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Identifying and Screening for Intimate Partner Violence

Every substance abuse provider works with victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence, though they are often unidentified. Identifying individuals affected by intimate partner violence is an important part of the therapeutic process. Identification of both victims and perpetrators is vital to maximizing victim safety, whether the individual is participating in services or is the intimate partner of someone participating in them. OASAS believes that promoting the use of appropriate screening tools and techniques will help to increase identification and referral of these individuals.

All new or returning patients should be screened for IPV before a treatment plan is made, regardless of age, economic status, sexual orientation or presenting problem using recommended screening tools. It is particularly critical to screen for IPV before including the patient's intimate partner and/or family members in the treatment process. Screening must be done in absolute privacy to reduce the danger that the patient's partner will learn of the disclosure and retaliate. Postpone screening if you cannot provide privacy, or if a needed interpreter is not available. Never use anyone accompanying the patient as an interpreter, including children. In addition to screening before the development of a treatment plan, OASAS recommends that dialogue regarding intimate partner violence continue throughout treatment.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers free resources for substance abuse treatment providers that address intimate partner violence and substance abuse treatment. The information in these resources may also be helpful to prevention and recovery providers.

  • TIP 25: Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence External Link - helps substance abuse treatment providers understand domestic violence and the needs of both survivors and batterers. Discusses screening, referral, and treatment; legal issues; and linkages between substance abuse treatment and domestic violence programs.
    • Quick Guide for Clinicians based on TIP 25 External Link PDF Document - Free resource that offers succinct, easily accessible information to busy substance abuse treatment practitioners. Divided into sections for quick access to information.
    • KAP (Knowledge Application Program) Keys External Link PDF Document based on TIP 25 - Free resource that presents information to help providers of alcohol and drug abuse treatment understand domestic violence and support survivors. Discusses bonding among batterers, safeguarding important survivors' documents, and client consent forms.

Identifying Victims:

OASAS recommends universal screening of all patients using recommended screening tools. External Link PDF Document The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence offers guidance to providers regarding screening External Link and talking with patients about IPV victimization External Link. There are also several "red flags" that may indicate IPV victimization to watch for when working with a patient. Some of these indicators are:

  • Physical injuries that seem non-accidental, repeated or inconsistent with the reason the individual gives for them
  • Symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, suicidality or traumatic brain injury
  • Confusion, fear and self-blame; shame about being abused
  • Guilt about self-defense; exaggeration of his/her own "abusiveness"
  • Presentation of the partner's point of view instead of his/her own
  • Activities, jobs, relationships, opinions and/or financial control have diminished over the course of the relationship
  • Multiple attempts to leave, repair the relationship or seek help
  • Rationalization or minimization of the partner's abusive behavior; excuses for partner's abusive behavior; minimization of patient's own injuries
  • Description of partner having a bad temper or drinking problem
  • Involvement in protracted divorce or custody case
  • Partner's abuse of children, pets or other people

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Recommended Screening Tools to Identify Victims:

The following screening tools, including descriptions and instructions, can be found in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Measuring Intimate Partner Violence Victimization and Perpetration: A Compendium of Assessment Tools External Link PDF Document

  • Abusive Behavior Inventory - 30-item scale with 2 subscales that measure the frequency of physical and psychological abusive behaviors.
  • Composite Abuse Scale - 30-item scale with 4 subscales that measure severe combined abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse and harassment.
  • Index of Psychological Abuse - 33-item scale that measures the degree to which assailants used ridicule, harassment, criticism and emotional withdrawal.
  • Measure of Wife Abuse - 60-item scale with 4 subscales that measure the frequency of physical, sexual, psychological and verbal abusive behaviors.
  • Partner Abuse Scale - Non-Physical - 25-item scale that measures the magnitude of perceived non-physical abuse received from a spouse or partner.
  • Partner Abuse Scale - Physical - 25-item scale that measures the magnitude of physical abuse.
  • Profile of Psychological Abuse - 21-item scale that measures a wide variety of psychological abuse.
  • Psychological Maltreatment of Women - 58-item scale that measures psychological maltreatment of women by their male intimate partners.
  • Psychological Maltreatment of Women - short form - 14-item scale that measures psychological maltreatment of women by their male intimate partners.
  • Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS-2) - 78-item scale that assesses both victimization and perpetration. The 39-item victimization scale includes 5 subscales that measure the frequency of physical assault, psychological aggression, sexual coercion, negotiation and injury between partners.
  • Severity of Violence Against Women Scale/Severity of Violence Against Men Scale (SVAWS/SVAMS) - 46- item scale with 9 subscales that measure 2 major dimensions (threats and actual violence).
  • Women's Experiences with Battering (WEB) - 10-item scale that measures prevalence of the battering of women

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Identifying Perpetrators:

The New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence offers guidance regarding talking with perpetrators of intimate partner violence External Link about their relationships.

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Recommended Screening Tools to Identify Perpetrators:

The following screening tools, including descriptions and instructions, can be found in the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's Measuring Intimate Partner Violence Victimization and Perpetration: A Compendium of Assessment Tools External Link PDF Document

  • Abuse Within Intimate Relationships Scale (AIRS) - 26-item scale that measures perpetrations of psychological and physical abuse.
  • Abusive Behavior Inventory - 30-item scale that measures the frequency of perpetration physical and psychological abusive behaviors.
  • Physical Abuse of Partner Scale - 25-item scale that measures the magnitude of physical abuse perpetrated against a spouse or partner.
  • Revised Conflict Tactics Scales (CTS-2) - 78-item scale that assesses both victimization and perpetration. The 39-item victimization scale includes 5 subscales that measure the frequency of physical assault, psychological aggression, sexual coercion, negotiation and injury between partners. The physical assault subscale includes 12 items which can be grouped into 2 categories, minor and severe.