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What is Domestic Violence?

Produced by a collaborative effort involving community members, mandated reporters and the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, Domestic Violence Unit.
Reviewed 2009

Domestic violence is defined as a pattern of coercive controlling behaviors that one person exercises over another in an intimate relationship.

Promising Approaches

Currently when some mandated reporters learn of domestic violence in families, they file a child abuse and neglect report without an assessment of the risk posed to the child(ren). Assessments of risk frequently cite a single factor, such as whether the child was in the room when the incident occurred, rather than examining the entire pattern of abuse. Mandated reporters are encouraged to carefully review each family's situation and to consider thoughtfully whether or not to file a report with the Department of Children and Families.

Framework for a mandated reporter

Mandated reporters should be aware that every circumstance involving domestic violence does not always merit intervention by the child protection system. Often, the caretaker is overwhelmed by the complexity of the home conditions, and is unable to take action. Filing in these circumstances can inadvertently penalize the caretaker for a perceived inability to keep the children safe.

Frequently, the fearful environment created by a perpetrator undermines the ability of the caretaker, and the caretaker's family and friends, to intervene to protect the children. Prior to filing a report the mandated reporter should assess:

  • Child's current functioning
  • Changes in the child's behavior
  • Changes in child's functioning as a result of offender's actions.

Approaches to Documentation

Mandated reporters should give due consideration to the family environment and to the negative impact of the violence on the child, and file a report on behalf of the child, naming the offending caretaker as the perpetrator of the violence.

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