There is not much to guide services on client satisfaction in the area of domestic and family violence to women. This reflects the unique characteristics of domestic and family violence services to women. Much of the service delivery in this sphere is provided within a refuge context, where women arrive in crisis and may stay for varying periods of time. Alternatively, information may be provided over the phone, or provided anonymously as is often the case with crisis calls. In this context, services need to be very flexible and responsive to the woman’s situation. This makes the design of experience and satisfaction measures extremely difficult.

Services are often extremely short term, or for the woman escaping violence the urgent safety issues preclude the appropriateness of baseline information being collected. Indeed, domestic and family violence services have the additional difficulty of measuring the woman’s experience when the woman herself is not responsible for preventing the negative event and is often unable to prevent the negative event from happening regardless of her actions[i].

How can domestic and family violence services undertake client experience evaluation?

The first step is to define the services overarching goals and objectives and from this develop an understanding of the experience the service hopes a client will have when seeking support from them. “What was the woman’s experience of the program? Were they satisfied with the service they received?”

There is a distinction between outcomes and satisfaction. Client satisfaction reports on how we do our work rather than outcome evaluations[ii].

Timing[iii] and safety are essential factors when seeking feedback from women seeking domestic and family violence services. Women who have or how are currently experiencing violence are vulnerable. This women may have compromised physical and mental health status, they may also be in physical danger and at emotional risk that may be triggered or increased by participation in a feedback process. Participation may also re-traumatise women.  It is essential to consider the increased vulnerability of the women from whom you seek feedback.

Key factors[iv]:

  • Women should be invited to participate, it should never be a condition of ongoing access to services
  • Women should be told why they are being asked questions about their experience with the services
  • Women who have previously used the service would be highly beneficial in assisting with the process.
  • Services cannot know who will open the mail, check email, and phone calls can be overheard by perpetrators, so great care must be taken when considering the mode of feedback. Safety protocols should be developed and updated regularly.  

Framing Questions

Women may be re-traumatised by interrogation style questioning so it’s important to allow the woman to share her experiences in her own way. A funnel approach is a useful too, this involves beginning with broad open ended questions followed by more specific questions and structured tools. It is also important to note if the conversation is bringing up uncomfortable emotions for the woman. A series of questions designed to debrief the woman at the end of the conversation can minimise ongoing stress.


A Queensland service that provides refuge and outreach services to women has shared some of their recent interviews used when seeking feedback from women using their services. Their interviews are undertaken biannually by a person external to the service.

 The service categorises their questions:

  • How was assistance provided?
  • Cross cultural issues.
  • Children
  • Physical Environment
  • Follow up
  • Outcomes
  • Summing up

The questions under each of these categories provide the service with a good range of areas in which they can understand their clients experience and levels of satisfaction with the service.


[i] Lang, L. 2003 ‘Research and evaluations of the interventions with women affected by domestic violence’, Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House Topic Paper

[ii] Sullivan, C. 2001 Evaluating the outcomes of domestic violence service programs: some practical considerations and strategies. National Electronic Network on Violence Against Women

[iii] Sullivan, C. 2001 Evaluating the outcomes of domestic violence service programs: some practical considerations and strategies. National Electronic Network on Violence Against Women

[iv] Lang, L. 2003 ‘Research and evaluations of the interventions with women affected by domestic violence’, Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House Topic Paper

What are others doing?

Listen to Barb, Chantelle and Hanna from Women's Shelta, who were interviewed as part of the client experience project by Marlene Butteriss from the Queensland Council of Social Service.

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