More must be done to help survivors of domestic abuse to be safe at home
SafeLives, a national domestic abuse charity, publishes new research today that reveals a system that fails to meet the needs of survivors, leaving many to fall into a cycle of homelessness and abuse.
The charity's fifth Spotlight report, Safe at Home, calls for urgent change in the way we support survivors with housing.
Suzanne Jacob, Chief Executive of SafeLives, said:
'No one should have to go home at night afraid of the person on the other side of the door. Equally, no one should have to choose between a life of abuse and life moving between friends' sofas, or on the streets. We must do better by these 'hidden' survivors: we need support that recognises the multiple disadvantages homeless survivors face, a model that recognises housing as a basic human need, then addressing trauma, substance dependence and offending where those are also an issue.
'Above all, we need to prioritise early intervention and hold perpetrators of domestic abuse to account; we need to stop expecting survivors to leave their home and hide, while the perpetrators remain at the home, unchallenged and unaccountable.’
SafeLives’ research shows that every survivor and child should be given chance to stay safely in a home of their own, if at all possible.
Housing providers have a vital role in the response to domestic abuse
As well as ensuring that survivors of domestic abuse who are made homeless can access the right support, more must be done to identify abuse early and keep survivors safe in their own homes. Housing providers are well placed to identify the signs of abuse and prevent escalation, by providing support to residents and having close links to local domestic abuse services. As well as a clear moral duty, there is a financial incentive for housing providers to intervene; SafeLives research with housing provider Gentoo found that 21% of repair costs could be attributed to domestic abuse.
Survivors of domestic abuse who become homeless face significant barriers to finding a safe and secure place to live
Too often survivors of domestic abuse and their children must significantly disrupt their lives to secure a safe place to live. Our data shows that over 10% of clients supported with re-housing by a domestic abuse service were moved out of their local authority area.
For someone who has had their autonomy and power stripped away by a perpetrator of domestic abuse, navigating the complexities of the housing system can be overwhelming. Too many survivors are falling through the cracks, with no safety net to catch them.
Domestic abuse is a significant cause of homelessness – and too many survivors are still 'hidden'
Research by the homelessness charity St Mungo’s found that 32% of the women they worked with said domestic abuse was a factor contributing to their homelessness (compared to 8% of men). The report also found that 35% of women who have slept rough left home to escape violence.
We know that these figures do not reveal the true extent of the problem: homeless women are often 'hidden homeless' and are not counted in official statistics. We know women often choose to stay in situations that are dangerous or abusive, rather than face the unknown dangers of sleeping rough – a choice no one should have to make.
Chronically homeless women experience multiple forms of disadvantage, creating a cycle of abuse and homelessness
Research shows that women with extensive experience of physical and sexual violence are far more likely to experience disadvantage in many other areas of their lives; homelessness is one area of disadvantage, but others include disability and ill health, substance dependence, poverty, debt and discrimination. All of these can be a further barrier to gaining secure accommodation and breaking the cycle.
We have seen examples of housing providers doing ground breaking work in this area. The sector must now build on this work to ensure that anyone experiencing domestic abuse gets the right response, wherever they live.
‘Escaping a perpetrator of domestic violence can take months of precision planning, like an army exercise. Imagine making your escape, only to find yourself homeless. You have left behind your home, your belongings and a part of yourself.’
– Tee Falcone, survivor and ambassador for the Woman’s Trust and St Mungo’s
Notes to editors
SafeLives is a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives.
No one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and together – we can make it stop.
Spotlights shines a light on 'hidden' victims and survivors of domestic abuse, who face additional barriers when accessing support. We bring together our own research alongside the work of other expert organisations, practice expertise and most importantly the voices of survivors. This report brings together the findings of our 5th Spotlight, focusing on homelessness and domestic abuse. Previous Spotlights have looked at older people, disabled survivors, young people and 'honour'-based violence and forced marriage. Our latest Spotlight is on LGBT+ people and domestic abuse.
Safelives.org.uk Penny East, Head of Communications: firstname.lastname@example.org