Information for professionals

Whether you are a manager, an educator or a frontline worker, you play a vital role in responding to violence against women. The partnership’s resources such as training and publications are designed to help you in your work in preventing violence against women or protecting and providing services for those who are affected by it. This section gives some information about the professional role and where to find resources to help put this into practice.

Download Tayside’s good practice guidelines for working with women experiencing domestic abuse

Download No Boundaries Domestic Abuse and Substance Misuse: a practice guide


Roles and responsibilities

Signs and indicators of domestic abuse in women and children

Good practice messages for working with women and children

Your role and responsibility as a professional is to ensure that you and your organisation always offer a sensitive response by:

  • Being aware of your responsibilities for adult and child protection and acting on these
  • Providing a supportive atmosphere so that women, children and young people can disclose abuse
  • Listening and believing
  • Reassuring
  • Explaining confidentiality and any limits to this
  • Evaluating risks
  • Ensuring immediate safety and planning for ongoing safety
  • Exploring options
  • Providing high quality verbal and written information and signposting
  • Documenting and recording
  • Following up
  • Ensuring that the help you provide is consistent with the particular needs of the individual

Make sure that your support is accessible by:

  • Ensuring that you see the person in a private place where you will not be overheard or disturbed
  • Arranging an independent interpreter if the person’s first language is not English or they have a hearing impairment. Do not use family members or friends
  • Giving the individual the option of a male or female worker
  • Not assuming that the person is heterosexual


Signs and indicators of domestic abuse

The following indicators of domestic abuse may also indicate other forms of abuse.

All women cope with abuse in their own way. The following points are not always indicators of abuse but should be considered when looking at the overall picture. All workers should be aware of and sensitive to the possibility of domestic or other forms of abuse.

  • Partner always accompanies the woman, insists on staying close, and answers all questions directed to her. This may apply to extended family members in the case of women who belong to minority ethnic groups – they may say they are there to interpret for her
  • Woman is reluctant to speak or disagree in front of her partner or accompanying family members
  • Partner is overly charming and affectionate in your presence
  • Woman behaves differently when not in his presence
  • Partner restricts access to family and friends – woman is isolated
  • Intense irrational jealousy or possessiveness expressed by the partner or reported by the woman
  • Substance use: women may use alcohol, drugs (illegal/prescription) as a means of coping with the abuse
  • Missed appointments
  • Frequent appointments for vague complaints or symptoms
  • Injuries which do not fit her explanation of the cause
  • Minimising the extent of injuries or hiding them
  • Multiple injuries at different stages of healing
  • Woman is frightened, anxious, depressed or distressed
  • History of miscarriage, termination of pregnancy/still birth or pre-term labour
  • Children are on the child protection register or have been referred to other specialists for difficulties/distress/developmental problems
  • If visiting the house, physical signs suggesting abuse such as damage around locks, footmarks or other damage to door panels, holes in walls or damaged furniture

The most reliable indicator is someone saying that they are experiencing abuse.

Source: Tayside Good practice guidelines for working with women experiencing domestic abuse


Indicators for children and young people

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Nightmares or flashbacks
  • Physical symptoms such as tummy aches
  • Bed wetting
  • Temper tantrums
  • Behaving as though they are much younger than they are
  • Problems at school, or may start truanting
  • Aggression
  • Internalising distress and withdrawal from others
  • Lowered sense of self-worth
  • Using alcohol or drugs
  • Self-harming by taking overdoses or cutting themselves
  • Eating disorders
  • Over protectiveness of mother

However, a child/young person may show no signs of problems at home and may be model pupil.

Source: Children and Domestic Violence from The Survivo's Handbook of Women's Aid


Good practice messages

Violence against women is everyone’s issue

  • If you are concerned about lack of time/resources

If you are busy and always under pressure, what can you do that is effective with the time you do have? Giving a woman the number of the Scottish Domestic Abuse 24 hour helpline 0800 027 1234 or the Rape Crisis Scotland Helpline [08088 01 03 02 (Daily, 6pm to midnight)] and telling her that what’s happened is not her fault, takes very little time and could make an immense difference.

