What clients say, and what agencies and professionals do
The risks that clients tell us about with DOORS are strongly linked with what others do or have done – it is very actionable information. More technically, client self-report on DOOR 1 shows criterion validity with 1) what other agencies have already done (such as previously issuing an Intervention Order); and 2) what family law or community practitioners must later do after elaborating the risks at DOOR 2 (such as making a child protection report).
Domestic violence is important, but not the only risk
Based on a wide-ranging literature, the DOORS handbook recognises that intimate relationships can be both a source of love and risk. In fact, the biggest risks of lethal outcomes for women come from those who previously said, ‘I love you’. However DOORS widens the lens to cover other risks in intimate relationships including developmental harms to children; mental health issues and suicide; and indicators of child abduction.
Practitioners worry much more about ‘doing DOORS’ than their clients
Feedback on DOORS by some non-using practitioners, who often worry that ‘doing DOORS’ with clients will offend them or put them off engaging with their service. This contrasts with anonymous surveys of clients who have ‘done DOORS’: they say overwhelmingly they are happy with the process and typically just see it as ‘paperwork’ or ‘part of the procedure’. This also fits with the many clients who have low or no risks to report: they don’t mind being asked, saying ‘Really, it’s fine and nothing like that for me’.
Client self-report is highly efficient
People typically comprehend and respond to written information almost twice as fast as verbal information, and people with literacy or language issues comprehend written information better when they can see the context. This means that a client self-report form like DOOR 1 is a highly efficient way to get a quick ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a wide range of risks. While asking these questions verbally as a structured interview is an option; however, if practitioners relied on unstructured or even semi-structured methods then it would take much longer to cover the same ground.
Risk questions need to be sensitive but not probative, especially about perpetration
Consistent with best practice findings, DOOR 1 asks about risks from several perspectives including emotional state, behavioural indicators and behavioural consequences (such as how you feel, what you did, and what then happened). This increases the chance of someone identifying a risk even though many risks later ‘amount to nothing’ after elaborating them. DOORS is designed as sensitive to risk, not probative of guilt. For example, asking what someone else might say about you – a circular question – means perpetrators may find it easier to reveal their risks.