Domestic abuse cue card

Domestic abuse is

"Domestic abuse is any single incident, course of conduct or pattern of abusive behaviour between individuals aged 16 or over who are personally connected to each other as a result of being, or having been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. Children who see, hear or experience the effects of the abuse and are related to either of the parties are also considered victims of domestic abuse. Abuse includes physical or sexual abuse; violent or threatening behaviour; controlling or coercive behaviour; economic abuse; psychological, emotional or other abuse."

At every meeting always recognise, respond, refer and record.

Enabling disclosure

Never assume someone else is addressing the domestic abuse issues. Safeguarding is everyone’s business. It is important that you act on your suspicions. You may be the victim’s first and only contact.

There may be reasons why an individual won’t, or feel they can’t, make a disclosure of domestic abuse.  It is important to build trust to enable a possible future disclosure.

Always be alert to the possibility that an individual may be experiencing domestic abuse and be aware of signs that abuse may be taking place. This could include bruises, inconsistent explanations for injuries, partner always present, tense atmosphere at home, and an increased deference to partner.

Enquire sensitively. Create an opportunity, providing a quiet environment where an individual can feel able to talk about their experience.

If ‘asking the question’ make sure it is safe to do so. Only ask questions about domestic abuse when the individual is on their own and in private. Don't ask questions in front of children who may later mention the conversation.

If there is no disclosure, but you suspect otherwise, accept what is being said but periodically ask ‘the question’. Offer other opportunities to talk and consider giving information if safe to do so and document.

You may have to ask more than once, as many victims either do not identify or will deny they are experiencing abuse, especially if it is not physical, and they may be minimising what is going on.


Do not appear to be shocked by what you are being told. Be non judgemental, sensitive, respectful and listen carefully.

Validate what is happening to the victim. Remind them they are not alone, they are not to blame for the abuse, they do not deserve to be treated this way and that there is help available.

Seek to empower the victim. Do not take over and make decisions for them. Ask them what they want you to do.

Reassure about confidentiality and explain the limits to this.

All agencies are encouraged to use the SafeLives Dash risk checklist to assess risk to the victim and inform safety planning.

It is not your role to comment on or encourage the victim to leave the perpetrator. Separation does not make sure of safety, it often increases risk. If the victim wishes to separate or has recently separated, consult a domestic abuse specialist.

Be prepared to offer support and signposting. Be familiar with, and know the contact details of your local domestic abuse service.

Document any disclosure, or suspicion of domestic abuse, in professional records kept at your organisation (not in the victim’s hand held records) and record what you are told in their own words.

Document decision making, actions taken to manage risk and rationale for sharing or not sharing information (with or without consent).

If you need to use interpreters, make sure they are professional. Never use family members, friends or children.


Focus on safety. Assess and deal with any immediate safety risks to the victim and any other adults and children, including yourself. In an emergency call 999.

Consider risks associated with communication and correspondence, for example, the perpetrator finding letters, leaflets, text messages and phone call logs. 

Where children or vulnerable adults are living with, or at risk from domestic abuse, follow your usual safeguarding processes and make sure appropriate referrals are made.

For Honour Based Abuse (HBA) or Forced Marriage (FM) cases, share information on a strictly needs to know basis. Take active steps to make sure records are kept secure, confidential and where possible, restricted.

For Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) cases refer to your local safeguarding procedures and make sure agency records are kept restricted.


On disclosure of domestic abuse, the SafeLives Dash risk checklist should be completed to identify the level of risk posed to the victim. Professional judgement, visible high risk (number of ticks on the Dash checklist) and potential escalation should all be considered. 

Below is a list of some of the high risk factors:

  • victim’s perception of risk
  • separation (child contact)
  • pregnancy and new birth (under 18 months)
  • escalation
  • community issues and isolation
  • stalking
  • sexual assault
  • strangulation (choking, suffocation, drowning)
  • credible threats to kill
  • use of weapons
  • controlling and excessive jealous behaviour
  • child abuse
  • animals and pet abuse
  • alcohol, drugs and mental health
  • suicide and homicide

Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC)

High risk cases should be referred to the MARAC. This is a monthly multi-agency meeting attended by a range of agencies where relevant information about the case is shared and a risk management plan agreed.

Referrals to MARAC are made using the online system Modus. All agencies should have a Designated MARAC Officer (DMO) with access to Modus. If you do not know who your DMO is or your agency does not have a DMO, contact the MARAC Administrator using the Police nonemergency number.

Victims do not attend the MARAC meeting, but are represented by an Independent Domestic Violence Advocate (IDVA) who will attempt to contact the victim before the meeting.

Standard or medium risk cases should be referred to the local outreach service.

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View our how to get help page for domestic abuse organisations.