5. Initial safety planning

Assist your patient to evaluate her immediate and future safety, and that of her children. Best-practice risk assessment involves seeking relevant facts about her particular situation, asking her about her own perception of risk, and using professional judgment.  You may need to refer your patient to a specialised domestic violence service such as the Domestic Violence Line. See ‘Abuse and violence: Working with our patients in general practice’ (white book) for detailed guidance on your role as a GP.

Diagram showing key elements of risk assessment

Figure 3: Aspects of best-practice risk assessment

For initial safety planning, you will at least need to:

  • Speak to the woman alone
  • Check for immediate concerns
    • Does she feel safe going home after the appointment?
    • Are her children safe?
    • Does she need an immediate place of safety?
    • Does she need to consider an alternative exit from your building?
  • If immediate safety is not an issue, check her future safety
    • Does he have weapons?
    • Does she need a referral to police or a legal service to apply for an Apprehended Violence Order?
    • Does she have emergency telephone numbers?
      • NSW Police: 000 or 106 (TTY)
      • Domestic Violence Line (24/7 emergency, referral and counselling line for people experiencing domestic violence. Can explain basic information about AVOs and assist with risk assessment): 1800 656 463 or 1800 671 442 (TTY)
    • Does she need a referral to a domestic violence service to help make an emergency plan:
      • Where would she go if she had to leave?
      • How would she get there?
      • What would she take with her?
      • Who are the people she could contact for support?
  • Document any plans made, for future reference.

Risk assessment is an ongoing process. You may need to check in on your patient to follow up on this initial safety plan. See section 10 (Continuing care).

It is important to remember that the true goal… is to prevent violence, not predict it.¹²

 4. Responding to a disclosure

6. Victims support scheme  


[12] Don G Dutton & P Randall Kropp, ‘A review of domestic violence risk instruments’, (2000) 1(2) Trauma, Violence and Abuse, 171-181 at 179.