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 

Framing 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?

Use the Power and Control Wheel as a framework for your discussion – some victims do not even realise they are victims of the range of tactics of abuse.

Additional direct questions eg 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?

Signpost to help from support agencies

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