Module 4: Support services of the social sector

Help offered by social services

Learning objectives

This module presents the help offered by Social Services after the disclosure of domestic violence. The learning materials are not tailored to the needs of every country; they include generic cases that need local adaptation.

Case study: Victim-oriented perpetrator work

Mr F., 34 years old, has been supervised by the probation service for 4 months. The arrangement was made in the course of a court order. Mr. F. was sentenced to 4 months’ imprisonment and 3 years’ probation due to a dangerous threat against his partner Ms. W. After the incident, he was expelled from their shared flat and a prohibition to approach was imposed. In addition, the police informed the victim protection agency. Ms. W. did not subsequently apply for a restraining order.

The partner, who was two months pregnant at the time, testified truthfully at the main hearing, but did not want to end the relationship because of the threat he made while drunk in the argument. She also stated in court that he apologised to her and that he is now also the future father of her child.

For a fortnight now, the probation officer in charge has noticed that Mr. F. has been coming to the appointments increasingly tense. He recently reported that his partner, who is now six months pregnant, is currently on maternity leave and is at home a lot, but still does little in the household. He had also been looking for work for some time. He often quarreled with his mother, who no longer took care of him and only told him that he now had a wife of his own to take care of him.


a) What can the probation officer do to clarify the current risk?
b) What forms of domestic violence can be involved in this case?
c) What risk factors are present? What other factors could be involved?
d) Which institutions can the probation officer contact for victim-oriented offender work?
e) Consider possible scenarios of multi-professional cooperation and risk assessment and the possibility of implementing them in your work environment.

Case study: Domestic violence in persons with learning disabilities
Case study: Older male victims of domestic violence

Help offered by social services

Crisis information

Access to timely, complete, and accurate crisis information for any victim who has, or is, experiencing physical, sexual, or other forms of violence, wherever they are, at whatever time, day or night, is vital in supporting them to access services to assist their safety. Crisis information includes information about their rights as victims, the range and nature of services available, and is provided in a non-blaming, non-judgmental manner. Information must be made available in a way that enables victims to consider the range and choices available to them, and to make their own choices.

  • Ensure crisis information is clear, concise, and accurate.
  • Ensure crisis information identifies and refers to the range of existing services available for victims of domestic violence.
  • Ensure that this information is widely available and accessible to all victims.
  • Ensure widespread distribution of culturally sensitive information through various and relevant media, in a variety of locations and settings throughout the region/country.
Crisis counselling

Crisis counselling is essential in assisting victims to achieve immediate safety, understand their rights and reduce feelings of guilt and shame. It requires patience, respect, and transparency towards the victims.

  • Provide crisis counselling free of charge.
  • Ensure victims are listened to and believed.
  • Ensure victims are offered a range of options including:
  • decision support,
  • immediate access to safe and secure accommodation,
  • immediate access to safe emergency and medical services such as hospitals,
  • the ability to re-contact the service, even if victims choose not to take up any of the options offered.
  • Ensure victims are supported to make informed choices.
  • Provide crisis counselling in person, via telephone, mobile phone, or email.
  • Ensure crisis counselling is provided in various locations and diverse settings.
Help lines

Help lines provide an essential link to information, counselling, and support services for victims experiencing domestic violence. Help lines operate separate to, but alongside, law enforcement and other emergency help lines.

  • Provide telephone help lines free of charge or toll-free.
  • Provide help lines preferably 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or at a minimum, for four hours per day including weekends and holidays.
  • Ensure that staff answering help lines has appropriate knowledge, skills and is adequately trained.
  • Ensure that the help line has protocols connecting it with other Social Services, and health and justice services to respond to individual circumstances of victims.
  • Provide immediate basic personal and health care items including food and clothing, either directly or through local services.
  • Link to immediate and appropriate police and justice responses, when requested by victims or when necessary.
Safe accommodation

Many victims immediately need to leave their existing living arrangements in order to be safe. Timely access to safe houses, refuges, shelters, or other safe spaces can provide an immediate secure and safe accommodation option. Beyond this immediate safe accommodation victims may need support toward securing accommodation in the medium to longer term.

