured Interview for Violence Risk Assessment (SIVRA-35) is a thirty-five-item inventory designed by Brian Van Brunt, Ed.D., that is used to assist Behavioral Intervention Team members and clinical staff in conducting a more thorough and research-based violence risk assessment. The SIVRA-35 is designed to assist with individuals identified as elevated, severe, or extreme risk by the NaBITA Threat Assessment Tool (available for free at www.nabita.org/resources/threat-assessment-tools) or using similar methodologies.
The SIVRA-35 can be used as a structured questionnaire or can be scored to provide the assessor a low, moderate, or high rating of risk for a range of behaviors including:
Direct Communicated Threats
- Social media picture postings that involve a weapon being brandished
- Bullying or intimidating behavior (may include both the target and the perpetrator of these behaviors)
- Disruptive behavior that includes threatening gestures, physical intimidation or aggressive outbursts
- Potential “off color” jokes or veiled statements: “I should blow this place up!”, “I’m going to go off like that Korean kid at V-Tech.”
- Threatening writings or drawings
- Para-weapon or dangerous material possession like airsoft guns, the Anarchist’s Cookbook, swords, knife collections, etc.
- Psychotic, delusional or schizophrenic talk: “I am Hitler/Jesus”, “The people in the chairs don’t swim like the others”, “I can’t cry on Tuesdays”
- Disruptive behavior that is perceived as overly rude, entitled or includes threatening gestures, physical intimidation or aggressive outbursts
- Odd, strange or concerning writings or drawings
- Bloody or violence-filled tattoos
- Lack of empathy or objectification of others
Contextual Environmental Factors
- Obsessional pursuit and stalking
- Return to campus following involuntary commitment or hospitalization
- Rapid change in previously upsetting behavior without explanation
- Elevated “contagional” response regarding other extreme events
Frequently Asked Questions About the SIVRA-35
Is the SIVRA-35 a psychological test that can predict the next school shooter?
No. The SIVRA-35 is an informal, structured set of items for those who work in higher education to use with individuals who may pose a risk or threat to the community. The SIVRA-35 is not designed as a psychological test and it is not designed to assess suicidal students.
The ideal approach to violence risk assessment is found in utilizing an individual trained and experienced in violence risk assessment to interview the subject. Since these individuals are difficult to find, the SIVRA-35 serves as a starting place for BIT members to conduct a more standardized, research-based violence risk assessment with individuals determined to be at an increased risk.
While risk and threat assessment cannot be predictive, multiple agencies (FBI, Secret Service, Department of Education, US Post Office, ASIS International, the Society for Human Resource Management, and ASME-ITI) have suggested risk factors to attend to when determining the potential danger an individual may represent. Several prominent experts in campus violence and workplace threat assessment have also recommended key considerations salient when assessing risk and threat (Meloy, 2000; Byrnes, 2002; Turner & Gelles, 2003; Deisinger, Randazzo, O’Neill & Savage, 2008; Meloy, Hoffmann, Guldimann, & James, 2011).
Building on this research, the SIVRA-35 provides the user a score from 0-70, indicating a numerical level of risk. Scores from 1-20 indicate a low risk for violence, scores from 21-40 indicate a moderate risk, and scores from 41-70 indicate a high risk. The SIVRA-35 will help those assessing violence risks to organize their thoughts and perceptions in a standardized manner and bring the current literature to the task of evaluating an at-risk individual.
Who can administer the SIVRA-35?
Those who complete the SIVRA-35 training can administer the SIVRA-35 (see below for more information). The SIVRA-35 is designed as a structured interview and can be used by residential life staff (such as hall directors and executive housing directors), campus police, conduct officers, counselors, and psychologists, student affairs administrators, and anyone connected with the campus student of concern or Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT).
Unlike other psychological tests focused on threat and danger to others, the SIVRA-35 is designed with non-clinical language and can be completed accurately by those without psychological or forensic training.
Do I have the individual fill out the SIVRA-35?
No, the SIVRA is a structured interview and requires staff to gather information to answer each of the data items, which can be scored online. Information is best gathered during an interview with the individual after the staff has developed a rapport. Where possible, information should be verified by staff (e.g. access to weapons, mental health problems, past criminal history) through additional interviews or record reviews (e.g. by talking to police, residential life staff, parents, and those who know the individual).
The SIVRA-35 can be administered without the subject individual present based on case history data. As with any administration of the SIVRA-35, the results are only as accurate as the data entered into the online interface. If the person conducting the interview does not know the answer to the question, this will reduce the accuracy of the results.
How is the SIVRA-35 administered?
