Why it matters
A study of the use of health services by survivors of domestic abuse found that:
- 18% of survivors see a doctor in the first year of abuse.
- 56% of survivors see a doctor after the second year of abuse.
- 31% of survivors have no contact with a doctor until the third year of abuse.
Health practitioners are uniquely placed to enquire about domestic abuse. They may be the first, and only, person a survivor discloses domestic abuse to.
This is particularly true in Maternity and Mental Health services:
- 30% of domestic abuse either begins or will intensify during pregnancy.
- Foetal morbidity from violence is more prevalent than gestational diabetes or pre-eclampsia.
- 50% of women who have experienced domestic abuse have a clinical mental health diagnosis, compared to only 20% of women who have not experienced domestic abuse.
However, a 2013 Home Office analysis of 54 Domestic Homicide Reviews identified multiple instances where health professionals failed to identify, follow up, or felt they didn't have the necessary skills to respond to disclosures of domestic abuse.
What we do
We bring together those providing health services in our local area into an operational group.
Through the group we start conversations about domestic abuse within and between different agencies and different sectors. We support them to share information and learning, to collaborate, and to keep communicating.
We inform, guide, and monitor the activity of the group to ensure that their work is safe, effective, and responds to the shifting needs of domestic abuse survivors and their children.
Through this work, and other components of our Coordinated Community Response, we are able to break down barriers between agencies and help to spread good practice.
Our health projects in West London are piloting new ways of working:
Over the last five years, we have exponentially grown our Big Lottery funded maternity project. With coordination, training, and domestic abuse specialists embedded within maternity services we have seem a 30% increase in identification of abuse and a 783% increase in referrals.
The approach to domestic abuse is now reaches far beyond the boundaries of maternity services, incorporating all departments of the entire Trust. The impact of this whole-Trust approach to domestic abuse is immense.
“I was glad [the midwife] asked me, you suffer in silence unless you know of services. I wouldn’t have mentioned it so was glad she asked.”
Survivor of domestic abuse
“The whole thing’s brilliant. If it’s managed to make a difference to my life I’m sure it will to others as well…They changed my life completely, that’s a fact. I hope this gets rolled out across the country and helps other women."
Survivor of domestic abuse
We have been working with mental health service providers in west London since 2015. The work has focussed on making strategic and structural changes to healthcare trusts which has resulted in:
- The ratification of new comprehensive domestic abuse policies
- Increased awareness of the dynamics of domestic abuse amongst mental health practitioners
- Better relationships between mental health and domestic abuse services
- Increased referrals from mental health to domestic abuse services
- Better mental health representation at local domestic abuse multi-agency meetings
What we can do for you
We can help you bring together and successfully coordinate responses to domestic abuse in your local authority area or health service.
This might include several practical interventions:
- Engaging and integrating services.
- Writing terms of reference.
- Developing and implementing policies, procedures, and protocols.
- Training and workforce development.
- Measuring impact.
Please contact us to find out how we can help you reduce and prevent domestic abuse through your local health services.