Domestic Abuse Risk Assessment
and Safety Planning in Child
Protection – Assessing Perpetrators
Lorraine Radford, Neil Blacklock and Kate Iwi
There is no doubt that domestic violence raises many issues of concern for child protection. Working with families living with domestic violence is challenging. Victims of domestic violence often feel trapped in a relationship with the perpetrator by a combination of force, fear, obligation and lack of options and they may leave and return on more than one occasion (Glass 1995). Professionals sometimes find this difficult to understand, can lose patience with mothers and lament their failure to protect children from living with abuse. Abusers can be volatile and frightening people who may threaten or intimidate social workers (Humphreys 2000). Child protection cases involving domestic violence often present with multiple issues and include cases where the adult victim as well as the perpetrator may have abused or neglected the child. Parents fearing the consequences of exposure to ongoing violence may evade contact with statutory agencies (Mullender 1996).
A shortcoming of the common assessment framework currently used in the UK is the very limited reference made to domestic violence. Even if identified, the violence may be subsumed under another issue or problem affecting the family (Hester and Pearson 1998). These problems are compounded by the historically established tendency in social work to deal predominantly with women so that, where there is abuse or neglect of a child, the woman is the focus of attention and little effort is made to challenge the male domestic violence perpetrator (Humphreys 2000; Milner 1993; O'Hagan and Dillenburger 1995; Stanley