The learning materials are not tailored to the needs of every country; they include generic cases that need local adaptation.
Case study: Man as a victim of domestic violence
4:34 p.m. Argument in the parking lot of a shopping mall
An outcry from Mrs. E. is audible when her head hits the roof of the car above the driver’s entrance. Passers-by then notice a loud argument and scuffle between the couple. When the couple gets into the car to start driving, a driver blocks them with her vehicle. Mr. E. then flees.
4:37 p.m. Emergency call at the emergency control centre
One of the bystanders calls the police.
4:50 p.m. Police car arrives on scene
The report of Mrs. E. and the witnesses cannot fully clarify what happened. Witnesses say that they have seen that Mr. E. was violent towards Mrs. E. HOWEVER, Mrs. E. said that they had merely argued, whereupon she got into the car frantically and injured her head. They continued to fight afterwards and wanted to drive home but were prevented from doing so. Mr. E. had probably fled in panic, because of the violent verbal attacks by bystanders.
The police officers took down the statements and personal details of the witnesses and of Mrs. E. During this process, Mrs. E. is also asked questions which serve to assess the danger of being attacked again. Mrs. E. refuses a medical examination and is informed of the possibility of having her injury documented in a violence protection outpatient clinic in the following days in a legally secure, cost-free and, if necessary, anonymous manner. After Mrs. E. has been informed about her victim rights, one of the two policemen sensitively addresses the issue of domestic violence and points out the possibilities of specialised counselling and the proactive approach. Mrs. E. listens to these hints and the explanation of police protection options (judicial protection order according to the Protection against Violence Act, approaching endangered persons, expulsion, accommodation in a women’s shelter), but remains firm that everything is fine at home. She refuses any support and the information flyer offered to her. Since the overall circumstances indicate a case of domestic violence, the police officers inform Mrs. E. that they are initiating an investigation against her husband for physical injury and hand her a victim protection leaflet with the police’s case number.
Mrs. E. finally makes her way home alone and, because of her head injury, by public transport.
7:14 p.m. Emergency call in the control center
An emergency call is received at the control centre from neighbours due to disturbing noise in Mr. and Mrs. E.’s apartment.
7:35 p.m. Police intervention in the apartment of couple E.
Two police cars arrive at the address of the couple since the afternoon’s operation and the address of couple E. are already stored in the police system. The police officers assume that there could be another incident of domestic violence. The police crew entering the apartment immediately see that the couple and Mrs. E.’s mother are intoxicated. When questioned separately, all three parties trivialize the incident and state that they were upset that Mr. E. had fled in the afternoon, leaving his wife alone with the police and a head injury. As there are no visible injuries either to Mr. E. and Mrs. E.’s mother, and there are no concrete indications of a criminal offence, those present are urged to remain calm and are informed that if the police are called in again, a report of an administrative offence will be made for disturbing noise.
9:44 p.m. Emergency call in the operations centre
Again, an emergency call from the neighbours for disturbing the peace. The neighbours say, “Things are really getting lively next door. I think they’re having another one of their problems.”
10:10 p.m. Police action at the home of couple E.
Due to the suspicion that this is a case of domestic violence, two police cars arrive again. Among them are police officers from the previous operation in the apartment of family E. They find that the degree of alcohol intoxication of couple E. as well as of Mrs. E.’s mother seems to be much higher compared to the previous visit. Furthermore, all those present show traces of blood, injuries to hands, arms, and face. Mr. E.’s injuries are particularly serious.
Once again, all three persons are heard separately, whereby Mrs. E. and her mother state that Mr. E. began to become violent towards them and they had to defend themselves.
Mr. E. breaks down crying in front of an official and says that he could not stand the violence by his wife and mother-in-law which had been going on for years and that he did not know what else to do that evening but to become violent as well. In spite of his strong intoxication, Mr. E. appears credible and provides conclusive information about the crime and the violence to date.
Mrs. E. and her mother are confronted with the information provided by Mr. E., whereupon they react verbally in a very aggressive manner, and both want to attack Mr. E. in order to “show him what it means to spread such lies about them”. Further violent assaults on Mr. E. can be prevented by the police forces deployed.
Mr. E. wants to leave the apartment and can only be accommodated in a homeless shelter due to the lack of a special accommodation for men as victims of domestic violence. He would like to contact a counselling centre for men affected by domestic violence the very next day and have his injuries documented in an outpatient violence protection clinic. In contrast to Mrs. E. and her mother, he agrees to immediate medical treatment of his injuries. To treat his injuries, Mr. E. is driven to the nearest hospital by an ambulance car. From there, he goes to the emergency shelter on his own. Once again both women reaffirm that they only “had to defend themselves” against the attacks of Mr. E. As a result, the police assesses the risk of Mr. E. becoming the victim of violent assaults by his wife and her mother again as very likely.
In the following days and weeks
In the course of further investigations, the witnesses of the first argument in the parking lot and a neighbour of the E. family are questioned by the police. Mr. E. makes an extensive statement to the police, in which he again describes the development and successive increase in violence against him, as well as his fear that someone may discover that he is a victim of violence in his relationship.
The forensic medical report of the violence protection outpatient clinic is also included in the investigation, which supports the course of events as described by Mr. E. Mrs. E. and her mother only make statements regarding the criminal charges of assault against Mr. E. In doing so, they stick to their original version that Mr. E. caused the escalation of violence but become entangled in contradictions which are documented. With regard to their charge of grievous bodily harm against Mr. E., both make use of their right to refuse to give evidence.
Mr. E. seeks advice from a specialised counselling centre for men affected by domestic violence. He is granted the sole use of the marital home.
After four weeks, the police investigations are concluded with the result that Mr. E. has apparently been a victim of violence by his wife and her mother for years. Both incidents are sent to the Special Department for Cases of Domestic Violence of the District Attorney’s Office for further decision.
Case study: Domestic violence increases in severity over time
Family F. has been living with two small children in their own apartment for a short time when Mr. F. became unemployed. Mrs. F. is able to scale-up her office activities; she is working from home since she is self-employed, and thus, she can ensure that the loan on the house can continue to be paid off. She notices how much her husband suffers from the situation and supports him as best as she can.
The situation between couple F. has become very tense in the meantime. Since the children have been in the day-care centre during the day, Mr. F. uninhibitedly unleashes his disappointment and anger about the turning-down of his job applications and related financial issues by criticizing and humiliating his wife.
Mrs. F. suffers so much from the accusations that she proposes marriage counselling. She has great hope that everything can be improved. She feels that her husband has changed in his behavior completely, but she firmly believes that he will be back to his old self if he can find work again.
To Mrs. F.’s surprise, Mr. F. reacts violently to her suggestion to get help and strikes his wife in the face. Mrs. F. is desperate but considers this to be a one-off slip.
