Supporting clients at risk of domestic and family violence

The support a person receives when they first disclose domestic and family violence is crucial.

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Responding to domestic and family violence in your everyday practice

This section will give you information to support your clients experiencing domestic and family violence. It will also provide you with individual techniques and organisational strategies to weave this information into your everyday practice. Even if you do not deal with domestic and family violence very often, it is important to respond in ways that support the client’s needs, particularly their need for safety. Knowing how to talk to clients about their experiences of violence, to understand the indicators of serious risk and how to increase safety, allows you to respond to domestic and family violence in ways that fit in with your field of expertise. As a starting point it helps if you are informed about domestic and family violence.

Two important principles for working with domestic and family violence are:

Safety – Is what I am doing making it safer for the person experiencing domestic and family violence?

Holding perpetrators responsible – Is what I’m doing sending a clear messagethat the perpetrator is responsible and accountable for their violence, not the person who experiences it

Good Practice

There are three basic steps to responding effectively to domestic and family violence:

  1. Encourage and support disclosure (screening) 

  2. Identify dangers (risk assessment)

  3. Work with the client to enhance their safety (safety planning)

These steps can be adapted to individual workplaces and should be implemented together.

A risk framework co-ordinates the implementation of risk assessment and safety planning. We recommend you read the Risk Assessment Framework and Tools page and follow the links to Risk Assessment and Safety Planning. Implementing these steps develops good practice in working with clients experiencing domestic and family violence.

Many of the steps that can be taken by workers to encourage people to talk about domestic and family violence, to ensure there are no immediate serious risks and to help them be safer are simple and do not require specialist knowledge. A compassionate, non-judging and informed approach, and referrals to the right specialist services will be appropriate for many service sectors, such as emergency services.

For others, such teachers, doctors, therapists and drug and alcohol workers, where there are ongoing interactions with people who have experienced domestic and family violence, it is valuable to keep working collaboratively with other service providers, and to continue being mindful of ongoing risk and safety issues throughout the time with the client or student. The information on this site, on the pages linked above, will help you to develop ways of doing this most effectively.

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