Information for professionals working with victims of domestic abuse

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Encouraging disclosures

Create a safe and supportive environment

  • Display posters/leaflets about domestic abuse in communal areas.
  • Use a private safe space away from partners and family members (and children where possible)
  • Ask the question as a matter of routine enquiry.
  • Ask sensitively but use direct questioning.
  • Clarify your limits of confidentiality and safeguarding responsibilities.
  • Repeat questions/rephrase them to help understanding.
  • Listen and validate – gain trust.

Why ask the question?

  • Asking is the essential starting point (lots of victims want you to ask)
  • Not asking may reinforce messages from the abuser (it’s something not to be spoken of and to be ashamed of)
  • It gives people permission to speak about their experiences.
  • It makes people feel valued and supported.
  • If the question is not asked at assessment/initial contact, it tends not to be asked later.
  • We may only have one opportunity to save a life so it’s crucial that we use it.

How to ask the question

“As domestic abuse is so common, we now ask everyone who comes into our service if they experience this. This is because it affects people’s safety, health and well-being, and we want to ensure we are supporting people and keeping them as safe as possible.”

Examples of direct questions:

  • Has anyone close to you made you feel frightened?
  • Do you feel safe at home?
  • Does anyone close to you bully you, control you or force you into things?
  • Has anyone close to you ever hurt you physically, such as hit you, pushed you, slapped you, choked you, or threatened you in any way?
  • Do you feel isolated from friends and family?

Be patient and supportive – some victims do not even realise they are victims of the range of tactics of abuse.

Additional direct questions e.g. to adults with care and support needs, for example:

  • Has anyone prevented you from getting, food, clothes, medication, glasses, hearing aids or medical care?
  • Has anyone prevented you from being with the people you want to be with?
  • Has anyone tried to force you to sign papers against your will?
  • Have you been upset because someone talked to you in a way that made you feel ashamed or threatened?
  • Has anyone taken money belonging to you?

Responding to disclosures


Validate what’s happening to the person:

  • “You are not alone”.
  • “You are not to blame for what is happening”.
  • “You do not deserve to be treated in this way”.
  • "There is help available “.
  • “There is life after abuse”.


Check current safety:

  • “Is your partner here with you?”
  • “Where are the children?”
  • “What are your immediate concerns?”
  • “Do you have a safe place to go to?”

Consider if there is an immediate risk and if the perpetrator(s) is present. Seek management support, follow your organisations safeguarding procedures and call police. You may need to support access to emergency accommodation, if so call the Sefton Domestic Abuse Service helpline or visit Homeless or at risk of homelessness.

This is particularly important with Female Genital Mutilation/Honour Based Abuse/Forced Marriage. Remember to protect your personal safety.


Is there a child or vulnerable adult at risk?

  • Vulnerable adult - a person with care and support needs - Raise a concern about an adult.
  • Harm to children includes “impairment suffered from seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another” - Report a Concern.
  • 30-60% of children who witness domestic abuse are also physically harmed


  • Follow your organisation’s policies and safeguarding procedures, if appropriate
  • Provide information about support services *link back to ‘get help’ page*
  • Offer to make a direct referral
  • Provide safety planning advice.
  • Ask the client what they want


If safe to do so always complete a Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour Based Violence Assessment (DASH) so that the level of risk can be ascertained, you can call the Sefton Domestic Abuse Service helpline 0151 394 1400 for help with this if needed.

Sefton Da Risk Tool 2023 (word 489KB)
DA Risk Assessment Tool Guidance (word 60KB)

The DASH tool (Domestic Abuse, Stalking, Harassment and Honour Based Violence Assessment) is part of the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Co-ordinator (MARAC) referral. It’s a risk assessment form to help you work out the risk level for the victim.

The DASH form gives safeguarding professionals vital information and means that the victim can receive the right support by the right service as quickly as possible.

For any questions you’ve ticked as ‘yes’ on the DASH form, you must provide an explanation to justify this. 

14 yes ticks will normally put the victim at high risk and therefore justifies you making a MARAC referral. However, the DASH will be reviewed alongside your referral to give an overall assessment.  

