PDF Version: Risk and Domestic Abuse: Working with High Risk Victims PDF


Fife Women’s Aid organised a conference to bring together people with an interest in violence against women to consider risk management and promotion of recovery for women and children who have experienced domestic abuse.

The event was funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and was attended by 83 people, including staff from housing, social work, mental health services, Police Scotland and a range of third sector agencies.

The vision of Fife Women’s Aid is for an equitable society in which women, children and young people are valued participants, able to determine their own future and are free from all forms of abuse.

The Risk and Domestic Abuse: working with high risk victims event included presentations from researchers, staff and survivors of domestic abuse as well as workshops focusing on risk management and recovery facilitated by practitioners, with direct input from survivors or inclusion of their views to inform practice.

The event was held at the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline and was chaired by Kate McCormack from Fife Women’s Aid.


  1. Dr Jane Monckton Smith gave a presentation(via Skype) on the eight stages of the homicide timeline.
  2. DCI Debra Forrester gave a presentation on levels of domestic abuse in Scotland, the police response and the implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018. This was followed by a question and answer session.
  3. Sally Fox gave a presentation on her and her sons’ journey from domestic abuse to recovery, including her involvement with the mental health system, the damage caused by diagnosis and the positive impact of a trauma informed approach. She shared her poetry, shown on the next page…
  4. Luke Hart shared his story of living with coercive control throughout his childhood, the impact of this on him and his family and his journey from recognising that he had been living with domestic abuse (after the murder of his mother and sister through to a drive to raise awareness and change attitudes about domestic abuse and coercive control. This was followed by a question and answer session.

Murder Most Ordinary

There’s been a murder
but no-body has been found
The scene, a domestic one.
A home abandoned,
like the Marie Celeste.
Apparently, she did her best
but couldn’t take it anymore.
Being pushed against walls that were getting smaller.
Picking herself up from the floor
Waiting for the change
that didn’t come.
Tired of pretending to the kids
that Daddy’s okay, just a bit uptight
stay out of his way, go and play
(let your imaginations take you far from here)
The reality was brutal.
Something was changing,
getting worse – intensifying
Death threats were gathering momentum
The boys, horrified and traumatised,
Understanding that to fall out of favour
could have grave consequences.
The next time he announced in his callous tone
that I was going to die that night,
I took no more chances
Just three bin bags of clothing and toys, three little boys
and a book of Maya Angelou poems
I headed for refuge, careful to leave no trace behind.
There’s been a murder
But no-body has been found
A missing person statement stamped and filed.
The woman and her children safe and sound…
Or, are they?


3 workshops were provided on the following subjects:

  • Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conferencing (MARAC) delivered by Claire
    McCulloch (Fife Council), Kara Ewen (survivor), Suzanne Duffy, and Olwen
    Bale (Fife Women’s Aid)
  • Creativity and Self Care: supporting the journey of recovery from domestic
    abuse delivered by Mariem Omari (Theatre Bijli)
  • Children’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse delivered by Gill Birtley
    and Pauline Horsburgh (Fife Women’s Aid)

Some of the main themes raised during the workshops included:


  • What happens at MARAC – information sharing and creative tasking
  • MARAC workers ensure the voice of women and children is heard
  • MARAC ensures the focus is on the behaviour of the perpetrator

Creativity and Self Care

  • How to use creative approaches to develop innovative, trauma informed projects that combine self-care tools with creative activities to support recovery and empowerment
  • How to use self-care tools that have been proved to be most effective for women recovering from domestic abuse
  • How to use creative activities that can be combined with self-care to increase self-awareness and improve confidence and self esteem; recognising that through the use of self-expression and creativity, a new identity can be found beyond the trauma.

Children’s Experiences of Domestic Abuse

  • How children and young people experience domestic abuse
  • How children and young people can be used by perpetrators within the context of abuse and the effect of this on them
  • How to work with children and young people to reduce risk


Of the participants who completed evaluation forms, 31% stated that they would not have made any changes to the event to improve it; 19% commented that they would like to have had more time within workshops or to have been able to attend more workshops; 18% commented on the technical difficulties with Skype and that they would have preferred speakers to be present.

There was overwhelming support for the input of survivors of domestic abuse within the event, with many positive comments about the input from Sally Fox, Luke Hart and Kara Ewen.

There were also positive comments about the presentations from all of the guest speakers and workshop facilitators as well as descriptions of learning points and how these would change practice.

Some evaluation comments about how the event would inform participants practice included:

  • Self Care & Creativity – replicate in own groups
  • Assuring people it’s OK to speak about DA (domestic abuse)
  • Really listen more to the women I come across
  • Use new knowledge to make appropriate referrals
  • Better insight to DA – can transfer to clinical practice
  • Awareness of DA with the families I work with
  • Use the voices of the survivors in practice
  • So much learning – especially the effects DA has onchildren
  • Improved understanding of coercive control & its signs
  • Keep in mind the small pieces make the bigger picture
  • Different approach in role as a SW (social worker)
  • More aware to look for controlling behaviours
  • Really useful to hear people’s personal accounts and how they come through trauma
  • Approach everything with curiosity
  • Can use at every security visit
  • More open to new ways of working in my role

PDF Version: Risk and Domestic Abuse: Working with High Risk Victims PDF