DA Matters Scotland

SafeLives are pleased to have worked collaboratively with Police Scotland to deliver Domestic Abuse (DA) Matters Scotland to support the implementation of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act. 

Over 130,000 people in Scotland live with domestic abuse every year with 68% of victims who access specialist support disclosing controlling behaviour and 56% physical harm. The police play a vital role in the response to domestic abuse - protecting victims and children and holding perpetrators to account. We need training for Police Scotland that is bespoke to the unique needs of Scotland, in particular around the new legislation and the operational application of it.

Having a better understanding of coercive behaviour will help me look for the tell-tale signs, and I will adapt my questions/conversation with victim to help identify possible coercive behaviour. I will be more open to looking at the bigger picture and to try to identify ongoing abuse instead of just dealing with one incident.

What is DA Matters Scotland?

Police Scotland 05

DA Matters Scotland is a change programme that has allowed us to train nearly 14,000 officers and staff in identifying controlling and coercive behaviour. The programme was written and developed by SafeLives and the College of Policing in response to HMIC findings around police officers' understanding of domestic abuse, and in particular, coercive control. DA Matters Scotland builds on the successful delivery of our DA Matters programme in England and Wales. It is bespoke to the unique needs of Scotland, in particular around the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act in April 2019.

We worked collaboratively with Police Scotland and our partners ASSISTthe Caledonian SystemSacro and Scottish Borders Safer Communities team to develop common understanding and awareness around the dynamics of abuse, coercive control and the tactics used by perpetrators. 

I was initially resistant and didn’t want to go on DAMS (Domestic Abuse Matters Scotland responders training) but it has been the most valuable training I've been on in my 29 years of service.  I have since told the other sergeants in the station to keep an open mind and that they'll enjoy it too.

The format of the programme

DA Matters Scotland is firmly rooted in a gendered analysis of domestic abuse and represents the experiences of women, children, men, LGBT people and the BME community. It also includes analysis of the tactics perpetrators use to manipulate victims and responders, as well as the impact of domestic abuse and coercive control on the whole family. 

The training is much more than a one-off session. We:

  • conduct a number of lead-in and follow-up tasks to guide the content and sustain change into the future.
  • create an interactive e-learning package that informs every police officer and members of police staff in Scotland about the new legislation and what it means to them.
  • deliver a one-day first responder training session to over 14,000 officers and staff, which represents a significant percentage of the entire force. This includes many who come into contact with victims, perpetrators and children - including front counter personnel, staff who take emergency and non-emergency calls from the public, as well as control room staff.
  • are training a further 1000 officers and staff who will go on to become DA Champions to embed practice and attitudinal change in the long term.
  • deliver training to the Strategic Leadership Board, Executive Level officers and staff to consolidate the messages at the highest level. 

The training delivery model

There are two different training sessions: one for First Responders and one for newly appointed Domestic Abuse Champions. 

We use a dual-trainer delivery model meaning that in every training session, we have one trainer with a proven police background, and a local external domestic abuse specialist. Together, these two voices and perspectives in the room maximise the impact of the training. 

Can I offer my sincere thanks for what is one of the best training courses I have attended in almost 19 years! I acknowledge that this is one of my weakest fields as a Police Officer and the training well and truly 'reset' my attitude towards domestics. I found it really opened my eyes and changed my opinion and attitude which I think has become complacent over the years.

Our impact

We're delighted that the evaluation of DA Matters Scotland shows that after the training, 95% of participants had a strong understanding of the tactics perpetrators use to coercively control victims, and 94% have a strong understanding of the stages of coercive controlling behaviour. The training is also helping officers see the impact domestic abuse has on the whole family – with 94% of participants saying that the training helped them understand the impact of domestic abuse and coercive control on children.  

The DA Matters Scotland training came at a crucial time, to support the introduction of the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act 2018, which made coercive control a criminal offence for the first time in Scotland. It is a testament to the many survivors who helped create the programme, the partnership with Police Scotland, and the dedication and commitment of trainers, that 85% of participants said they now have a strong understanding of the new legislation. 

This is just the start though. We will continue to take the learning forward, with the support of over 700 Police Scotland Champions who will sustain the change in skills, behaviour and attitudes through continued support and development. 

Read the full evaluation report

Read our press release

If you have any questions about the training, please contact Katy Logan at DAMatters@safelives.org.uk or 0117 403 3224.