  • Provide safe and secure emergency accommodation until the immediate threat is removed.
  • Have a confidential location where possible.
  • Ensure security personnel and security systems.
  • Ensure there is an access protocol for people entering and exiting safe accommodation.
  • Provide basic accommodation needs that are free of charge.
  • Ensure there is a protocol for unaccompanied children, including for longer-term alternative care where necessary and appropriate, that is aligned to existing national legislation and international standards.
  • Ensure that accommodation is accessible for victims with disabilities.
  • Provide an assessment of the vicitim’s immediate needs.
  • Develop an individualised support plan for the victim in consultation with them.
Material and financial aid

In the immediate crisis period, it should be assumed that victims have little or no access to material resources. Material and financial aid includes the necessary support and resources to enable access to crisis information and counselling, safe accommodation, and food.

  • Provide support to access immediate basic individual needs of each victim including access to emergency transport, food, and safe accommodation that are free of charge.
  • Ensure aid provides for the needs of individual children.
  • Provide in-kind and other non-monetary aid such as basic personal and health care items.
  • Ensure a range of means for victims to safely access material and financial aid.
Legal information about domestic violence and representation of victims’ rights

Many victims are likely to have limited knowledge in relation to their rights and range of options available to them. Accurate and timely information about such matters as divorce/marriage laws, child custody, guardianship, migration status and assistance to navigate justice and police responses are important in protecting the safety of victims.

  • Provide legal rights information, representation regarding domestic violence that is free of charge.
  • Provide information in a written form (and in a language that the victim can understand), orally, and/or in a form that the victim is familiar with.
  • Provide clear and accurate information about:
    • available security measures that can prevent further harm by the alleged perpetrator,
    • procedures and timelines in the national legal framework.
  • Document all legal advice in order to assist victims with any future action they might take.
Psycho-social support and counselling

Specialist counselling can greatly improve the health outlook for victims which can consequently improve their access to education and employment.

  • Provide support/counselling that are free of charge.
  • Ensure victims have access to atleast a minimum number of support/counselling sessions.
  • Ensure counselling is informed about the experience of violence.
  • Ensure counselling is human rights-based and culturally sensitive.
Services for children

The effect of experiencing violence directly or indirectly can have a devastating impact on children. Children have the right to access services that are age-appropriate, child-sensitive, and child-friendly.

  • Provide services for children that are free of charge.
  • Provide services that are age-appropriate, child-sensitive, child-friendly and in line with international standards.
  • Provide child-centred rights-based counselling and psycho-social support.
  • Facilitate access to legal representation for children where required, for example a (legal) guardian if the child is unaccompanied.
  • Ensure timely referrals and facilitated access to necessary services, for example to child protection to address issues regarding guardianship, healthcare and education.
  • Ensure staff receives training on child-sensitive and child-friendly procedures.
Perpetrator programs

An essential element of successful work with perpetrators are cooperation alliances with the police, the public prosecutor’s office, courts, victim protection organisations, probation services, youth welfare offices, the medical sector and counselling centres. In the interests of victim protection, close cooperation with the regional (women’s) support institutions and the development of joint procedures against domestic violence are necessary and must be promoted. The cooperation serves to provide mutual information on work concepts and binding agreements for coordinated cooperation across cases and on a case-by-case basis.

Domestic violence perpetrator programs pursue the following objectives:

  • no renewed use of violence: the spiral of violence must be interrupted quickly and sustainably,
  • acceptance of responsibility by the perpetrators for their actions,
  • acquirement of a better self-perception and self-control,
  • support perpetrators’ capacity for empathy,
  • learning of alternative conflict resolution strategies,
  • fostering of increased relationship abilities.