Slaps in the face, shaking and bumps are now part of the weekly routine. Mrs. F. defends her husband’s behaviour from herself, hides it from others and hopes for improvement through a new employment of her husband.
Over the summer, the situation has relaxed a little with the children at home during the summer holidays. Mrs. F. is hopeful because her husband is now also starting to work short time.
Mrs. F. can breathe a sigh of relief during the day because her husband is out of the house. In the afternoon and evening, she spends every minute with the children, and also mostly sleeps with the children at night; she almost convinced herself that the children have problems falling and staying asleep and that at least her husband has to sleep through.
Mr. F. is once again unemployed and from one day to the next he resumes to the old pattern of accusations, humiliation, and assaults against his wife.
A poster in the day-care centre draws Mrs. F.’s attention informing her that there is a hotline that gives advice to women who are exposed to domestic violence. The advertisement seems familiar to her, she must have passed it countless times. But for the first time, she connects it with herself. However, she does not consider her situation serious enough that she would need help for herself.
The incidents of domestic violence occur at shorter intervals, and it becomes increasingly difficult for Mrs. F. to explain or hide her erratic and desperate behavior, her broken relationship and her numerous injuries from her family, her circle of friends and her children’s social environment. She withdraws more and more.
The F. family is now almost completely isolated: their social environment at first reacted more and more uncomprehendingly to the many cancellations, becoming increasingly disappointed and irritated as disputes arose. Finally, their environment withdrew with resignation. Many attributed the situation to the family’s noticeably tense financial situation and assumed that everything would be the same when this difficult phase was over.
After a particularly violent incident of physical assault in the bedroom in the evening, which Mrs. F. suspects the children may have heard, Mrs. F. calls the nationwide help line for violence against women. It helps her to have someone who listens to her with understanding.
Again and again, Mrs. F. calls the hotline after incidents. Finally, she also asks to be referred to a local advice centre and comes under increasing pressure because she realises that her children now also know and understand more than she would like them to know. Nevertheless, the step to filing a complaint and/or a separation seems impossible for Mrs. F.
From another mother from her neighbourhood, Mrs. F. learns that the police also advise citizens anonymously. She has never been in contact with the police, she has great respect and rather little trust that someone there could understand her situation. Nevertheless, she finally calls her districts’s victim protection officer with a suppressed telephone number. Surprised to be informed calmly, not to be condemned or pressed to report the case, she finally takes more courage. The police’s advice made her all the more aware of what she actually knew long ago: there is no easy way out and her family life is too disrupted to continue hoping for change. At the same time Mrs. F. is aware that she will never have the strength to oppose her husband alone or to pronounce the separation.
Mrs. F. is accompanied to the police by her counsellor from the women’s facility and files a complaint. Her counsellor has informed the police about this case in advance and so a police officer, who is trained for cases of domestic violence and has already dealt with a large number of such cases, takes up her complaint. Her counsellor stays with her the whole time. During the interrogation, in which the officer proceeds very carefully and emphatically, Mrs. F. senses that there is apparently a relationship of trust between the counselling centre staff and the police officer, which makes it easier for her to report her ordeal. The police officer also asks her about her current and her children’s current situation of danger. Mrs. F. cannot assess the situation and is afraid of confrontation with her husband. She is informed about her rights as a victim, the further course of the criminal proceedings and the police protection possibilities. The police officer informs the youth welfare office about the situation with Mrs. F.’s knowledge.
Mrs. F. takes the courage to call her brother from the police station and informs him of the situation. He immediately leaves his workplace to take her and the children in overnight.
After the report was filed, Mr. F. was visited by the police and expelled from the shared flat. Mr. F. appears completely surprised and extremely angry to the police officers. He cannot believe that he is being expelled from the flat. After he has been made aware of the legal situation and has received information from the police officers about emergency shelters as well as counselling possibilities, he firmly agrees to stay away from his wife and children until further notice.
Mrs. F., supported by her counsellor in the women’s protection centre, takes the opportunity to apply to the Family Court for a protective order.
During the three-week police investigation, Mr. F. exercised his right to refuse to give evidence and was represented by a lawyer. Mrs. F. is able to conclusively demonstrate the longstanding violent relationship in her renewed interrogation; again, she is accompanied by her advisor from the women’s protection agency. A hearing of the children is waived due to their age. After the release from medical confidentiality, medical documents from Mrs. F.’s family doctor are included in the procedure, which substantiate the information provided by Mrs. F.
After completion of the investigation, the police will send the criminal complaint to the competent department of the Office of the Public Prosecutor for cases of domestic violence for further decision.
A family court will decide on the rules of contact concerning the couple’s children. In later court proceedings, Mr. F. is convicted of multiple bodily harm and is instructed to take part in anti-violence training.
Case study: Domestic violence has a negative impact on children
Gabby married her husband Nick after a long relationship and shortly thereafter moved to her husband’s family farm. The couple was happy at the farm and soon had their first child. During the pregnancy Nick’s behaviour began to change and by the time their daughter was born the relationship did not ‘feel’ as it had before. Nick seemed withdrawn and spent long periods of time by himself. He began to remind Gabby of Nick’s father who had always been a stern presence in his life.
Nick’s behaviour became threatening and controlling, especially in relation to money and social contact. He was increasingly aggressive in arguments and would often shout and throw objects around the room. Gabby thought that, because he wasn’t physically hurting her, his behaviour did not qualify as abuse. Nick did not show much interest in their daughter, Jane, except when in public, where he would appear to be a doting and loving father.
Jane was generally a well-behaved child, however, Gabby found that she was unable to leave her with anyone else. Jane would cry and become visibly distressed when Gabby handed her to someone else to be nursed. This was stressful for Gabby, and also meant that her social activities were limited further.
Jane took a long time to crawl, walk and begin talking. Her sleeping patterns were interrupted, and Gabby often did not sleep through the night, even when Jane was over 12 months of age. When Jane did begin to talk, she developed a stutter, and this further impeded her speech development. Gabby worried about Jane a lot. Their family doctor told her that this was normal for some children and that, if the speech problems persisted, she could always send Jane to a specialist at a later date.
After a number of years, Nick’s behaviour became unacceptable to Gabby. During arguments he would now hold on to the rifle that he had for farming purposes, and Gabby found this very threatening. On a number of occasions, items that Nick threw hit Gabby and she was increasingly afraid for their daughter. Gabby decided to leave and consulted the local women’s service, who assisted her to get an intervention order against Nick.
Once Gabby had taken Jane away from Nick, her behaviour changed. Jane’s development seemed to speed up and Gabby couldn’t understand why. As part of her counselling at a local women’s service, she discussed this issue, and her counsellor recognised the developmental delay, stutter, irritation, and separation anxiety as effects of Jane’s previously abusive situation.
