Did you know that victims of domestic abuse and coercive control are most likely to report abuse to a healthcare practitioner? Not to a domestic abuse service. Why? Often, women do not recognise that they are in an abusive relationship.

This is why it is so important that professionals in other sectors, who are working with women every day, are able to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and coercive control. It is also important that professionals are able to respond in the best way. As well as knowing where to appropriately refer women for further support.

First steps

Make your workplace, clinic or office a safe place for women to talk about their experiences by:

  • Displaying posters, brochures and information on domestic abuse services and supports. See resources below
  • Put information about services in the women’s toilets so that women can discreetly pick it up if they need to
  • Contact your local domestic abuse services for posters, leaflets etc.
  • Encourage all staff to be familiar with local domestic abuse services and how they should respond if a patient or client discloses domestic abuse to them


  • Your patient or client may seem afraid of her partner
  • She may talk about their temper, jealousy, anger or possessiveness
  • She could have bruises or injuries often, with the excuse of “accidents”
  • She may have a history of alcohol or substance misuse
  • She may always be accompanied by her partner to appointments
  • Have an erratic attendance for work, college, appointments etc
  • Seem controlled and stopped from seeing family and friends


Victims of domestic abuse and coercive control are not likely to disclose information about their experiences unless directly asked. When a woman discloses to you that she has experienced domestic abuse this indicates that she trusts you and values your help or advice.

Keep in mind:

  • Confidentiality is crucial
  • Listen and be supportive but non-judgemental
  • Assure her that no-one deserves to be abused, despite what her abuser has told her
  • Remind her that being violent is against the law in Ireland
  • Give her accurate and relevant information about services and supports available to her
  • Respect her decisions and let her know that you are here to support her
  • You may need to document the disclosure and any injuries
  • Remember the most dangerous time for a victim of domestic abuse is when she is just about to leave her abuser
  • She is best placed to assess her own risk


There are 37 domestic abuse support services right across Ireland for women and their children, 21 of these services provide refuge accommodation. These services provide a range of supports, are free, confidential* and available to all women. Find more information.

There are a wide range of other services that may be appropriate to meet the needs of your client also. Find out more.

Get involved

It is also important professionals raise awareness of this issue. You can help. Find out more.


The following materials along with our publications are available from Safe Ireland. If you would like copies for yourself or to share in your workplace, community or neighbourhood we can post some out to you. Please email info@safeireland.ie or phone 0906 479078 to request what you need.

Quick Reference Guide to Coercive Control 

You can download our ‘Make Her World Bigger: Quick Reference Guide to Coercive Control’ here.

National wallet card

These cards contain important information for women. They have been designed to be discreet and to provide users with details of domestic and sexual violence services across Ireland. They have been designed in attractive display boxes which will sit neatly on any counter, desk, display tables etc.

The cards are also of use to professionals and fit neatly in wallets for ease of reference, particularly when away from the desk on callouts or outreach visits.

Other resources