Screening for victimization
Routinely screening all new or returning clients (regardless of their age, economic status, gender or sexual orientation) for domestic violence will help you identify victims of domestic violence as early as possible, so that you can:
- Better understand their experience.
- Take safety into account in planning how to help them.
- Make any time spent in residential rehab also a time for safety planning.
- Work with domestic violence advocates to build safety planning into strategies for living with a brain injury.
Provide privacy, to make it safer for the client to disclose abuse. If you need an interpreter and one is not available, it is better to postpone screening. Never use anyone accompanying the client as an interpreter, including children.
You may have to ask about domestic violence more than once, and there are various reasons why a victim might not disclose to you the first time you ask.
- She may not define what happens to her as abusive.
- She may be afraid of what her partner will do if he finds out she has told you what is happening.
- She may be ashamed of what he does to her and blame herself for it – and expect you to blame her for it, too.
- She may not yet trust you to not judge her and to keep her confidentiality. Building trust takes time. As your relationship with her develops, you can talk about how her partner tries to control her, and give her opportunities to open up. Remind her that she can access domestic violence services at anytime, even if she chooses not to disclose right away.
- She may have disclosed to other people who have done things that made her life more difficult, and that has made her wary of telling anyone about the abuse.
Use inclusive language in your screening. Avoid gender-specific pronouns. Say ‘partner’ until you know how the client refers to their partner. This will help you provide opportunities for victims of same-sex domestic violence, and for transgender victims, to disclose to you.
Put the question in context. “Many of the people we work with have been hurt by their partner or someone else in their family, so we ask everyone about it and encourage people to talk about it, so we can help with that problem as well, and help you find other people who understand what you’re going through.”