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Assessing safety

Your purpose is to partner with mothers to better understand a perpetrator patterns focus of behaviour which will inform safety planning.  When you are safety planning consider and domestic and family violence is identified, consider:

Safety planning is always led by the mother and based on the Perpetrator pattern focus. For example, the mother may not call police because she knows that the father will remove the children from her and he has attempted this before.

Separate plans may be necessary to keep the mother and children safe. If the father is aware of the mother’s safety plan he may utilise that to continue to patterns of behaviour.

A mother may not have a safety and support network due to the father’s coercive and controlling behaviour that isolates her. Consider who is included in the safety planning because fathers’ often utilise paternal family members to perpetrate violence against the mother and children.

Take a safe and respectful approach

  • What is going to be the best way to speak with the father separately to the mother and child?
  • How can you speak with the mother first?
  • Do you know if any previous engagement approaches have or have not worked?
  • What can you do to reduce the possibility the father may use violence against the mother because of your visit?
  • What approach should you take to engage him while still holding him accountable?
  • How can you protect the mother from feeling responsible for both the violence and the protection of her children?
  • How can you be her partner?
  • What approaches are you going to use to connect with each child? (This may include a variety of watching, listening, asking and playing.)
  • What questions might you ask the mother to identify and better understand her acts of protection?
  • How can you keep yourself and those you work with safe?
  • How do you and the mother communicate if you are worried that the father is escalating?
  • What do you know about the community this family lives in?
  • Who supports this family?

Pay close attention to power, control and violence

  • Do you know of any factors that may make the father particularly dangerous?
  • Is he new to the family?
  • Do you know if he has weapons or has used them in the past?
  • How are you going to stay aware of his tactics and violence-supporting narrative (what he says to justify his behaviour) so that you don’t collude with him?
  • How can you manage your conversation with the father to avoid collusion with him, and stop it if it happens?
  • How can you remain alert to subtle power and control tactics?
  • What do you know so far about any social responses to his violence including extended family members?
  • Do you know how the police or other reporters have responded to his violence?
  • How might their responses help or get in the way of your efforts to hold him accountable?

Be mindful of other dangers

  • What information do you have about other dangers, such as a mother’s substance use or mental health?
  • How can you keep your eyes open to other dangers while remembering that violence may underlie them?
  • How can you find out if other dangers may be ways of a mother coping with the violence?
  • What approach can you take to understand how power is used in the home and if this may be the cause for other dangers?
  • How do these impact on the child?
  • How can you best explore other dangers?

Stay fair and curious

  • What worries do you and the mother have about the safety of this child?
  • How can you stay open to other hypotheses?
  • What protective abilities do you think may exist?
  • How can you make sure you are always thinking about what life is like for each child in this home?
  • Are you worrying about speaking with the father or other family members? Seek support for this before engaging with the father.
  • What power do you hold in relation to each family member?
  • How might your power influence your approach?
  • How can you work towards a power balance with each family member?

Uncover biases and assumptions

What biases or assumptions do you hold about:

  • who is to blame?
  • who is responsible for protection?
  • motherhood (and expectations of mothers)?
  • causes for his violence?
  • your sense of urgency about the risk posed by the father’s behaviour?
  • who he is as a father?

How can you be culturally sensitive but not excuse or blame a father’s cultural background as the cause of violence?

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