Considerations when completing a DASH form

Do you have the time and confidence to complete the DASH form safely with your client? 

The questions are used to identify, assess, and manage risk, so you must ask all the questions. You must also make sure you record, review and update all responses. The risk identification process remains dynamic and you have responsibility for the risk until it’s handed over.

Consider safety and confidentiality when recording information and follow your organisation’s data protection/GDPR policies. Extreme care needs to be taken with documenting domestic abuse. In order to maintain confidentiality, any record of domestic abuse should be kept separately from notes which the perpetrator may have access to i.e. records he may access as a parent.

Honour based abuse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation

If you receive a disclosure or suspect any of these contact Sefton’s Domestic Abuse service helpline or phone 999 in emergencies.

So-called ‘honour’ abuse occurs when someone is punished by their family and/or community for behaving in a manner which is believed to have brought shame or dishonour. This type of abuse can be distinguished from other forms of violence because it is often committed with the collusion of family and/or community members.

Honour-based abuse includes acts of harassment, assault, imprisonment, unexplained death (suicide), forced pregnancy/abortion and in some cases murder. The family may perceive that the person has acted inappropriately and dishonoured the family and community - the violence carried out is to punish them for this.

Examples of behaviour that might be deemed ‘inappropriate’ could include:

  • Having a boyfriend
  • Rejecting a forced marriage
  • Refusing to be ‘cut’ (Female Genital Mutilation)  
  • Having sexual relationships before marriage
  • Pregnancy outside of marriage
  • Gossip or rumour (whether true or not)
  • Interfaith relationships
  • Seeking divorce
  • Inappropriate dress or make-up
  • Unacceptable lifestyles or behaviour
  • Defying family, cultural or community expectations

Does it happen here?

  • It is more common in Britain than commonly believed
  • It can affect both men and women
  • Practices may now be relaxed in the originating country
  • It is a cultural issue, not a religious one
  • It is prompted by so-called shame that has been brought on the family and the consequences can be severe

 Warning signs

Signs may include:

  • Family history of relatives going missing, self-harm or suicide
  • Relatives making decisions on behalf of the victim
  • Victims may play truant or have extended absences from school due to policing at home
  • Victims may report that they are being kept at home against their will
  • There may be a decline in academic or work performance
  • The victim may report threats to kill which tend to be credible
  • Victims may report they are being emotionally blackmailed
  • Victims may be isolated due to physical, financial or cultural barriers
  • Victims may suffer from depression, self-harm or attempt suicide
  • Psychosomatic symptoms
  • Emotional and/or physical abuse
  • Others insisting on accompanying to appointments
  • Others insisting on interpreting for the victim
Sefton DA Risk Assessment Tool (word 59KB)

How to respond

The victim can often feel powerless, and as the abuse can be carried out by several people within the family and community, it can be harder for professionals to identify and respond to it.

Do not use family or community members as interpreters. With honour-based abuse, family and community members are often involved or will inform the family of the victim’s whereabouts to uphold the honour.

For more information on Honour Based Violence please visit or Spotlight on HBV and forced marriage-web.pdf (


Fatal domestic abuse reviews renamed to better recognise suicide cases.

The government has announced that the name of these reviews will be changed from ‘Domestic Homicide Review’ to ‘Domestic Abuse Related Death Review’, to better reflect all deaths which fall within their scope.

Minister for Victims and Safeguarding, Laura Farris said:

This government has made significant progress addressing fatal domestic abuse, including through our landmark Domestic Abuse Act.

However, there is more to do, and we also need to focus on hidden victims who die from domestic abuse related suicide.

These changes to will enable agencies to contextualise these horrific offences even if the domestic abuse was not physical in nature, better identify the warnings signs and ultimately, save lives.

A Domestic Homicide Review is a multi-agency review which seeks to identify and implement lessons learnt from deaths which have, or appear to have, resulted from domestic abuse.

Fatal domestic abuse reviews renamed to better recognise suicide cases - GOV.UK (


Table Of Offences To Be Considered

Please click the link below showing an overview of offences, what they mean and the maximum sentence on conviction.

Table of offences to be considered. 





Last Updated on Thursday, February 22, 2024

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