This can be seen as a missed opportunity for identifying family violence. If the family doctor would have asked Gabby or Nick (who had presented with chronic back pain) about their relationship, about what was happening to the family, and specifically to Jane, the situation could have been identified much earlier.
a) What could have been done better by those involved?
b) Take a moment to consider which agencies and professionals should have been involved in supporting and/or providing services to Gabby from the beginning.
c) Make a list of different professionals who make up the multidisciplinary team in your organisation and who could be involved in the provision of services for those who have experienced domestic violence (this will vary depending upon where you are based).
The wide range of professionals, provider services and specialist agencies who may be involved in supporting victim-survivors of domestic violence can include—but are not limited to—primary and secondary health care services, mental health services, sexual violence services, social care, criminal justice agencies, the police, probation, youth justice, substance misuse, specialist domestic violence agencies, children’s services, housing services and education.
Adapted from a case study from RACGP (2014): Abuse and Violence: Working with our patients in general practice
The Medical Women’s International Association’s Interactive Violence Manual offers further cases developed by healthcare experts across the world on the following topics:
- Severe violence permanent physical disfigurement
- Cultural violence
- In pregnancy
- Lifelong impact of childhood abuse
- Children at serious risk in domestic violence households
- Elder abuse
- Domestic violence perpetrator programmes
- Intimate partner violence
- Staying in a relationship risks life
The case studies can be downloaded in the form of a PDF file or as a presentation.
Scenario: A telephone call from a crying woman led to the reporting of a crime
A telephone call from a crying woman led to the reporting of a crime (existence of an immediate danger to life and limb) to the police:
“Come to address XY, apartment XY immediately, my ex-husband beats me up, he also beat up my older son, and now he breaks into the apartment, gets us out and threatens to kill everyone.” Then the telephone line was cut.
In the background of the conversation, the officer in the control center hears screams and noises as if objects or furniture were being demolished.
More information about the crime and police action
According to Ms. XY, the following occurred in apartment XY, street XY no. XY: at 11.45 pm the drunk Mr. XY arrived at home. He yelled at his ex-wife, accusing her of embezzlement (despite their divorce three years ago). He got angry, threw a plate against the wall, called her names and threw her to the floor. Then he sat on her and threatened to strangle her. In the meantime, a 6-year-old son and a 14-year-old son came into the kitchen. The latter asked his father to leave his mother alone, whereupon the latter hit him in the face with the open palm of his hand. Because of the slap, blood began to flow from his nose. The father still sat on the mother and threatened her, both children cried and asked him to let their mother go. After a while he calmed down and lit a cigarette. The mother embraced the opportunity and took the children to their room. From there she called the police. During this time, the father smashed the kitchen inventory and shouted that they should leave the apartment, otherwise he would kill them all.
telephone call from a crying woman led to the reporting of a crime (existence of an immediate danger to life and limb) to the police:
“Come immediately to address XY, apartment XY, my ex-husband beats me up, he also beat up my older son, and now he breaks into the apartment, gets us out and threatens to kill everyone. Then the telephone line was cut.
In the background of the conversation, the officer in the control center hears screams and noises as if objects or furniture were being demolished.
More information about the crime and police action:
According to Ms. XY, the following occurred in apartment XY, street XY no. XY: At 11.45 pm the drunk Mr. XY arrived at home. He yelled at his ex-wife, accusing her of embezzlement (despite their divorce three years ago). He got angry, threw the plate against the wall, called her names and threw her to the floor. Then he sat on her and threatened to strangle her. In the meantime, a 6-year-old son and a 14-year-old son came into the kitchen. The latter asked his father to leave his mother alone, whereupon the latter hit him in the face with the open palm of his hand. Because of the slap, blood began to flow from his nose. The father still sat on the mother and threatened her, both children cried and asked him to let their mother go. After a while he calmed down and lit a cigarette. The mother took the opportunity and went to the children’s room together with the children. From there she called the police. During this time, the father smashed the kitchen inventory and shouted that they should leave the apartment, otherwise he would kill them all.
Discuss the following:
a) what are the characteristics of domestic violence?
b) who are the victims?
These are for example
- A family or another more permanent relationship is affected.
- A dissolved family relationship or another more permanent relationship, that has ended or is broken, is affected.
- sexual abuse
- Physical assault or otherwise painful or degrading treatment of another person
- Threat to life and limb
- Restrictions of freedom of movement and persecution (stalking)
The victims are the mother and both children. Children are always considered to be affected, even if no direct violence is directed against them. For there is no question that witnessing violence against a parent also has harmful effects.
Scenario: Men threatens to kill his wife
On November 19, 2011, at 9:27 pm, the emergency call center of the police headquarters of XY was called. The caller told the police officer who he was, and said he was going to kill his wife. He said he was at home, which prompted the police to send a patrol car to the scene. When questioned by police officers, he said in the police officer’s interview that he and his wife had disputes about apartments and weekend places that they shared. He also told the police officers that he was constantly harassed by his wife and her current boyfriend, and if the officers did not resolve the matter immediately, he would go to her home and slaughter the woman. He repeated this threat several times.
The man is already known to the police because of incidents of domestic violence.
Discuss the following:
what measures do you have to take as a police officer?
a) I would advise the wife to resolve the dispute with her partner.
b) I would gather as much information as possible from the wife and others to justify a ban on contact for the husband to protect the victim; I would inform the prosecutor about the incident and try to convince him to bring the suspect before the investigating judge for previous acts of violence. (This is the right answer!)
c) I would reassure the husband, send him to bed and ask him to settle the dispute peacefully.
Scenario: Entering an appartment after emergency call
The victim, children of the victim or neighbors send an emergency call, and patrol officers enter the apartment.
Discuss the following:
what measures are available to you in case of such an operation?
- The very first step: ensure the necessary safety measures for all intervening and present persons
- First aid measures
- Emergency call to medical emergency service (depending on the severity of the injury and, if necessary, the victim’s consent)
- Information on the rights and obligations of victims/perpetrators/witnesses, the course of proceedings
- Separate questioning of victims/perpetrators/witnesses
- Preservation of evidence and documentation
- Reference to the possibility of documentation of injuries (by police, doctor, or violence protection ambulance)
- Victim protection talk
- Approach to endangered persons
- Risk assessment
- Signposting of the offender
- Prohibition of approach and contact for offenders
- Detention of the offender
- If minors are involved: inform the youth welfare center about the incident
- Dissemination of information about support services (NGOs, public sector) for victims/offenders/relatives
- Placing victims in the help network, e.g., through a proactive approach
- if necessary, transfer of the victim to shelter
Scenario: Victim files a complaint without any current incident
The victim comes to a police station and files a complaint without any current incident.
Discuss the following:
what measures are available to you?
- Clarification and recording of the facts: Who is the perpetrator? How many incidents of domestic violence have there been? Over what period of time? In what intensity? etc.
- Search for possibilities of subsequent preservation of evidence: Were there witnesses? Were there visits to the doctor? Are there confidants? Is there evidence in another form?
