Domestic Violence Initial Assessment Form: A brief structured psychosocial assessment and intervention tool

Ms. Alexandra Miller1, Ms Julie  Greathouse1
1St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney, Darlinghurst, Australia

Routine screening for domestic violence of women attending health services has been established as a key strategy for early identification and response to domestic violence. St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney recently participated in a multi- site pilot introducing routine screening for domestic violence in the Emergency Department. Where studies have reported on the benefits or not of the screening process, they have historically focussed heavily on the process of identification, ignoring the significance of the intervention that follows and the influence that that next stage of intervention has on outcomes. This paper will report on the implementation of a structured intervention for women who identified they were experiencing DV.  We developed a Domestic Violence Initial Assessment Form (DVIAF), along with an extensive education package, to ensure consistency in the content of initial brief psychosocial assessment and intervention with patients identified through a screening program. The DVIAF was informed by the NSW Health Policy and Procedures for Responding to Domestic Violence, the WHO’s Clinical and policy guidelines for responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women , as well as studies reviewing the evidence about screening and psychosocial interventions. Intervention protocols reviewed in the development of this tool included an assessment of danger; helping to develop safety plans, provision of emotional support, and facilitation of referrals to local advocacy programs.

This paper reports on a survey that found social workers using the (DVIAF) felt the quality of their interventions and assessments were improved and all felt the quality of their documentation improved. All surveyed stated that they would like to continue use of the tool and suggested only minor structural adjustments. For the future we intend to review records of psychosocial interventions prior to the introduction of the DVIAF which will provide objective comparison to records where the DVIAF has been utilized.


Alex Miller is the Manager of Domestic Violence and Community Social Work at a large urban hospital and has

qualifications Social Work and Child Welfare. She is responsible for strategic leadership in the area of

domestic violence, development of policy and protocols, program implementation and staff management at St Vincent’s Hospital. Alex Miller has worked in the field of domestic and family violence in health care and community child protection for 16 years.

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