Innovative new project gives voice to survivors of domestic abuse

Funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, SafeLives announces £1.44m project across Bolton, Leicestershire and Sheffield that puts local organisations and survivors at the heart of tackling domestic abuse

Today, SafeLives, a UK-wide charity working to end domestic abuse, has announced a new project across Bolton, Leicestershire and Sheffield to help transform responses to domestic abuse by ensuring survivor voices are at the centre of design and delivery of policies and services.

Thanks to National Lottery players, SafeLives has received more than £1.44m from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest community funder in the UK, for a community led approach to ending domestic abuse. The initiative will put local organisations and survivors at the heart of tackling domestic abuse by supporting them to share lived experience to develop best practice.

The three-year project will deliver a blueprint for embedding child and adult domestic abuse survivors’ voices in community approaches to preventing, and supporting recovery from, domestic abuse. Bolton, Leicestershire and Sheffield were chosen to pilot the approach as each local authority has already engaged with SafeLives to evaluate and improve local responses to domestic abuse, demonstrating commitment to hearing victim voices.

Placing lived experience at the heart of local services

According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales around 68% of women and 32% of men will have experienced domestic abuse at some point in their lives since the age of 16*. Using population figures from the latest Census data, this equates to there being over 44k victims/survivors in Bolton, over 101k in Leicestershire and over 86k in Sheffield**.

As part of its work in the three areas, SafeLives has already engaged with over 270 adult and adolescent survivors to understand their experiences. Using this experience, it will now work closely with local communities to empower survivors to use their voices to influence positive change.

Jessica, a Bolton-based SafeLives Pioneer shared her experience of using her authentic survivor voice:

It was a ‘wake-up’ moment. The people in the room suddenly saw what it meant to survivors to have their voices back. But also, how useful they can be in making things better for other people.


Placing lived experience at the heart of family support strategies for domestic abuse not only supports better service design but has been shown to contribute to significant financial value, with a return of between £1.71 and £13.32 for every £1 invested.

Reflecting on this approach, Jo Silver, Director Quality & Innovation at SafeLives said:

Domestic abuse is endemic in the UK. For individuals, families, communities, and wider society, the consequences are devastating.

We are grateful to National Lottery players and The National Lottery Community Fund for helping us to put survivor voice at the heart of domestic abuse responses.

We believe victims and survivors should have their voices heard, be supported to tell their story and be at the centre of lasting change. People who have been in an abusive relationship have a kind of knowledge that only comes from living through it – expertise by experience. We call this ‘Authentic Voice’. At SafeLives, Authentic Voice means survivors are central to the design and delivery of services.

The results are transformative – for survivors’ recovery and for the community as a whole. We look forward to working with survivors, services and communities across Bolton, Leicestershire and Sheffield to bring this transformation to life.

Jo Silver

Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Stronger Communities, Cllr Rabiya Jiva, said:

Bolton has a strong history of supporting victims of domestic abuse and we are continuously developing ways to improve our system response. We have worked with SafeLives previously and benefited from their expertise. We are really pleased to continue to work with SafeLives and are excited to learn with other local areas how we embed authentic voice into our local responses.

Cllr Rabiya Jiva

Councillor Deborah Taylor, Leicestershire County Council deputy leader and cabinet member for children and families, said:

We’re excited to be working with SafeLives on this project. We’re looking forward to hearing from survivors and learning more about their journey and how we can best support them.

It also reaffirms our commitment to ensure their voice is embedded into the work we are doing in a robust, trauma-informed and meaningful way for both adults and young people

Councillor Deborah

Note to Editors

*Prevalence estimations are based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) year ending March 2020 where the prevalence of domestic abuse since 16 for women aged 16-74 was 27.6% and for men was 13.8%. This does not include those aged 75+ therefore we use the prevalence rate for those aged 60-75 as a proxy for the 75+ age group; this was 4.4% for women and 1.9% for men.

**The local estimations use the same national prevalence rates from the CSEW. There will be local area differences in prevalence of domestic abuse which have not been accounted for here. All estimations have been rounded down to the nearest 500.

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Authentic Voice Principles and Model

A summary of the Authentic Voice principles and Authentic Voice model. The AV principles are the foundation of all our Authentic Voice work. They were co-created by survivors (SafeLives Pioneers and Authentic Voice Panel) and professionals, some of whom also have lived experience of domestic abuse. The AV model was created to hold space for survivors to choose the level of involvement that best meets their needs at this time when using their lived experience in our work.