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Making your agency Domestic Abuse Aware

Developing a ‘Whole Agency/Whole School’ approach to Domestic Abuse is key to ensuring that professionals working with children and young people, and the agency as a whole can:

  • recognise the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse
  • implement relevant policies to ensure that clear guidance is provided to professionals working with children and young people in how to respond to domestic abuse
  • implement relevant policies to address the effects of domestic abuse on children and young people, and also employees
  • ensure training is provided to all employees to heighten awareness and knowledge
  • identify a lead for domestic abuse within your agency that can develop more specialised knowledge and become a single point of contact for concerns

Facilitating disclosures of domestic abuse

Where you have concerns about domestic abuse either from the young person or the parent, you may wish to ask some questions to enable the person to feel able to disclose domestic abuse to you. These questions may include:

Questions to ask the young person:

  • How are things with your boy/girl friend?
  • How safe do you feel around your boy/girl friend?
  • How is your boy/girlfriend treating you?
  • Are you getting the support you need at the moment from your boy/girlfriend/family/friends?
  • Is there anything worrying you at the moment?
  • You don’t seem yourself lately, is anything on your mind that you’d like to talk about?

If a young person is not accepting that they are experiencing domestic abuse it is often helpful to reflect on how they would feel/respond if the same things were happening to a friend.

Questions to ask parents you believe maybe experiencing domestic abuse:

  • Is everything alright at home?
  • Do you feel safe (at home)?
  • Do you ever feel threatened at home?
  • How are arguments resolved?
  • Do you feel you need some extra support?
  • Are you being looked after properly at home?
  • Does your family member etc. ever threaten you?
  • Does your family member etc. put you down?
  • Do you feel you are in an abusive relationship?
  • Does your partner get very jealous/angry? 

Teenage relationship abuse

Domestic abuse is very prevalent in teenage intimate relationships and sexist attitudes still exist with 1 in 2 boys and 1 in 3 girls thinking it is okay to sometimes hit a woman or force her to have sex.[1] Please remember that teen-to-teen abuse is a child protection issue.

Some recent statistics highlighted that:

  • 1 in 4 girls experience some form of physical partner violence
  • 33% of girls and 16% of boys reported some form of sexual abuse.
  • 25% of girls (the same proportion as adult women) and 18% of boys reported some form of physical relationship abuse
  • 75% of girls and 50% of boys reported some form of emotional relationship abuse[2]

In a survey, three-quarters of girls, who had a partner at least two years older than themselves, said they had experienced some form of physical violence[3]

There are proven links between domestic abuse and teenage pregnancy with young women who are being or have been abused being 4 to 6 times more likely than their non-abused peers to become pregnant during their teenage years[4]

Some of the signs and symptoms may be similar to those displayed by adults within abusive relationships such as:

  • Falling out with friends or family
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Low self esteem
  • Depression, mood swings, self-harm
  • On edge, jumpy
  • Always being with their boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Receiving constant text messages/emails/calls
  • Afraid of making partner angry
  • Frequent pregnancies
  • Being unreliable
  • Worrying about spending money
  • Using alcohol and drugs to cope
  • A change in personality
  • Being asked to do things sexually they are not comfortable with
  • Fearful of the consequences of sharing their experiences
  • Be protective of the abusive partner
  • Risk taking behaviours
  • Minimisation or normalisation of their experiences

Young people may experience additional barriers to leaving an abusive relationship, such as:

  • Peer pressure to have a boy/girlfriend
  • They will lose their friends
  • Not knowing who to speak to or where to get help.
  • Not knowing the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship to look out for.
  • Thinking that what they are experiencing is normal or okay.
  • The perpetrator being in their environment, for example, at school or college.
  • Fear of repercussion or revenge, especially online. This could include passing on indecent images they have of their boy/girlfriend.
  • They may have limited funds and so maybe unable to attend support appointments easily or leave the relationship (if they were living with their boy/girlfriend) if they chose to.

