Pay attention to the following red flags for domestic violence, some of which may conflict with what the client says:
- Physical injuries that seem non-accidental or occur repeatedly.
- Symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidality, substance abuse or addiction, or traumatic brain injury.
- Confusion, shame, guilt, fear and self-blame.
- Constantly giving you her partner’s point of view instead of her own.
- Her life has shrunk over the course of the relationship. She has given up activities, jobs, relationships, opinions – and maybe her sense of herself.
- Multiple attempts to leave, repair the relationship or get help.
- Rationalizing or minimizing behavior on his part that is clearly unacceptable.
- Describing partner as having a bad temper or a drinking problem.
- A protracted divorce or custody case.
- Describing partner’s abusiveness toward the children, pets, or other people.
Remember that domestic violence is not just a heterosexual phenomenon. Lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual (LGTB) clients may also be abused, and will more easily disclose if they perceive you as accepting of their sexual orientation. Use inclusive language in your screening. Avoid gender-specific pronouns and say ‘partner’ until you know how the client refers to their partner.