The learning objectives of this module are to become familiar with the purpose of the follow-up phase and to understand the need for a dynamic risk assessment process.
Follow-up is a phase, during which the frontline responder is in regular contact with the victim. Read first why we need the follow-up phase and then see what the follow-up looks like in Nora’s case.
Why do we need the follow-up phase as a part of the risk assessment process?
Despite an effective intervention, an abuser may continue being violent and oppressive towards the victim. There are many reasons why a victim of DV may not be able to leave the abuser: e.g. (mutual) dependency, fear or financial issues. Usually it takes several attempts to leave an abuser before staying away for good. Sometimes separation escalates the violence. The victim may try to control the violence by staying in the relationship. The victim may leave the abuser, but the abuser starts stalking and harassing the victim. Child contact arrangements may be used as way to carry on subjecting victims to violence. In a nutshell, the situation may get worse.
Ideally, risk assessment is a dynamic process. Risk assessment needs to be regularly revised. If the threat of violence continues, the process of risk assessment needs to start over again. Effective prevention of DV and breaking the cycle of violence may require several interventions.
Case scenario: Nora
A lot has happened since Nora’s first meeting with an NGO worker.
Nora currently stays in a shelter. She has a support person from the Victim Support Service as well as from an NGO that provides assistance for immigrant women who have faced violence. She also has regular meetings with a psychiatric nurse.
Police has filed a report of assaults, defamation, threatening and frauds committed by Peter. Nora has got a restraining order against Peter. Nora has learnt from her lawyer that divorce does not affect her immigration status.
Nora has a new bank account and a new secret phone number. She attends the language course in another school. Nora meets the NGO worker every week. The NGO worker has mediated the conflict between Nora and her mother and sisters successfully.
Everything seems to be fine now, right?
However, Nora is scared. She is terrified of the possibility that Peter will find her. A fear of death is taking over her life.
When Nora lived with Peter, she felt that she was able to control her fear. She was able to sense Peter’s agitation and she always did everything to avoid an explosion. She pleased Peter and tried to reason with him. She felt how the tension was building and when the violence began, she felt relief: ‘Soon this is going to be over for some weeks. Soon I can breathe again’.
Traumatising experiences make Nora doubt and blame herself.
The NGO worker and the psychiatric nurse always ask about Nora’s fear, but she cannot tell them. She feels overwhelming shame to admit to her helpers that, despite all the help and support she has received, she is terrified. Living with an abusive partner was easier when she did not have to be frightened all the time. She cannot reveal these thoughts to anyone.
Nora becomes even more confused when she meets a friend of Peter by chance. The friend tells that Peter is sad and upset. The friend says that Peter has been extremely worried about Nora and has tried to find her.
‘He is not doing very well.’
‘Please call him.’
The human mind is complex. What could happen next in Nora’s case? What if Nora calls Peter? Will Peter find Nora or will Nora return to Peter? What if Nora tells about this incident in the next meeting with the NGO worker?
Monitoring the situation and keeping a trustful and safe relationship with the victim are extremely important. Here, Nora discloses to the NGO worker how she is worried about Peter’s condition. This leads to a discussion of Nora’s fears and self-blame. The NGO worker pays attention to the message that Peter has been trying to find Nora.
If Nora’s situation changed, the frontline responders would revise the risk assessment and take new appropriate measures. For example, depending on the legislation, the police can consider secret means of gathering intelligence to prevent crimes or avoid danger. A portable alarm system could ease the fear Nora is experiencing. There are many options.
Thank you for reading Nora’s story.
Learn more about domestic violence risk assessment from the Good-read section. Don’t forget to print your own risk assessment checklist from the Materials section.