Opinion

Healing the damage caused by domestic abuse

Last month I was fortunate to attend an exceptional conference at the University of Worcester’s National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse. The day was hosted by Ruth Jones OBE and was well attended by people sharing a passion to address the current social, financial, health and spiritual destruction that domestic abuse is having in our society.

The vision and values of the centre are the envy of many organisations, because it offers honesty, inclusion, sustainability, ethical practice, while encouraging engagement and partnerships. The objectives are ambitious – facing local issues, collaborative working on national projects, and reaching out to other areas of the world.

The conference highlighted the reality of the effects that domestic abuse is having in the UK. A total of 85,000 women a year are victims of rape and 40,000 a year are victims of sex crimes. This equates to one sexual attack every four minutes on a woman aged 16 and over. Add this to sexual crimes against children and men, and the reality is, an attack is taking place every second, of every minute, of every day, of every week, of every month, of every year.

Lorraine Radford spoke of the overlap that victims of domestic abuse have with many services. This raised the point that every contact counts, regardless of whether the contact is with housing, alcohol support, hospitals, police and/or the GP. So we all need to stop working in a silo environment, support and protect the victim and family, and share information to have a co-ordinated response with structure and scaffolding so that it wraps around all areas of the victim's life.

The audience was reminded that domestic abuse is not exclusive to adult relationships, with one in five children aged 11-17 reporting a lifetime of maltreatment from a parent. New terminology entering the domestic abuse arena is 'poly-victimised', with research demonstrating violence is a greater risk for those already victimised. Young people who have experiences from unhealthy abusive relationships are more likely to engage in higher risk behaviours which include alcohol and drugs. This cocktail of high risk behaviour and vulnerability is likely to lead to further abuse and violence.

The key messages from the day:

  • Stop silo working – multi-sector responses will improve lives.
  • Collaborative wrap-around support should cover all aspects of life.
  • Prevention, education, and early intervention are key to recovery.
  • Domestic abuse can happen to anyone, at any time. However, research supports that the highest risk groups include young people, people with mental health issues, and people with drug and alcohol dependencies.
  • Figures now suggest one in three women and one in six men are victims of domestic abuse.

Telephone the Institute of Health and Society, University of Worcester on 01905 855000 for details of educational courses offered at degree and masters level about domestic abuse.

About the author

Amanda BurstonAmanda Burston is the RCN Nurse of the Year 2015 and major trauma co-ordinator at Royal Stoke University Hospital

Photo gallery: Amanda Burston and the Safer Steps Team
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