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, it tends not to be asked later

How to ask the question

For an adult: “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.”

For a child (only if this is part of your role and you are trained to do so): “We know that many mums and dads have arguments, does that ever happen in your family?”

Examples of direct questions:

  • Has anyone close to you made you feel frightened?
  • 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?

Some victims do not 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?