- Information about rights and obligations, the course of proceedings
- Risk assessment and, if necessary, initiation of the protective measures that appear necessary (with reference to the offender, for example: addressing the perpetrator, expulsion, prohibition of approach and contact, detention; with regard to the victim: victim protection talk, shelter if necessary)
- Dissemination of information about support services (NGOs, public sector)
- Mediation into the aid network, e.g., through a proactive approach
Risk Assessment Integration Module RAIMO
The learning objectives of this module are to become familiar with the domestic violence risk assessment process, risk and vulnerability factors and the purpose of multi-agency cooperation in risk management.
Dear frontline responder, welcome to learn about the domestic violence risk assessment process in a multiprofessional context!
The purpose of this modular tool is to link various risk assessment procedures and enhance the identification of domestic violence among key agencies (e.g. police officers, social work and healthcare professionals, NGO workers, educators) who come into contact with victim-survivors and perpetrators. This tool demonstrates different risk factors and different approaches to identifying and responding to risk.
You can use this tool e.g. as a training material or a database.
We present the four steps of the domestic violence risk assessment process from risk identification all the way to follow-up.
The Good-read section provides you with recommendable reading. From the Materials section you will find printable items such as checklists. Do not forget to print your own pocket version of the risk assessment checklist – with it, you may save somebody’s life.
Principles of the risk assessment process
Step 1: Identification of risk factors
Step 2: Risk assessment
Step 3: Outlining necessary actions
Step 4: Follow-up
Principles of the risk assessment process
Risk assessment is a cornerstone in domestic violence prevention (Kropp 2004). The purpose of domestic violence risk assessment is to prevent repetitious violence by identifying the perpetrator’s risk of recidivism (Svalin & Levander 2019, 1), circumstances that may increase the risks of violence as well the victim’s vulnerability factors by conducting a risk assessment and implementing interventions to manage the sources of risks.
In the European Manual for Risk Assessment, Albuquerque et al. (2013, 41) define the principles of risk assessment as following:
- Risk Assessment is a process that can only be made with the victims’/survivors’ collaboration
- Victims/Survivors own assessment of their safety and risk levels must be considered. Research shows that victims/survivors have the most accurate assessment of their own risk level
- Victims/Survivors must be listened to without the presence of the perpetrator, family and/or their community members
- Children should have the opportunity to talk
- Professionals have the responsibility to assess, manage and monitor the perpetrators risk
- Professionals, in case of significant harm to children, must consider and agree on the best procedure that safeguards and protects them
- It is important to clarify the limits of the risk assessment and management process
- No improbable or unrealistic promises should be made
Professionals should also have knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence, the impact of IPV on victims-survivors, the factors that influence women’s decisions on leaving or remaining in the violent relationship, the strategies perpetrators use and the risk factors (Albuquerque et al. 2013, 35).
Step 1: Identification of risk factors
The learning objectives of this module are to become familiar with the domestic violence risk and vulnerability factors and to understand why all the professionals should have basic knowledge regarding the risk identification
Risk assessment is a process, that begins with identifying the presence of risk factors and determining the likelihood of an adverse event occurring, its consequences and its timing (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2010; Braaf & Sneddon 2007).
This is Nora. She will be our guide in demonstrating the steps of risk assessment.
Read first about Nora’s case and then learn more about risk identification.
Nora is a 34-year-old woman with an immigrant background. She has lived here in your country for three years with her parents and sisters. Nora married Peter two years ago. Peter is the son of a family friend of Nora’s parents. Nora’s family comes from a patriarchal culture where the community comes before the individual.
Nora’s marriage with Peter was a relief for Nora’s family since in their culture a woman at Nora’s age should not be single. However, quite soon after Nora and Peter got married, Peter started to control her everyday behaviour. Peter does not let Nora see her friends or go anywhere without him. A mandatory language course is the only place where Nora can go alone.
Peter takes away Nora’s debit card and takes loans under her name. When Nora tries to resist, Peter turns violent and abuses her. Peter threatens to send Nora back to her home country.
Nora discloses the situation to her parents, asking for help. First, the parents take Peter’s violent behaviour seriously, but suddenly Nora’s father passes away. Nora’s grieving mother is not capable of standing against Peter’s will on her own.
At the same time, Peter spreads rumours about Nora’s immorality in order to justify the claims of his violent actions to their community. The rumours humiliate Nora’s family. The community pressures Nora’s mother and her sisters’ families to clear their name.
Nora’s mother begs Nora to stay with Peter to calm the situation and her sisters ask her not to bother their mother with the issue any more. Nora feels that she is responsible for the violence and her family’s reputation, and accepts that divorcing Peter is out of the question.
Over time, the violence gets more serious and more frequent. On one occasion, Peter strangles Nora for so long that she loses consciousness. After the strangulation, she starts to have speech impairment issues especially in stressful situations. Nora feels isolated, helpless and depressed.
Peter has threatened to share some private pictures of Nora in public if Nora ‘ruins his reputations as a husband’, as he puts it. Nora feels anxious since she cannot talk to anyone – even her family – about her feelings.
This was the story of Nora. Take one minute to think of the following questions:
(1) Which acts, situations or conditions endanger Nora?
(2) Which situations described in the story you consider unfortunate but not your business as a frontline responder?
There may be some risk factors that do not concern your profession. However, identifying and documenting these risk factors is important in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the sources of risks. This is needed in the phase of risk management.
Now, read more about the identification and documentation of risk factors.
Risk factors to identify
Critical domestic violence risk factors
Key point: There may be some risk factors that do not concern your profession. However, identifying and documenting these risk factors is important in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the sources of risks. This is needed in the phase of risk management.
Several factors may indicate escalation of domestic violence. Every frontline responder should have sufficient training and knowledge to be able to identify these critical risk factors. By every frontline responder, we mean uniformed police officers, crime detectives, social workers, nurses, doctors, educators or NGO workers.
