22nd June 2015
Anyone who works with victims of domestic abuse will know that empowerment is a key part of helping a woman stay safe long-term. This is something we cover with the independent domestic violence advisors (Idvas) we train – how they can use the tools at their disposal to empower clients wherever possible.
Part of an Idva’s case management system when they work with clients is the Dash risk checklist. The Dash is used to spot when a person is at risk of violence from a partner or family member, and get her the right help as quickly as possible. It is linked to the Duluth power and control wheels – an earlier tool developed to identify common themes in abusive relationships.
The Dash is a tool that helps women to come to terms with their experiences and to put them into context
One of the questions we ask Idvas on our training is to give four uses of the Dash risk checklist. Of course, we are looking for them to say that it helps them identify who is at highest risk of murder or serious harm, but we don’t expect Idvas to stop there. Because, as you work through the Dash checklist, as well as identifying risk you also establish the nature of the relationship. Is there physical violence? Sexual abuse? Coercive control? The Dash is a tool that helps women to come to terms with their experiences and to put them into context.
Some women, after you explain the results of the Dash to them, respond with “Thank you – it’s such a relief, I thought I was imagining it or overreacting”
It can be a shock for women to move from minimising their experience of abuse or blaming themselves to understanding the reality of it, but that is part of the journey to recovery. I find that some women, after you explain the results of the Dash to them, respond with “Thank you – it’s such a relief, I thought I was imagining it or overreacting”.
Once we have the information from the Dash, we use it to complete the individual safety and support plan. This addresses the person’s safety along with any other issues we have identified from coping strategies developed during difficult times that are hampering her ability to move forward, to difficulties left over as a result of financial abuse. When we train Idvas, we make sure that they consider how they can use the tools at their disposal to empower clients wherever possible, never doing something that a woman could do for herself. She won’t feel like the plan is hers if it is written by the Idva alone – she needs to own it herself.
Completing the Dash and safety planning are both important to reduce the risk a woman faces from domestic abuse, but they are also steps towards helping her to take back control of her life. As I’ve said before, identifying risk is a step towards empowerment.