Free Law and Ethics Practice Question: Domestic Violence

By Robin Gluck on February 11, 2019

Domestic violence (also know as domestic abuse, relationship abuse, or intimate partner violence) is an issue that, unfortunately, is quite prevalent in our society. If you have a second, look at the statistics; the numbers are quite staggering. And because of it’s prevalence, it is more likely than not that you will work with clients who are either the victims or perpetrators of domestic violence.

The California BBS wants to ensure that you know the legal and ethical issues that guide your practice when domestic violence presents in the clinical setting.  This topic will more than likely appear on the BBS law and ethics exams as well as the CA MFT Clinical Exam.

What can be tested?

The exam may test your understanding of domestic violence as it relates to:

  •      Confidentiality
  •      Couples Counseling
  •      Psychoeducation
  •      Self-determination
  •      Child/Elder/Dependent abuse and neglect
  •      Safety Planning
  •      Crisis management

Let’s see how you do on this week’s FREE practice question testing your knowledge of domestic violence.

Practice Question:

A therapist meets with an 18-year-old woman who arrives at the session with her 2-year-old son. The woman explains that she moved out of her parents’ home about eight months ago and subsequently moved in with the father of her child. She reports that her partner is a great father, but the couple’s relationship is volatile and sometimes becomes physically violent. The woman states, “He is very controlling and questions my every action with our son. If I try to defend myself, we end up in a yelling match that often ends with him hitting me.” What initial actions should the therapist take when considering the legal and ethical obligations in this case?

  1.    Inform the client that the therapist must break confidentiality and report child abuse since the minor is being exposed to domestic violence.
  2.    Provide psychoeducation regarding the cycle of violence and discuss alternative living arrangements.
  3.    Provide psychoeducation regarding the cycle of violence and develop a safety plan for the client.
  4.    Determine the client’s goals for therapy and collaboratively develop a safety plan.

(scroll down for the correct answer)


Domestic violence word cloud






















The correct answer is D.

Answer A is incorrect because we do not have reasonable suspicion of child abuse. A minor in a home with active domestic violence is not sufficient reason to break confidentiality and make a report. We would want to see an indication of child abuse to warrant a report.

Answer B is incorrect because it is unclear the client is interested in pursuing alternative living arrangements. This answer does not honor a client’s self-determination. Psychoeducation would be appropriate, but the second part of the answer makes B wrong.

Answer C is also incorrect because therapists do not create safety plans for their clients. Again, psychoeducation would be a possible answer, but the second part of C is incorrect.

Answer D is the best answer available. It’s unclear what the client wants from therapy. It would be important to gather this information to develop a treatment plan and guide therapeutic interventions. In addition, the second part of the answer is strong because it is collaborative and addresses the safety concerns presented in the question.

Exam Preparation

How did you do on this question? Does the correct answer and rationale align with your understanding of domestic violence, or did you learn something new? If you have any additional questions, you are welcome to check in with a TDC coach. Our coaches are here to answer your questions and provide support and guidance as you prepare to PASS your law and ethics exam with confidence!

If you aren’t already signed up for one of our excellent exam preparation programs, check out our social work and MFT customer testimonials and sign up today! Our structured, straightforward approach will provide you with exactly what you need to successfully answer questions like these and many more-correctly and with confidence.



Commenter Name
February 11, 2019

I answered correctly. I selected D or #4 because of the collaborative approach to developing the safety plan. Also, an initial step would be determining her goals for therapy because it is unclear what she is in treatment for.

Commenter Name
February 14, 2019

I'm confused about the correct answer. I had a similar personal experience where a couple was physically violent in which police were call. Because a 2 yr old was present the officer reported to DCFS. The couple was investigated and found guilty of child neglect. So how is A incorrect?

Commenter Name
February 16, 2019

I'm also confused about this answer. I thought it was A as well. Whether the child has witnessed the abuse or been in another room they are still a victim of neglect. Also, in the audios they say when a choice of answer is to file a report, that is the right answer. Yes it is confusing.

Commenter Name
February 17, 2019

I was reviewing the Ethics and Values Quiz and it states "Domestic violence does not require a report, whether it is suspected or known." Now it makes sense why the answer is D. You do have to remember that we are studying for THIS EXAM and it may not be what we would do in our own practice.

Commenter Name
February 17, 2019

Can you elaborate? I'm assuming you mean the victim would be in danger if pushed to leave or report to police.

Commenter Name
February 26, 2019

I have the same rational.

Commenter Name
February 26, 2019

Hello Jennifer. The key to your rationale is that the "officer" reported the case to DCFS, not the social worker. In the question stem, there's no indication of suspected child abuse, which would require a SW to make a mandated report. One word of advice, when you approach questions, focus solely on what's in the question stem. Don't add to it, take away from it or assume anything beyond the information that's provided because that's when you start to overthink and/or overanalyze. We all do it....myself included. All the best to you. I hope this helps.

Commenter Name
May 14, 2020

I understand the rationale of this question for the exam. However, I am wondering if the law has changed, because my client was charged with child abuse, because her 10 year old witnessed her pushing her husband in the kitchen of their home. The police made a DCFS report and she was found guilty of child abuse, because her child witnessed her pushing her husband.

Commenter Name
July 9, 2021

The correct answer is A. The law has changed and if a child is exposed to physical violence in the home, it must be reported to CPS. This could be a case of state variation in the law, in which case that answer should appear.

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