In the table below, we present the critical risk factors and their explanations.
|Previous physical violence||Previous physical violence is the best predictor for future violence|
|Violence is occurring more frequently or violence is more intensive (harmful, injurious)||Escalation over time is characteristic of some violent relationships, particularly where the offender is persistent and engages in serious behaviours. Note that not all the violent incidents are reported to the frontline responders, thus it is possible that assessments made by victim–survivors better account for all acts of violence including both non-physical behaviours and coercive control. (Boxall & Lawler 2021)|
|Coercive control||Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour that intimidates and frightens the victim.|
|Extreme jealousy and obsessive thinking are risk factors for domestic violence. Severe jealousy can be a crucial risk factor. Severe cases of jealousy may also meet the diagnostic criteria for delusional disorder. Jealousy in intimate relationships should therefore be assessed as a part of psychiatric evaluation. (Koskelainen & Stenberg 2020.)|
|Victim has left for another partner||Victim leaving an abusive partner for another partner poses a significant risk factor for femicide (Campbell et al. 2003)*.|
|Perpetrator’s stepchild in the home||Having a child living in the home who is not the abusive partner’s biological child more than doubles the risk of femicide (Campbell et al. 2003)*.|
|Strangulation||Strangulation in the context of domestic violence is a ‘red flag’ risk factor for future serious harm and death (Douglas & Fitzgerald 2014.) Prior non-fatal strangulation increases the risk of attempted homicide by over six times and a completed homicide by more than seven times (Glass et al. 2008).|
|Victim-survivor is trying to divorce/separate or has divorced/separated||The risk of intimate partner femicide was increased 9-fold by the combination of a highly controlling abuser and the couple’s separation after living together (Campbell et al. 2003)*.|
|Mental health issues of perpetrator||There is significant relationship between anger problems, anxiety, depression, suicidal behaviour, personality disorders, alcoholism or problem gambling and perpetration of domestic violence (Sesar et al. 2018)|
|Substance abuse issues of perpetrator/victim-survivor |
Perpetrator’s access to a firearm
|Both abuser’s access to a firearm and abuser’s use of illicit drugs are strongly associated with intimate partner femicide. Neither alcohol abuse nor drug use by the victim was independently associated with her risk of being killed (Campbell et al. 2003)*. However, substance abuse issue of a victim-survivors may prevent them from seeking or receiving help as they may not be considered as ‘ideal victims’ (see Christie 1986).|
|Social isolation||Social isolation has been linked to the risk of being abused (Farris & Fenaughty 2009). Social isolation may also be a consequence of abuser’s controlling behaviour.|
|Negative life changes of the perpetrator and economic stress||Such as unemployment or bankruptcy. Economic stress may increase the risk of domestic violence but domestic violence may also cause financial problems for victims and entrap them in poverty and an abusive relationship (Renzetti 2009).|
|Other forms of domestic abuse||Including e.g. economic, sexual, psychological, chemical and digital violence, negligence, forced marriage, FGM and human trafficking.|
|Victim-survivor is pregnant or has a baby||Abuse during pregnancy is a significant risk factor for future femicide (Campbell et al. 2003).|
|Violence towards pets||There is a correlation between cruelty to animals and family and domestic violence. Abuse or threats of abuse against pets may be used by perpetrators to control and intimidate family members.|
|Threatening to kill||In intimate partnerships, threats to kill are often genuine.|
Risk related information to check by each professional
Key agencies should work to a shared understanding of risk, but the nature of their work may mean that they will be able to identify different risk factors. The perspective of a police officer differs from the perspective of a social worker. In the table below, we present the risk factors that relate to different professionals’ perspectives.
|POLICE||SOCIAL WORK/EDUCATION||HEALTH CARE|
|The perpetrator has access to firearms||The victim is not allowed to meet a social worker alone||The victim has symptoms of strangulation|
|The perpetrator has used a weapon in the most recent event.||Signs of substance or non-substance addictive behavior including co-addiction (by partners or family members).||The victim is not allowed to see the nurse/doctor alone or the victim seems fearful.|
|The perpetrator has previous criminal record entries, especially records of violent crimes.||Signs of conflict behavior that may lead to potential escalation of conflict.||There are prior (partly healed) injuries on victim caused by trauma.|
|The perpetrator has previously violated a restraining order.||The perpetrator is experiencing high levels of stress.||Victim’s or/and perpetrator’s depression or the symptoms of PTSD of victim.|
|More than three house-calls to the same address within one year.||Victim’s or perpetrator’s suicide attempts.|
Victim’s vulnerability factors
Key point: Identification of victim’s vulnerability factors helps professionals to invite the relevant key agencies in the cooperation, to support the victim in a holistic manner, and to strengthen the victim’s capacity to follow the security strategies.
Victim’s vulnerability factors relate to the victim’s person and life circumstances. They may relate, e.g. to the capacity to trust public authorities, leave the abuser, or the dependency on the abuser. However, these are not reasons why the abuse happens. Perpetrators may choose to exploit vulnerabilities of victims; some victims’ life experiences and circumstances may make it more difficult to survive or escape abuse. Below we have listed the vulnerability factors and explained why and how these factors may affect the victim’s resources and life situations as well as the ability to cooperate with the professionals.
- A victim may be dependent on a violent family member or the victim may be the only responsible caregiver for a violent family member. Thus, leaving a violent family member may not be an option for the victim. Victim may already be socially isolated.
- Leaving may require moving to a new address and securing the contact information.
- A perpetrator may have experienced caregiver burnout.
- An elderly person may experience overwhelming shame for the situation especially if the perpetrator is an adult child.
- Abuse can occur in many forms, such as physical, sexual, emotional, or financial abuse, negligence, isolation and abandonment. Note also signs of depriving of dignity (e.g. untidy appearance, soiled clothes) or choice over daily affairs, signs of insufficient care (e.g. pressure sores) or over- or under-medicating (WHO 2020).
- Minors are nearly always dependent on the perpetrators.
- Growing up in a hostile environment normalizes the experiences of violence and thus the victims may not perceive their experiences as violence.
- Minors may think their experiences are not believed by the outsiders.
- The patterns of coercive control, such as restriction, isolation and a deprivation of personal freedom may be difficult to discriminate from parental upbringing and protective measures
Note: In some immigrant or otherwise socially or religiously strongly controlled families, differences between cultural values, lifestyles and views may inflict conflicts between the minors and their parents. Authorities’ non-diplomatic contacts or rash measures may increase the risk that the parents send the child to their native countries to boarding schools or to be raised by relatives. This may increase the risk for FGM, child-marriage as well as breaks in education, social relations and integration.
- Disabled persons may be functionally dependent on the perpetrator in everyday life, needing assistance in moving, eating, communicating, medicating
- The violent family members or caregivers may experience caregiver burnout
- Victim-survivors may have difficulties to make themselves heard, understood or believed
The perpetrator may explain injuries as accidents caused by dyskinesia.
Dependency on perpetrator
There are several forms of dependency such as financial and emotional dependency. Also structural reasons such as hierarchical gender relations or rural disparity contribute to dependencies; for instance, when compared to urban women, rural women experience higher rates of DV yet live farther away from available resources (Peek-Asa et al. 2011).
Rates of mental health disorders, such as anxiety disorders, PTSD and depression are higher among refugee populations in comparison to the general population. This increased vulnerability is linked to experiences prior to migration, such as war exposure and trauma. (Hameed et al. 2018.) In addition, language barriers or negative experiences of police and distrust towards authorities may prevent the victims from seeking help.
Homelessness is often a consequence of domestic violence and it increases the vulnerability and dependency of the victim. Social marginalization may prevent the victims from seeking help.
Victim belongs to an ethnic minority
Language barriers, negative or discriminative experiences of the police, fear of not being believed, experiences of racism, social marginalization or the power of parallel societies may prevent the victims from seeking help.