As with any psychological tool or assessment, the utility of the SIVRA-35 depends first on the rapport developed between the assessor and the subject. The assessor should avoid rattling off SIVRA-35 questions in a formal and potentially off-putting manner. The best way to obtain accurate data is through a conversation with the individual based on mutual respect and a stated commitment to serving the best interest of the individual. This will hopefully decrease the individual’s defensiveness (some degree of defense is normal given the nature of the interview) and will lead to more genuine responses.
There is no set of risk factors or list of concerning behaviors that can predict a future violent event. SIVRA-35 is a useful reference tool when conducting a structured interview during a violence risk assessment. Ideally, the assessment should take place after the assessor has reviewed incident reports, available documents related to conduct in the educational setting and in the immediate community, and any other information that has led to the initial concern. Any violence risk assessment involves static and dynamic risk factors, contextual and environmental elements, and mitigating factors. There is no current tool or computer model that can accurately predict future violent behavior, and no tool is ever a substitute for professional expertise. Therefore, the use of structured professional judgment in combination with documentation and consultation with trusted colleagues is the current best practice.
While the SIVRA-35 primarily assists those conducting violence risk assessments through narrative, structured questions, there is a quantitative, numeric scoring key to further assist staff in their decision-making. A single administrator will either ask questions directly to the person being assessed or review relevant incident reports and other forms of data to determine a true or false answer for each item.
How do we receive results?
After answering the online questions, users receive an immediate email that outlines the individual’s risk (low, moderate, high), and contains relevant research articles to support specific concerns identified by the data. The email also offers guidance on how to conduct a potential follow-up with the individual.
Is the submitted data stored somewhere?
Data is kept in an aggregate form in a secure database. No identifying school information is recorded. Data is kept to allow future updates to improve the SIVRA-35 based on items that are more frequently endorsed or less frequently endorsed. Data cannot be recalled or accessed once the user completes the SIVRA-35. The only way to receive results is by email.
How do I become certified to use the SIVRA-35?
Administering the SIVRA-35 requires the completion of a training course. Trainings are offered at NaBITA regional BIT Certification events as well as during the national NaBITA conference in November (either during the pre-conference or during the Campus Threat Management Institute). The training involves a review of the 35 individual items on the SIVRA-35, case study application and a demonstration of the online version.
How is the validity and reliability of the SIVRA-35 determined?
The SIVRA-35 is not intended to be a psychological test and is not created to compete with existing measures that are subject to a more detailed research review such as the Workplace Assessment of Violence Risk (WAVR-21), Firestone Assessment of Violent Thoughts (FAVT), or the Historical, Clinical, Risk Management (HCR-20). The SIVRA-35 is a structured interview designed to help BIT staff apply existing research in the area of threat assessment to improve the accuracy of their assessment and subsequent conduct/treatment decisions with at-risk individuals.
The SIVRA-35 is based on the latest research in the field of threat assessment to ensure that each of the risk factors connected to the individual 35 items are well supported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Secret Service, Department of Education, U.S. Post Office, Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (ATAP), Risk Assessment Guideline Elements for Violence (RAGE-V), and the research of leaders in the threat assessment field such as Voss, Meloy, O’Toole, Turner and Gelles.
As new cases of violence occur (Sandy Hook shooting, James Holmes shooting in Aurora), the SIVRA-35 items are updated to reflect new research and findings. Yearly reports are sent out to update those trained in the SIVRA-35 regarding the updates.
The SIVRA-35 is also the subject of several research studies looking to improve inter-rater reliability in the training process as well as improving how individual items are correlated with future violence. Results of these studies will be used to continually improve the SIVRA-35 and will be shared with SIVRA-35 certified trainees.
Dr. Van Brunt is currently writing a white paper to demonstrate how the SIVRA-35 can be applied to several past cases of rampage violence. This paper will outline how the SIVRA-35 items correlate with potential violence, and will provide SIVRA-35 users with some further clarification on how to more accurately use the tool. The Whitepaper will be released in late 2013.
Pricing and Contact Information
Trainees receive a participant password that is active for one year. The cost of renewal after the first year is $499, which covers license renewal for any members of your institution/team who received access as part of their training with Brian Van Brunt. There is no limit to the number of times SIVRA-35 can be used each year. There is no limit to the number of SIVRA-35 trained staff members who can renew under the single $499 charge. To purchase your SIVRA-35 renewal, click here to visit our online shopping cart.
Trainings can also be scheduled by bringing Dr. Van Brunt to your campus to train your team. These trainings offer additional detail, case studies and advice on how the BIT can integrate the SIVRA-35 into its current practice. To schedule a visit, please contact Megan Birster, Director of Marketing Outreach & Business Development, at (610) 993-0229 ext. 1015.
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Note: Dangerousness and violence, from a student, faculty or staff member is difficult, if not impossible to accurately predict. This training topic offers research based techniques and theories to provide a foundational understanding and improved awareness of the potential risk. The training should not be seen as a guarantee or offer any assurance that violence will be prevented.