Study finds domestic violence could be stopped sooner

  • On average victims of abuse for almost three years before receiving the help they need even though they are often in contact with professionals at the time.

    A study of the largest database of domestic violence victims in the UK has found that victims are abused for almost three years before receiving any help and many are subjected to over 50 incidents during that time, reports the Guardian. /images/briefing/training_300_01.jpg

    The figures from the charity SafeLives show that almost a quarter of "high-risk" victims had been to A&E with injuries sustained during violence abuse, with some going as many as 15 times before having the problem addressed.

    The SafeLives database has over 35,000 cases of adults experiencing domestic abuse since 2009 and it has found that 85% of victims had been in contact with an average of five professionals in the year prior to an "effective" help from independent domestic violence advisers or other specialist practitioner.

    "Time and time again no one spots domestic abuse, even when victims and their children come into contact with many different public agencies. It's not acceptable that victims should have to try to get help repeatedly. This leaves victims living in fear and danger and risks lifelong harm to their children," said Diana Barran, the chief executive of SafeLives, which was previously called Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (Caada).

    Barran said the study was "more shocking evidence" that domestic violence could often be stopped earlier. "Every conversation with a professional represents a missed opportunity to get victims and their children the help they need," she said.

    SafeLives believes that there are at least 100,000 victims at high risk of murder or serious injury in England and Wales. Of this figure 94% are women.

    The study found that victims and often their children lived with abuse for an average of 2.7 years. Three-quarters reported abuse to the police, and 23% went to A&E because of violence sustained in abusive relationships.

    Frances Wedgwood, a GP in Lambeth who provides training on domestic violence to health workers  said "Domestic violence is still a very hidden problem and in my experience women do not disclose if they are not asked," she said. "We need to get better at asking people directly if they need help."

    Vera Baird, former solicitor general and the current police and crime commissioner for Northumberland, said professionals needed help and training to have the confidence to deal with domestic violence.

    "Domestic abuse is not a one-off violent attack. It is deliberate long-term use of coercion to control every part of the partner's life. Violence, sexual abuse, financial control, constant criticism, isolating from family and friends are all familiar tools," she said.

    "People in that situation do not find it easy to speak and need those who could help to be alert. The alternative is what these figures suggest: victims and their families locked unnecessarily into cruelty and ill-treatment for years."

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