How to support young people:

  • Work in a multi-agency way to support the young person by liaising with support services and social care for example.
  • Draw on a variety of different techniques that improve engagement.
  • Be very clear about what you are doing/when, for example if needing to talk to Social Care or other agencies
  • Ensure the young person knows trusted adults they can confide in and a safe person at school
  • Be prepared to spend time exploring what abuse is. The young people you work with may not identify their own experiences as abuse.
  • Validate the seriousness of young people’s relationships.
  • Offer face-to-face and new technologies communication, rather than telephone contact alone.
  • Be flexible on appointment length: be led by the Young Person’s wishes and consider sending reminders for meetings
  • Assure children that they will not be judged for accessing specialist services
  • Encourage an open relationship between the young person you have concerns about and the adult they relate best to
  • Don’t be afraid to ask them how they’re doing – they might just be waiting for you to do this
  • Use language they relate to – so ‘relationship abuse’ for young people rather than ‘domestic abuse’
  • Encourage and support participation in supervised extra-curricular activities
  • Model and promote healthy, non-violent relationships
  • Create spaces to openly talk about healthy/unhealthy relationships and incorporate into sessions / curriculum


  • Assume that the experience of abuse is less harmful if it is perpetrated or experienced by a young person.
  • Try and be ‘cool’: young people need genuine, professional support rather than a friend.

What you can do if you are worried about a child or young person

  • Conduct a Safety Plan with the young person:

Wherever possible, safety planning should address or mitigate the risks identified.

Guidance can be found here:

Consider the complexities associated with teen relationship abuse. This client group may also be experiencing gang involvement, be at risk of sexual exploitation, be experiencing abuse perpetrated through new technologies and be at risk of ‘honour’-based abuse and forced marriage.

  • Refer the case to First Point by calling 01454 866000 and discuss your concerns with a social care professional
  • Discuss specialist support options with the child or young person and suggest referral to Survive (0117 961 2999)
  • Conduct a risk assessment:

SafeLives have developed a Young Person’s risk identification checklist that can be used to assess the level of risk the Young Person may be at. This tool is designed to be used with children and Young people aged 13-18, and is a useful tool in gathering in depth information about their experiences.

Where the Child/Young Person is aged 13-15, the risk identification checklist (RIC) can be used to support a referral to First Point: 01454 866000.

Where the Young Person is aged 16+ the RIC can be used as above, but also to assess whether the Young Person meets thresholds to be referred in to the Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference (MARAC). The MARAC is a multi-agency process that consider high-risk cases of domestic abuse, and looks to share information and implement risk management plans.

For more information in MARAC thresholds and referral process, please visit our website.

In addition, you can refer the Young Person to the Independent Domestic Violence Advisor Service at Survive, who can provide specialist support to high risk victims of domestic abuse: 0117 961 2999.

Young people are protected by child protection legislation until their 18th birthday. Professionals need to follow their agency’s safeguarding children procedures (which should comply with the Local Safeguarding Children Board’s child protection procedures). A best practice response for a young client is likely to reflect an integrated response which combines child safeguarding and high risk domestic abuse expertise, tailored to each young person’s needs. It is important to involve the client in the process as much as possible.


Domestic abuse

Awareness of domestic violence e-module

Identifying and responding to families experiencing domestic abuse (1 day)

MARAC and DASH (1/2 day)

Enquiries and booking to:


Domestic abuse awareness training for professionals

Training provided by Survive on either a whole day or half day basis, and can be tailored for specific needs upon request.

Enquiries and booking to: Tel: 0117 9612999


Connect with Respect – preventative assemblies, workshops and 1.1 for children and young people

Provided by Survive to schools and can be tailored for specific needs upon request.

Enquiries and booking to: Tel: 0117 9612999


Tailored domestic abuse awareness sessions

Provided by Survive and the Police

Enquiries and booking to: Survive: Tel: 0117 9612999

South Gloucestershire Council Community Safety Team: Tel: 01454 868751


Child sexual exploitation

Child Sexual Exploitation Training (1 day)

Enquiries and booking to:



Home Office Resource Pack and E-Learning:

Intro to FGM, Forced Marriage, Spirit Possession and ‘So-called Honour’ Based Violence E-Learning

Enquiries and booking to:


Forced Marriage

Home Office Information and Guidance

Intro to FGM, Forced Marriage, Spirit Possession and ‘So-called Honour’ Based Violence E-Learning

Enquiries and booking to:


[1] EVAW:

[2] University of Bristol and NSPCC, 2009

[3] Partner exploitation and violence in teenage intimate relationships 2009

[4] Saewyc, E., Magee, L. and Pettingell, S. (2004) Teenage Pregnancy and Associated Risk Behaviours among Sexually Abused Adolescents, Perspectives in Sexual and Reproductive Health 36(3):98-105