Asking About Domestic Violence –
Implications for Practice
Asking about domestic violence (or routine enquiry) by professionals working in child protection, health and other social care settings can enable women, and sometimes children, to disclose their experiences of domestic violence so that they may be given the appropriate support or be referred to other agencies (Hester and Westmarland 2005). It is an approach that has developed mainly in the health-care field and flows from the recognition that women may be more likely to disclose domestic violence to a health-care professional than to other agencies such as the police (Davidson et al. 2000, 2001). This chapter looks at the findings from some of the only research to date in the UK involving routine enquiry by social workers and other child protection professionals. It indicates how use of routine enquiry, when coupled with training on awareness of domestic violence and how to ask about domestic violence, plus inventories or other 'tools' to help systematic enquiry, may improve practice with mothers and children living in circumstances of domestic violence. The emphasis on initial service responses to women and children complements the account in the following chapter by Jan Breckenridge and Claire Ralfs of an Australian framework which aims to develop front-line workers' responses to domestic violence. The studies examined here focused on an NSPCC team between 1996 and 1998 – 'the NSPCC study' (Hester and Pearson 1998) – and on health visitors and social care staff between 2001 and 2003 – 'the Home Office study' (Hester and Westmarland 2005).