  • If you don’t know what to do

You cannot be expected to know everything, but believing and giving support is a start. The extent of your involvement and the expertise you need depend on your setting and whether you are likely to have a one-off single contact or a longer-term relationship with the victim, perpetrator or any children. You can always refer on to specialist agencies and reassure the woman.

  • If you think it’s a personal issue and don’t want to interfere

Violence against women is everyone's issue. If you remember this, it will help you to respond by asking the right questions, providing assistance and keeping good records.

  • If you think if you ask that you might “open a can of worms”

Remember, it is not easy for a woman to disclose. It will have taken a lot of courage. You may be her first contact for help – reasons some women give for not disclosing include the fear of ‘not being believed’. How you respond may determine the outcome of the situation.

  • If you are concerned about confidentiality

If you are anxious or unsure about what you should do or what the consequences might be, get support from a colleague or manager. You should aim to familiarise yourself with your own organisation’s policies and procedures.

Source: Tayside Good practice guidelines for working with women experiencing domestic abuse


Responding to children and young people

  • Listen carefully and let the child/young person tell you what happened in their own time
  • Believe what the child/young person is telling you and do not judge them
  • Reassure the child that they are not to blame for what happened (or is happening)
  • Let the child/young person know they are very brave to tell you about it
  • Show the child/young person that you are concerned for them
  • Try to stay calm and not let the child/young person see how shocked you are

See more in Tackling Domestic Violence: providing support for children who have witnessed domestic violence


How to deal with a disclosure from a child/young person

You cannot be expected to know everything. Listen to the child/young person and believe what they are saying. Reassure the child/young person that it is not their fault. Depending on the child/young person’s circumstances, you may need to follow your own agency’s child protection procedure. A child living with domestic abuse is a child at risk but not necessarily requiring child protection. Try to keep the child/young person informed as much as is possible. Remember that by rushing in, you could do more damage. The child/young person could have been living with domestic abuse for a long time.


How to help a child/young person living with domestic abuse

Children can feel responsible and that they are to blame in some way for what is happening. Always tell the child/young person that it is not their fault and that they are not in any way responsible for what has happened or is happening.

There are many more responses. It is best to be honest and direct with children/young people about the situation they are in. Children/young people should be told that any form of violence is wrong and does not resolve problems.


Good practice in responding to perpetrators

You may encounter perpetrators of abuse as service users, partners of service users or colleagues

Working with perpetrators of abuse can be complex and your professional practice can contribute to decreasing or escalating risks to those affected.


Perpetrator programmes

There is a great deal of expertise in Scotland developed by agencies such as CHANGE, the Domestic Violence Probation Project and SACRO in working with domestic abuse perpetrators. These agencies have worked together, in conjunction with Respect(the standards agency for perpetrator programmes) to develop a court-mandated accredited model for supporting men to change their behaviour and to increase women and children’s safety. This is called the ‘Caledonian System’.

The Caledonian System is not available to perpetrators of domestic abuse in Tayside. It is currently operating in four Criminal Justice Authority areas: Lothian and Borders, South West, Forth Valley and Aberdeen.

Any work with perpetrators in Dundee should be consistent with the Respect standards of practice. If you need advice on any aspect of working with a perpetrator contact the Respect Phoneline on 0845 122 8609 or see


Key messages in interventions with perpetrators of domestic abuse/violence against women

  • Domestic abuse is unacceptable and must be challenged at all times
  • Men’s violence to partners and ex-partners is largely about the misuse of power and control in the context of male dominance
  • Violence within same sex relationships or from women to men is neither the same as - nor symmetrically opposite to - men's violence to women
  • Men are responsible for their use of violence
  • Men can change
  • Everyone affected by domestic abuse should have access to support services
  • All work with perpetrators and victims of domestic abuse must actively promote an alternative, positive and constructive model of human relationships
  • Practitioners working in the field of domestic abuse should attempt to apply these principles to their own lives


