Risk assessment by professionals

Risk assessment is a process where a professional examines different factors to determine how likely something bad might happen. Even if some of these risk factors aren't directly related to their job duties, it's still important to identify and record them. This helps them understand all the possible sources of risks and manage them better.

Risk assessment is a crucial tool in preventing repetitive domestic violence

By conducting a thorough risk assessment and implementing appropriate interventions, professionals can work towards preventing repeated acts of violence and ensuring the safety of victims. The main goal of a risk assessment is to identify the risk of future violent behaviour by assessing factors related to the perpetrator's likelihood of reoffending and the consequences.

Additionally, it helps identify circumstances that may increase the risk of violence and assess the vulnerability factors of the victim. The information gathered from the risk assessment is then used to develop strategies and interventions to manage and mitigate these risks effectively.

The principles of risk assessment

The European Manual for Risk Assessment defines the principles of risk assessment:
1. Risk Assessment is a process that can only be made with the victims’/survivors’ collaboration.
2. Victims'/Survivors' own assessments of their safety and risk levels must be considered. Research shows that victims/survivors have the most accurate assessments of their own risk levels.
3. Victims/Survivors must be listened to without the presence of the perpetrator, family and/or their community members.
4. Children should have the opportunity to talk.
5. Professionals are responsible for assessing, managing and monitoring the perpetrator's risk.
6. Professionals, in case of significant harm to children, must consider and agree on the best procedure that safeguards and protects them.
7. It is important to clarify the limits of the risk assessment and management process.
8. No improbable or unrealistic promises should be made.

Professionals involved with risk assessment

Police officers, social workers, nurses, doctors, teachers, and NGO workers must have proper training and knowledge to recognise risk factors.

Key professionals must share an understanding of risk, but their specific roles and responsibilities may lead them to focus on different factors. For example, police officers and social workers have different perspectives due to the nature of their work.

They should also understand the dynamics of domestic violence, how it affects the victims, why they might stay in an abusive relationship, the tactics abusers use, and the things that make the situation more dangerous.

Risk factors

When it comes to domestic violence, there are specific signs that can show the professional if the situation is getting worse.

  • Previous physical violence
  • Violence is occurring more frequently, or violence is more intensive (harmful, injurious)
  • Coercive control
  • Extreme jealousy and obsessive thinking
  • The victim has left for another partner
  • The perpetrator’s stepchild lives in the same home
  • Strangulation
  • Victim-survivor is trying to divorce/separate or has divorced/separated
  • Mental health issues of the perpetrator
  • Substance abuse issues of perpetrator/victim
  • Perpetrator’s access to a firearm
  • Social isolation
  • Negative life changes of the perpetrator and economic stress
  • Other forms of domestic abuse
  • Victim-survivor is pregnant or has a baby
  • Violence towards pets
  • Threats to kill


Clear protocols and safety measures must be established

Standardised risk assessment tools are available to assist frontline responders in documenting the case. Prioritising the victim's safety is essential throughout the risk assessment process. When intervening in domestic violence and abuse cases, key issues to consider include data protection, confidentiality boundaries, and obtaining the victim's consent to share information.

Clear protocols and safety measures should be established to guide the documentation of risk assessment, risk management, and specific risk factors. For instance, certain information, such as victim-survivor risk assessment documentation, should not be included in the judicial process's pre-trial investigation records. This is to prevent the perpetrator from accessing such sensitive information. However, if the information is directly related to the description of the criminal event or the characteristic features of the crime, it must be in the crime report.


Professionals should be aware of basic guidelines for documentation

When the victim interacts with the front line professionals, there are basic guidelines for case documentation for the police, social workers and health care. If you are a victim, you can request the professionals to ensure your case is documented accordingly. Read more on the Risk assessment checklist -page.

The risk assessment process in cases of domestic violence should be dynamic and restarted whenever the risk situation changes. Therefore, professionals must document the case and its associated risk factors.

Thorough case documentation ensures that professionals can refer to previously recorded information to revise the risk assessment.


In conclusion, risk assessment plays a crucial role in preventing domestic violence, aiming to identify and manage the factors contributing to the likelihood of future violence. It involves identifying risk factors, understanding the dynamics of domestic violence, and recognising the impact on victims. By having a comprehensive understanding of the sources of risk, key agencies can work together to develop effective strategies for intervention and support.

Frontline responders from various professions should be trained and knowledgeable in identifying critical risk factors and collaborating to address them. While professionals may have different perspectives and priorities, a shared understanding of risk is essential for effective risk management. By working collaboratively, agencies can better protect and support survivors of domestic violence, ultimately striving for safer communities.

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