From time to time I get a call from a person asking for a "domestic violence assessment." They assume that this is a standard practice and they just need to find someone who can do this on them to satisfy the Court, a GAL, or their attorney. When I ask them what they mean by the assessment they have very little idea and don't usually know why they have been asked to obtain one.
I want to be very clear about what I am able to do and not able to do to help these folks.
Ruling in but not ruling out:
There is no universally accepted notion of what constitutes "battering." Indeed, the definition in criminal court is rather different than the one in civil court. It is possible, however, to listen to a person's report of the events in a relationship and determine whether those events fall into the realm of what most people mean by battering.
What we cannot do is to listen to a person's report of their own behavior and, on the basis of that report, determine that battering is not occurring. We don't know what we don't know.
Assessment of skills and perspectives:
We can listen to a person's report of their own behavior and, on the basis of that report, identify the strengths and weaknesses they have when it comes to addressing and resolving conflicts in interpersonal relationships. We can say how much they demonstrate avoidance or bullying and whether they can tolerate hearing the other's viewpoint when it is different from their own. But this doesn't meant that domestic violence has or will occur.