What about the person using violence and abuse?
You may encounter perpetrators of domestic violence as direct service users or through an individual who discloses abuse, or via children whom you know or suspect to be affected by domestic abuse.
It is important to follow safe working guidelines, which keep you safe, as well as the individual or family affected. Follow the guidance offered in the multi-agency response to disclosure/concerns flowchart.
The approach you take will depend on whether the person using abuse is directly acknowledging their behaviour, or has been identified by others as abusive. There are a number of considerations in these circumstances, in particular safety.
- If you are the victim's main support, the perpetrator may see your involvement as a threat to their control. Be mindful of this in any contact with either partner.
- Challenging the perpetrator may lead to escalation in risk and risk worker safety. Ensure that you have sufficient training and line management approval for any communication about abusive behaviour- seek expert advice at the earliest opportunity.
- Do not attempt mediation between couples where there is domestic violence – this can be extremely dangerous and lead to collusion with the perpetrator and escalation in risk.
Responding safely to counter allegations
It is not uncommon for allegations and reports of domestic abuse to be submitted by more than one person in an abusive relationship/context.
Where cross allegations occur, specialist domestic abuse services will accept referrals from both individuals, providing a space to talk and time to respond to both parties. Domestic abuse services will make use of specialist assessments to explore and establish risk in each case.
It is vital that professionals avoid making judgements or assumptions based on gender about risk in the case. Both males and females can experience and perpetrate domestic abuse – therefore workers must follow disclosure and referral procedures in each case, and observe multi-agency procedures.
Perpetrators may however present as a victims, and this can happen for a number of reasons. It may be they see themselves as the aggrieved party and have experienced specific incidents. A victim may also have used defensive or retaliatory violence as self-defence.
While abuse and violence from both parties may be subject to sanctions (including prosecution), the context of any violence or abuse must be understood to identify a primary aggressor or victim and manage risk to all parties appropriately.
It is imperative that cross allegations are responded to seriously, and should draw from multi-agency information sources to gain the clearest possible picture of who is a primary aggressor and primary victim. Approaching dual allegations from a single agency perspective could result in unintentional collusion with the perpetrator.
Further information and guidance:
- Respect - for guidance on safe working practices and interventions with perpetrators and telephone support for perpetrators wishing to address and change their behaviour
- The Jenkins Centre – for information about local programmes for people using violence and abuse within their relationships in Leicestershire