Families and Domestic Violence

Module Sections:

Assessing for Domestic Violence

Myth: Abuse victims will usually volunteer information about the abuse without having to be asked.

Truth: Most abuse victims are hesitant to share about the abuse and will only offer information if they feel safe and if they are asked.

  1. If you suspect abuse, ask the victim about the abuse when her/his partner is not nearby. First ask non-threatening questions about the relationship, and gradually become more specific. Example: “When you and your partner disagree, how does it go? Does anyone ever get hurt? Who gets hurt? What happens? Have there ever been times when your partner has pushed, slapped, or hit you?”
  2. When you have determined that abuse is occurring, you will need to assess the degree of danger and lethality for the victim.
    • Lethality risk factors
      • “Are you afraid of your partner?”
      • “Has the abuse become more frequent or more severe recently?”
      • “Has your partner used or threatened to use weapons?”
      • “Has your partner ever threatened to kill you?”
    • Pattern and history of the abuse (NASW, 2008)
      • “How long has the violence been going on?”
      • “Has your partner forced or harmed you sexually?”
      • “Describe a typical violent episode.”
      • “What was the most recent incident? The most severe?”
    • Violence outside of the home or assault on other family members (NASW, 2008):
      • “Has your partner ever been violent toward someone outside of the home?”
      • “Has your partner harmed your family, friends, or pets? (e.g. pushed, slapped, hit, kicked)”
    • Substance use/abuse
      • “How often does your partner drink or use substances?”
      • “How much does your partner typically have to drink at one time?”
    • Degree of isolation and access to resources (NASW, 2008):
      • “Do you have friends or family nearby whom you could go to for support?”
      • “Does your partner limit or monitor your contact with your friends or family?”
      • “What resources have you used, or tried in the past?”
  3. If spousal abuse is occurring, it is important to assess for the abuse or neglect of the children. If you suspect that the children are being abused or neglected because of the violence in the home, explain to the client that you are mandated to report the situation.
    • During the process of mandated reporting you can
      • Explain that you will continue to support and visit the family through the process.
      • Explain how the process works in the state.
      • Say, “As a mandated reporter I have to report any incidents of abuse to protect you and your family.”
      • Say, “This can be a positive thing for your family because now it is out in the open, you can get some help.”

Audio Companion: Families and Domestic Violence