Crisis care providers may be dealing with two conflicting emotional points of view when responding to a Domestic Violence call. It is critical to initially consult with on scene law enforcement and confirm that they will remain on scene until you have time to assess the situation. The first question to ask is where is the initiator of the violence?
Even if the individual who has initiated the violence is not currently on scene, he or she may return and turn their anger toward the crisis responders. The crisis responders intent to help may be translated by the victim as trying to interfere and they may turn against the responders in support of the perpetrator. Introduce yourself to the victim and explain that you are there to help. Provide emotional comfort only, do not ask questions unless the police have finished their interviews with the victim and children if any. Speaking of children, determine their location in the home and make certain they are safe and Ok. If there is another responder ask them to try and entertain the kids while you talk with the victim.
Sometimes the victim will be uncomfortable speaking with law enforcement and then with their knowledge and permission you may engage the “customer” in conversation to determine the details of the incident. Report your findings, quietly and without fanfare, to the officers on scene.
If the perpetrator has been arrested, law enforcement can leave the scene and go back in service. However, before they go, if they haven’t already asked, determine if there are any guns or weapons in the house. Ask the victim if they wish the weapons to be removed from the house by the police.
Not unlike other crisis situations, establish any potential support system the victim may have, friends, family, clergy or if available a shelter. Offer to take them to a safe environment. If they do not wish to leave, provide them with any resource information you have on hand. If available ask a Victim Advocate to follow-up with them the next day.
For more information concerning the process of Crisis Response Management, watch for Lesson #12 – Sexual Assault – A Delicate Matter.