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Case study: Identifying domestic abuse

Case study of a telephone conversation for supporting someone with suspected experience of domestic abuse
Woman talking on a mobile phone
© UK Health Security Agency

Maya receives a phone call from Luciana. Luciana has limited English and she sounds distressed and appears to be in tears as she starts to tell Maya about the reason for her call.

Luciana: “I have been having a lot of arguments with my husband. Yesterday he got very angry at me because I was talking to a friend who he does not know on the phone when he got home from work. He has always been possessive but I have never seen him like that before and I am really scared of him right now.”

Maya: “Are you alone right now and is it ok if I ask you some questions about your relationship with your husband?”

Luciana: “Yes, he is at work right now”

Maya: “Can you tell me more about what he did when he got angry?”

Luciana: “He yelled at me and threatened to hurt me if I ever talk to that friend again.”

Maya: “Has he hurt you before?”

Luciana: ”Yes, he has pushed me and grabbed me before. I have told him to stop but he tells me it is my fault and that I don’t deserve any better.”

Maya: “Has he done anything else to hurt or control you?”

Luciana: “He insists on reading all of my messages. He controls who I can spend time with and prevents me from having friends. I feel very isolated.”

Maya: “I understand that this situation must be extremely difficult for you. You have done the right thing by telling me.”

From this dialogue you can see that before discussing Luciana’s situation in more detail Maya makes sure she is alone and safe before speaking about abuse. This is particularly important for supporting someone over the phone or online.

If the person is not able to speak openly, suggest another time to call back again using closed questions such as, “I need to call back another time, is tomorrow morning at 10am OK?” Asking closed questions will allow the individual to give ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers. If the individual is not ready to talk about the situation, do not force it. Recognise the right time and let the individual know that they can contact you again at any time when they are ready.

What Maya should do as a next step is to offer support and provide ways for Luciana to get help, and to then provide her with available resources.
Always advise calling 999 if there is any immediate danger. If the individual is unable to do this, but wants to, you can offer to do this for them. If the individual is not in immediate danger, the following number might be helpful: England Freephone 24h National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247.

It is important to keep in mind that it isn’t always possible to recognise domestic abuse from a brief conversation, therefore it is really important to adopt a non-judgemental approach, without making any assumptions, before hearing the full story. You will learn more about communicating effectively in the ‘Listen’ section.

© UK Health Security Agency
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Psychological First Aid

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