Victim belongs to sexual or gender minority
A victim may fear of being ‘outed’ to family members, friends, and co-workers if they report police about domestic violence. A victim may fear discrimination or disrespectful treatment by the police.
Fear of an abusive partner may weaken women’s ability to improve their life situations (Sabri et al. 2014). An atmosphere of fear is likely to increase maladaptive thinking patterns inhibiting problem-solving and increasing denial and avoidance (Calvete, Susana & Este’Vez 2007).
Mental health issues
Apart from being a consequence of domestic violence, e.g. posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also be a risk factor for IPV revictimization (Kuijpers, van der Knaap & Winkel 2012).
Family or community is justifying violence based on honour/culture/religion
If the family or the community of the victim approves and justifies violence, the victim may be extremely scared, isolated, coerced and controlled. The victim may feel powerless to seek help. For many victims it may be an unthinkable to abandon their entire community to live without violence, and even if they did so, leaving the family or community may escalate the violence.
Guidelines for case documentation
Key point: Case documentation of DV is an important procedure. The professionals may need previously documented information in the dynamic risk assessment and management process. Standardized risk assessment tools support frontline responders’ work in documenting the case.
Since risk assessment is – or at least should be – a dynamic process that needs be started over again if the risk situation changes, case documentation of domestic violence and its’ risk factors is an important procedure. A careful case documentation should ensure that the professional find previously documented information to revise the risk assessment. Standardized risk assessment tools support frontline responders’ work in documenting the case. Nevertheless, risk assessment should not endanger the victim’s safety at any point. Thus, there should be clear protocols and safety restrictions for documenting the risk assessment, risk management and certain risk factors. For example, this data should not be included the pre-trial investigation records that are part of the judicial process: the perpetrator should not have access to victim-survivors’ risk assessment documentation. Data protection and the boundaries confidentiality as well as the victim-survivors consent to share information are key issues when intervening domestic violence and abuse (Albuquerque et al. 2013).
In the tables below we present the basic guidelines for the case documentation.
|General guidelines for case documentation|
|Document to the confidential risk assessment form: |
1. all identified risk factors
2. your overall assessment of the risk situation
3. victim’s own assessment of his/her level of risk and fear of being killed
Guidelines for case documentation for police, social work and health care
|POLICE||SOCIAL WORK||HEALTH CARE|
|Documentto the crime report: |
1. a verbal description of all injuries and other signs of violence
2. whenever possible e.g. photos of the injuries, other photos, videos, message transcriptions
|Document to the citizen/client database: |
1. case specific cooperation and communication with other FLR
2. specific behaviour reported e.g. who did what to whom and who provided the information
3. impact on the child 4. known protective factors of the child, adult victim and perpetrator
|Document to the patient database: |
1. right diagnostic codes and follow all defined registration procedures for DV situations
2. photos of injuries
3. use of body scheme
Step 2: Risk assessment
The learning objectives of this module are to become familiar with the domestic violence risk assessment procedure, different risk assessment tools and high-risk moments that may increase the risk.
Risk assessment is a phase, during which the level of the risk and its nature are assessed. Start with reading how risks are assessed in Nora’s case. Then take a look at the general guidelines, risk assessment tools and high-risk moments.
Case scenario: Nora
One day Nora finds a phone number of an NGO that helps immigrant women. The phone service is also in Nora’s native language. Nora calls the service phone anonymously to ask for legal advice about what happens to her residence permit in the case of a divorce. The NGO worker asks Nora about her life situation. Nora discloses her difficult situation and anxiety.
The NGO worker meets Nora at the school after the language course since it is the only place where Nora can go alone. With Nora’s consent, the NGO worker contacts the police and a responsible social service worker.
In some EU-countries the legislation allows the professionals to share and exchange information for more comprehensive risk assessment, if it is necessary to protect a child, to prevent a violent act or if the victim has given her consent. In some EU-countries, however, there is no legislative support in relation to information exchange between the police, social work or health care sectors. Hence, multi-agency mechanisms within the EU range from the adoption of formal or informal referral mechanisms to the presence of multidisciplinary teams or conferences that are mandated by legislation or by policy documentation on risk assessment.
The Istanbul Convention requires the State parties to take the necessary legislative or other measures to ensure that an assessment of the lethality risk, the seriousness of the situation and the risk of repeated violence is carried out by all relevant authorities in order to manage the risk and if necessary to provide co‐ordinated safety and support.
The next example of how Nora’s case is brought into the multi-agency risk assessment process is based on the requirements of the Istanbul Convention. This may differ from your national legislation.
With the consent of Nora, the police, the social service worker, the NGO worker and a representative of the health care sector participate in a risk assessment conference. Nora has given her consent that the professionals can share and exchange information regarding Nora.
Look at the boxes to see what kind of information can be collected by multi-agency co-operation:
If Nora is asked about her situation, she may tell us this:
– Her speech issues developed four months ago after Peter had strangled her
– She fears that Peter will kill her if she separate from him
– She is worried that her residence permit will be cancelled if she separates; this is what Peter has told her
– She is worried that the police won’t believe her since she is an immigrant but Peter has the nationality of this country
– Peter has told that he will publish private sexual pictures of her if she tells anyone about the violence or tries to leave him
– Peter has said that he will make sure that no decent man will ever even look at Nora if she separates from Peter.
The identified risk factors
The purpose of risk assessment tools is to help frontline responders identify all the risk factors and to create a complete overview of the victim’s situation in order to ascertain whether she remains at risk of serious harm and can assist in the development of a safety plan.
A calculation of the probability of becoming a victim of serious violence does not help the victim, but the calculation and the frontline responders’ own judgment of the situation support the frontline responders in taking necessary action to protect the victim, and to prevent future violence. In this scenario, the frontline responders have identified the following risk factors and victim’s vulnerability factors:
• using violence more frequently
• using more intensive (harmful, injurious) violence
• strangled Nora
• used coercive control
• used physical violence
• used economic, digital and psychological violence
• previous criminal record entries
• is planning a divorce
• has an immigrant background
• strong fear
• social isolation
• mental health issues
The community of Nora and Peter is justifying violence by
In order to enable constructive and smooth co-operation between different agencies, the legislation should be clear and every partner should understand their roles and responsibilities.
(1) Do you know, in which situation you can share and exchange information with other agencies?
General guidelines for risk assessment
Key point: Risk assessment is needed in the safety planning of the victim and in managing the sources of risks.
- Collect as much information as possible about the identified risk factors
- Risk assessment needs to address both adult and child victim-survivors
- Risk assessment should be done with the victim-survivor, not to her/him
- Ideally, with the consent of the victim-survivor, information is shared e.g. with the police, prosecutor, social work, health care sector and relevant NGOs
- Respect the victim-survivors wish with whom to cooperate
- Assess the immediate risks to the safety of the client/patient or any children
- Use your national/local risk assessment tool to assess the risks and ask for training
- In case you cannot access national/local risk assessment tools, use internationally accepted risk assessment tools and ask for training. You find tools under “Risk assessment tools”
- If possible, also assess the risk based on the information you have about the perpetrator (for example as a probation officer, prosecutor or prison employees)
Risk assessment tools
Key point: There are several risk assessment tools for screening and documenting domestic violence as well as to assess the level of the risk. Appropriate use of these tools requires training.