Good practice response to perpetrators of domestic abuse/violence against women

  • Some men may say they are victims of their (female) partner’s violence. Treat such allegations seriously but be aware that research indicates that a significant number of male victims are also likely to be perpetrators of domestic abuse and that perpetrators often use the language of victimisation to avoid taking responsibility for the abuse
  • Be aware, and convey to the perpetrator that domestic abuse is not solely about physical abuse but a range of controlling behaviour
  • Be clear that domestic abuse is not acceptable
  • Be clear that abusive behaviour is a choice
  • Affirm any accountability shown by the perpetrator
  • Be respectful and empathic but do not collude
  • Be positive and non-judgemental, perpetrators can change
  • Be encouraging; do not back a perpetrator into a corner or expect an early full and honest disclosure about the extent of the abuse
  • If you are in contact with both partners, always see them separately if you are discussing abuse; provide separate workers if possible and always think about the unintended consequences of challenge
  • If your typical work pattern involves seeing partners together and domestic abuse emerges during couple counselling, safety disengage from the process
  • Do not attempt couple work if you know or suspect that domestic abuse is an issue as this is likely to be ineffective or dangerous
  • Do not recommend couple counselling if domestic abuse is an issue
  • If your information about the perpetrator’s violence comes only from the survivor, you cannot use that to challenge the perpetrator. The survivor’s safety is paramount
  • Be aware that a multi-agency response is the most effective intervention for perpetrators of domestic abuse. Communication with other agencies involved with a family is important, and, when children and publication protection are involved, essential



Responding to violence against women is a national and local priority. Use this section to find out about key policy documents and resources to help you in your work.

Local resources

National resources

Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferences (MARAC)


Local resources


National resources


Children and young people




Forced marriage




Perpetrator programmes




Risk assessment







Multi-AgencyRisk Assessment Conferences (MARAK)

Risk assessment models for domestic abuse provide a structured way for staff (particularly police officers) responding to domestic abuse to gather relevant information from victims and to share this information with other agencies in a way that encourages the provision of needs-led services. Formal risk assessment models also provide a framework for decision making and the targeting of service resources in a measured and informed manner, which should reduce repeat offending. Police Scotland, Tayside Division introduced the SPECSSS+ model of risk assessment across Dundee City in September 2010

Risk assessment alone is unlikely to be effective in reducing repeat victimisation; risk management processes must also be implemented. MARAC is a model of multi-agency risk management that is specifically designed to address domestic abuse.

The purpose of MARAC is to:

  • Safeguard adult victims
  • Make links with other public protection arrangements (i.e. Child Protection, Adult Support and Protection, MAPPA)
  • Safeguard agency staff
  • Address the behaviour of perpetrators

The MARAC system (combining risk assessment and risk management) is delivered through multi-agency collaboration (Police, Health, Housing, Social Work, Education and other relevant voluntary and statutory sector services), enhanced by the presence of a victim advocate. Agencies work together to deliver the following key stages:

  1. Identify - victims are identified by agencies through pro-active and reactive contact
  2. Risk assessment - carried out by frontline staff to gather detail, relevant information about individual victims and identify those at most high risk
  3. Referral - high risk victims are referred into the case conferencing / risk management system
  4. Research - all agencies research their individual records for further relevant information on identified high risk victims
  5. Meet and share - agencies undertake a case conference and share their single agency information
  6. Action plan - this is agreed following information sharing at the case conference
  7. Follow-up - individual agencies are accountable at review case conferences for the delivery of identified actions within the action plan

MARAC is a pro-active system based on the key principles of confidentiality, pro-active information sharing (with consent wherever possible) and accountability.

From April 2011, MARAC is working within the Dundee City area.

You can find out more about risk assessment and MARAC by visiting the CAADA website