Case studies and scenario-based learning

Case studies
Scenario-based learning
IMPRODOVA Risk Assessment Integration Module

The learning materials are not tailored to the needs of every country; they include generic cases that need local adaptation.

Case studies

Case Study: Man as a victim of domestic violence

16:34 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.

16:37 Emergency call at the emergency control centre

One of the bystanders calls the police.

16:50 Police car arrives on scene

The report of Mrs. E. and the witnesses cannot fully clarify what had happened. Witnesses say that they have seen that Mr. E. was violent towards Mrs. E. on the other hand, 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 address the issue of domestic violence and points out to her 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 and 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.

19:14 Emergency call in the control center

An emergency call is received at the control centre from neighbours due to disturbing noise in the apartment of the Mr. and Mrs. E..

19:35 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. There is the assumption that there could be another incident of domestic violence. The police crew entering the apartment see immediately that the couple and the mother of Mrs. E. 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. 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.

21:44 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 the mother of Mrs. E. seems to be much higher compared to the previous visit. Furthermore, all those present showed 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 cannot stand the violence by his wife and mother-in-law which has 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 DV. 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 assess the risk of Mr. E. again becoming the victim of violent assaults by his wife and her mother 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. was the cause of 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.

The police investigations are concluded after four weeks with the result that Mr. E. has apparently been a victim of years of violence by his wife and her mother. 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

Spring 2016

The 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 under the situation and supports him where she can.

August 2016

The situation between the 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.

For Mrs. F., Mr. F. reacts unexpectedly violently to her suggestion to get help and strikes his wife directly in the face. Mrs. F. is desperate, but considers this to be a one-off slip.

October 2016

Slaps in the face, shaking and bumps are now part of the weekly routine. Mrs. F. defended her husband’s behaviour from herself, hid it from others and hoped for improvement through a new employment of her husband.

August 2017

The situation had relaxed a little over the summer with the children at home during the summer holidays. Mrs. F. is hopeful, because her husband is now also starting to work short time.

September 2017

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, sleeps at night mostly with the children; she half convinced herself that the children have problems falling and staying asleep and at least her husband has to sleep through.

December 2017

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 give advice to women who are exposed to domestic violence. The advertisement seems familiar to her, she must have passed it by countless times. But for the first time she connects it with herself. But she does not consider her situation serious enough that she would need help for herself.

February 2018

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 the social environment of her children. She withdraws more and more.

September 2019

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 also arose. Finally, however, their environment withdrew with resignation. Many attributed the situation to the noticeably tense financial situation of the family and assume that everything will be the same when this difficult phase is over.

After a particularly violent incident of physical assault in the bedroom in the evening, which Mrs. F. suspects the children may have heard about, Mrs. F. calls the nationwide help line for violence against women. It helps her to have someone who listens to her with understanding.

October 2019

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 the victim protection officer of her district 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 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.

November 2019

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 specially trained in 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 danger and that of her children. 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 the knowledge of Mrs. F.

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.

December 2019

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; this time she is again 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 common children of the couple. 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 were 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 constitute 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 further limited.

Jane took a long time to crawl, walk and begin talking. Her sleeping patterns were interrupted, and Gabby did not often 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 if the speech problems persisted, that 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 had taken to holding 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 having lived in an abusive situation.

This could be seen as a missed opportunity for identifying family violence. If the family doctor could have asked Gabby or Nick (who had presented with chronic back pain) about their relationship then what was happening to the family, and specifically to Jane, 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:

The case studies can be downloaded in the form of a PDF file or as a presentation.

Scenario-based learning

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 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
  • Affected is a dissolved family relationship or another more permanent relationship that has ended or broken down
  • sexual abuse
  • Physical assault or otherwise painful or degrading treatment of another person
  • Threat to life and limb
  • Restriction 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 om, 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 try to justify a ban on contact with 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?

Possible answers
  • 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 consent of the victim)
  • 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
  • are minors belonging to the victim: 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?

Possible answers
  • 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, if necessary shelter)
  • Dissemination of information about support services (NGOs, public sector)
  • Mediation into the aid network, e.g. through a proactive approach

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IMPRODOVA Risk Assessment Integration Module

You can follow the whole risk assessment procedure for a specific case by downloading the following presentation. You will be introduced to Nora and learn a lot about the different roles of frontline responders.

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