There are different kinds of risk assessment tools used by the frontline responders. Some organisations have developed their own tools. However, below you can see some of the most widely used risk assessment tools.
The DASH risk assessment checklist is based on research of e.g. indicators of homicides. The form can be filled in by any public official (e.g. a police officer, a social worker, a nurse, a doctor, an NGO worker) who works with a victim of violence, however, training on this risk assessment tool should be undertaken before it is used.
DASH risk assessment form includes questions about financial, psychological and physical violence and as well as threats. If a certain number of the risk indicators is met, the professional will refer the case to his/her local MARAC (Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference).
Scoring a certain number of points on the checklist is not an absolute requirement for referral to a MARAC since the professional may refer the case to a MARAC if s/he has concern for a victim.
A third criterion for referral to a MARAC is the escalation of recent violence, which is measured in terms of the number of domestic disturbance calls made to the police over the last twelve months. A common practice is to submit a case to a MARAC if at least three domestic disturbance calls have been made within a single year.
See also VS-DASH 2009 – The Stalking Risk Identification Checklist
DA (Danger Assessment)
The series of 15 questions on the Danger Assessment is designed to measure a woman’s risk in an abusive relationship.
The tool can with some reliability identify women who may be at risk of being killed by their intimate partners. According to studies, almost half of the murdered women studied did not recognise the high level of their risk. Thus, risk assessment tools like the Danger Assessment may assist women and the professionals who help them to better understand the potential for danger and the level of their risk. Completing the Danger Assessment can help a woman evaluate the degree of danger she faces and consider what she should do next. Practitioners are reminded that the Danger Assessment is meant to be used with a calendar to enhance the accuracy of the assaulted woman’s recall of events. Read more: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/jr000250e.pdf
The Danger Assessment can be printed from http://www.son.jhmi.edu/research/CNR/homicide/DANGER.htm, which also gives directions regarding permission for use.
The violence risk appraisal guide (VRAG) is an actuarial instrument. It assesses the risk of further violence among men or women who have already committed criminal violence. It is empirically supported actuarial method for the assessment of violence risk in forensic populations.
The VRAG is a 12-item actuarial instrument that assesses the risk of violent recidivism among men apprehended for criminal violence. The recommended basis for scoring the VRAG for research and individual assessment is a comprehensive psychosocial history addressing childhood conduct, family background, antisocial and criminal behavior, psychological problems, and details of offenses. Adequate psychosocial histories include more than past and present psychiatric symptoms and rely on collateral information (i.e., material gathered from friends, family, schools, correctional facilities, the police, and the courts). Scoring the VRAG is not a clinical task in its typical sense because it does not require contact between the assessor and the person being assessed. Nevertheless, compiling the required psychosocial history clearly is a clinical task, and expertise is required to score VRAG items from psychosocial histories.
The PATRIARCH assessment tool is a victim-focused checklist. It is based on the structured professional judgement approach to assess the risk of honour-based violence and forced marriage. The tool is comprised of 10 risk factors and five victim vulnerability factors. Its goal is safety planning.
Proper use of the PATRIARCH risk assessment tool requires specialised education and training. http://www.rpksundsvall.se/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/PATRIARCH-4.pdf
The ODARA is an actuarial risk assessment tool that calculates whether a man who assaulted his female partner, will repeat it in the future. The 13 ODARA items include domestic and non-domestic criminal history, threats and confinement during the index incident, children in the relationship, substance abuse, and barriers to victim support. Each is scored 0 or 1 and the total score is simply the sum of the items.
The ODARA is considered simple to use and can be used by a wide range of service providers e.g. police officers, shelter workers, victim services workers, health care professionals and social workers. It can be used in safety planning with the victims. The use of such a tool allows service providers from a wide variety of backgrounds to share a common language when talking about risk. ODARA training has improved scoring accuracy.
SARA (Spousal Assault Risk Assessment) and B-SAFER (Brief Spousal Assault Form for the Evaluation of Risk)
The B-SAFER is a condensed version of SARA. It is a structured risk assessment instrument designed to identify persons who are at risk from intimate partner violence. B-SAFER is constructed specifically for police officer use because of their role as frontline responders in domestic abuse incidents. SARA has been considered time-consuming for police officers to complete. Therefore SARA’s 20 items were reduced to 10 items in the B-SAFER.
The B-SAFER 10 items are divided into two subsections: Perpetrator Risk Factors (items 1-5) and Psychosocial Adjustment (items 6-10). Each subsection has an option to note an additional risk consideration that the assessor believes may be important to a particular case.
The purpose of B-SAFER is to “guide and structure an assessor’s decision-making regarding a perpetrator’s future intimate partner violence risk through evaluation of risk factors that are empirically associated with spousal violence”.
High-risk moments and triggers for increasing risk
Key point: Be aware of high-risk moments and triggers for increasing risk. Agencies should be aware of the need for additional safety planning and support for victims around events that may contribute to risk.
- Perpetrator is given a (court) decision of
- a restraining order
- a divorce/obligation to share assets
- a negative residence permit
- different than desired child custody decision/child contact arrangements
- The perpetrator realizes that the situation was reported to police
- The perpetrator is released from custody
- The perpetrator is being charged
- Trial is scheduled/occurred
- Lead-up to a trial
- Sentence reading is scheduled/occurred
- Release from a prison sentence
- Expiry of a court order
- A previously violent perpetrator wants to meet “one last time”
- The perpetrator discovers the new address of the victim
- The victim declares intention of leaving/separation
- The victim attempts to leave for separation
- The victim starts a new relationship
Step 3: Outlining necessary actions
The learning objectives of this module are to become familiar with the safety planning, risk management and multi-agency cooperation.
Outlining necessary actions is a phase where the frontline responders in close co-operation plan safety measures and take action to ensure the victim’s safety. Again, read first about Nora’s case. Then, look at the to do –list and read why a strong co-operation network is crucial.
Case scenario: Nora
Comprehensive risk assessment should lead to effective risk management. Look at the boxes below: supporting a domestic violence victim sometimes requires help from several different agencies. All the agencies have their own role in supporting the victim. It is important to take legal actions and to support Nora’s well-being, in addition to her relationship with her mother and sisters. Nora needs support from her family members to be able to leave an abusive relationship.
Why we need a strong co-operation network?
Effective multi-sectoral and multi-agency interventions require that all policy sectors and actors are engaged and accountable, namely law enforcement, the judiciary, health, social welfare and child services, employment, education, and general and specialised services for victims. Extensive research and evaluation of existing co-ordinated interventions also demonstrate the importance of involving – in addition to sectoral stakeholders – autonomous victims’ rights advocates and other relevant NGOs working in the field of violence against women. Developing a shared understanding of violence against women, as well as improving information-sharing and risk assessment through the development of common standards, guidelines and protocols can greatly contribute toward the pooling of valuable resources and establishing systematic co-operation. Such tools are also instrumental in securing the active commitment of all stakeholders. (Krizsan & Pap 2016, 12.)
To do -list for the frontline responders
- Inform the victim about shelters and guide the victim to a shelter if needed
- Initiate child protection procedures if not yet done
- File a crime offence report if not yet done
- By the victim’s consent, contact the victim support services
- Document information produced by risk assessment and keep it confidential
- Inform the victim about a restraining order or issue a temporary restraining order
- Inform the victim of possible moments when the police is going to contact the perpetrator
- Inform the victim when the perpetrator will be released from custody*
- Create a safety plan for the victim
- In case of physical injuries, guide the victim to Health Care services to have them treated and documented
- Guide the victim to Social Services based on her/his needs for support
- Make sure all relevant NGOs are invited to participate in the risk assessment process
- Assist the victim in protecting her/his personal data
- Take into account the risks of digitally assisted stalking and cyberstalking and help the victim in protecting their digital devices
- Depending on the legislation, the police can also consider secret means of gathering intelligence prevent crimes or avoid danger
- Consider the benefits of a portable alarm system for the victim
- Assist the perpetrator in joining a perpetrator programme*
* = if this duty does not belong to an another agency
- If there is an immediate or even likely risk to the safety of the client or any children, consider contacting the police
- Initiate child protection procedures if not yet done
- Inform the victim about shelters and guide the victim to a shelter if needed
- Help the victim to solve financial problems
- Secure safe housing for the victim
- Assist the victim in protecting her/his personal data
- Assist the victim in getting immediate crisis help and psychosocial support
- Always examine the patient without their family members or spouse being present
- Assist the victim in receiving immediate crisis help and psychosocial support
- If there is an immediate risk to safety of the patient or any children, consider contacting the police
- Initiate child protection procedures if not yet done
- Ask for victim’s consent before letting in any visitors
Step 4: Follow-up
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.
- Istanbul Convention
- Risk assessment by police of intimate partner violence against women (presentation)
- The Influence of Victim Vulnerability and Gender on Police Officers’ Assessment of Intimate Partner Violence Risk (article)
- EIGE: Risk assessment and management
- A guide to risk assessment and risk management of intimate partner violence against women for police
Albuquerque, M., Basinskaite, D., Medina Martins, M., Mira, R., Pautasso, E., Polzin, I., Satke, M., Shearman de Madeco, M., Alberta Silva, M., Sliackiene A., Manuel Soares, M., Viegas, P. & Wiemann, S. (2013). E-MARIA: European manual for risk assessment. Bupnet, Göttingen. Retrieved from: https://e-maria.eu/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Manual-latest-version-light-colours.pdf
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015). Screening for domestic violence during pregnancy: options for future reporting in the National Perinatal Data Collection. Cat. no. PER 71. Canberra: AIHW. Retrieved from: www.aihw.gov.au/getmedia/62dfd6f0-a69a-4806-bf13-bf86a3c99583/19298.pdf.aspx?inline=true
Boxall, H. & Lawler, S. (2021). How does domestic violence escalate over time? Trends & issues in crime and criminal justice no. 626. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved from: https://www.aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/tandi626
Braaf, R., & Sneddon, C. (2007). Family Law Act Reform: the potential for screening and risk assessment for family violence – Issues paper 12.
Calvete E., Susana C. & Este’Vez, A. (2007.) Cognitive and coping mechanisms in the interplay between intimate partner violence and depression. Anxiety, Stress, Coping. 2007;24(4):369–382.
Concha, M., Sanchez, M., de la Rosa, M., & Villar, M. E. (2013). A longitudinal study of social capital and acculturation-related stress among recent Latino immigrants in South Florida. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 35(4), 469–485
Douglas, H. & Fitzgerald, R. (2014). Strangulation, Domestic Violence and the Legal Response. The Sydney law review. 36. 231.
Gurm, B., Salgado, G., Marchbank, J., & Early, S. D. (2020). Making Sense of a Global Pandemic: Relationship Violence & Working Together Towards a Violence Free Society. Kwantlen Polytechnic University: Surrey, BC. Ebook ISBN 978-1-989864-14-2 or Print ISBN 978-1-989864-13-5. https://kpu.pressbooks.pub/nevr/
Hameed, S., Sadiq, A., & Din, A. U. (2018). The Increased Vulnerability of Refugee Population to Mental Health Disorders. Kansas journal of medicine, 11(1), 1–12.
Koskelainen, M. & Stenberg, J-H. (2020). Mustasukkaisuudesta harhaluuloisuushäiriöön: tunnistaminen ja väliintulot osana lähisuhde-väkivallan estämistä. Lääketieteellinen Aikakauskirja Duodecim 2020;136(6):611-6
Krizsan, A. & Pap, E. Implementing a Comprehensive and Co-ordinated Approach: An assessment of Poland’s response to prevent and combat gender-based violence (Council of Europe, 2016), page 12 https://rm.coe.int/168064ecd8
Kropp, P. R. (2004). Some Questions Regarding Spousal Assault Risk Assessment. Violence Against Women, 10(6), 676–697. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077801204265019
Kuijpers, K., van der Knaap, L. & Winkel F. (2012). PTSD symptoms as risk factors for intimate partner violence revictimization and the mediating role of victims’ violent behavior. J Trauma Stress. 2012 Apr;25(2):179-86. doi: 10.1002/jts.21676. PMID: 22522732.
Peek-Asa, C., Wallis, A., Harland, K., Beyer, K., Dickey, P., & Saftlas, A. (2011). Rural disparity in domestic violence prevalence and access to resources. Journal of women’s health (2002), 20(11), 1743–1749. https://doi.org/10.1089/jwh.2011.2891
Sabri, B., Stockman, J. K., Campbell, J. C., O’Brien, S., Campbell, D., Callwood, G. B., Bertrand, D., Sutton, L. W., & Hart-Hyndman, G. (2014). Factors associated with increased risk for lethal violence in intimate partner relationships among ethnically diverse black women. Violence and victims, 29(5), 719–741. https://doi.org/10.1891/0886-6708.VV-D-13-00018
Svalin, K. & Levander, S. (2019). The Predictive Validity of Intimate Partner Violence Risk Assessments Conducted by Practitioners in Different Settings—a Review of the Literature. Journal of Police and Criminal Psychology. 35. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11896-019-09343-4.
WHO (2020). World Health Organisation. Elder abuse. [Referred 21st of April 2021.] Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/elder-abuse