Professionals miss five opportunities to stop domestic violence, says SafeLives

25th February 2015

Charity calls on public services to ask about domestic abuse as figures show victims suffer for 3 years

Victims are living with domestic abuse for far too long, despite repeated opportunities to get them help, according to new SafeLives statistics released today.

Research published by national domestic abuse charity SafeLives shows that victims suffer domestic violence on average for nearly 3 years before getting the help they need – and some will suffer more than 50 incidents in that time.

Worryingly, more than 85% of victims are in contact with professionals - on average five times – in the year before they get effective help. And almost a quarter of victims at high risk of harm go to an A&E department because of their injuries – some as many as 15 times.

SafeLives is calling on every professional, like GPs, midwives, social workers, police and A&E staff, to ask about domestic abuse every time they are worried, so that families can get safe sooner.

Diana Barran, SafeLives’ chief executive, said: ”This is yet more shocking evidence that we could stop domestic violence far earlier than we do. Every conversation with a professional represents a missed opportunity to get victims and their children the help they need.

“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 life-long harm to their children.

“Every professional should help victims feel safe enough to say what is really going on at home. That’s why we’re calling on every professional to ask about domestic abuse, every time they’re worried - and to know the right thing to do if victims tell them.”

Julie* , who was herself a victim of domestic abuse, says: “I went to the hospital a few times but he always accompanied me and I’d had to lie about my injuries. I wanted the nurses to cotton on and to help me, but no one noticed what I was going through.”

SafeLives holds the UK’s largest database of domestic abuse cases, with more than 35,000 entries since 2009. SafeLives’ data shows that families live with domestic abuse for 2.7 years on average. In the last year before they get effective help:

·  85% of victims were in touch with public services like the police, their GP or A&E – on average 5 times each. And this is an underestimate as it does not include contact with other professionals, like social workers or housing associations.

·  Three-quarters of victims reported the abuse to the police

·  23% of high-risk victims and one in ten medium-risk victims went to an A&E department because of their injuries.

There are 100,000 victims at high risk of murder or serious injury in England and Wales. Of the estimated 130,000 children living with domestic abuse, more than 60% experience direct harm in addition to the damage done by witnessing the abuse of other members of their family.

Notes for Editors

1.SafeLives is a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse. Previously called Co-ordinated Action Against Domestic Abuse (Caada), we chose our new name because we’re here for one simple reason: to make sure all families are safe.  Our experts find out what works to stop domestic abuse. Then we do everything we can to make sure families everywhere benefit.

2.Since 2005, SafeLives has found new ways to help victims at risk of murder or serious injury.

·  We pioneered the use of the Dash risk checklist, which all police forces now use to see how much danger a victim is in.

·  We’ve trained more than 1800 Idvas – specialists who help victims become safe.

·  And we got professionals to work together to cut domestic abuse, setting up a Marac meeting in every area of England and Wales, in partnership with the police and local authority. 

Our approach works: nearly 60% of victims who get help from Idvas and Maracs tell us that the abuse stops. In 2014, our approach helped more than 50,000 adult victims parenting around 70,000 children, all of whom were living with high-risk abuse.

3.SafeLives runs the largest national database of domestic abuse cases in the UK. Our Insights database has records of over 35,000 unique cases of adults experiencing domestic abuse from 2009 to date, and a further 1,500 unique cases of children in domestic abuse households from 2011 to date. We also run the national Marac dataset, which is a record of the cases discussed at every Marac in England and Wales. Together, these two datasets give us an unparalleled overview of the national picture of domestic abuse, and enable us to draw conclusions.

4. Victims of domestic abuse suffer more than 50 incidents before they get the help they need. This is based on a definition of incident and frequency from Walby and Allen (Walby, S. and Allen, J. (2004), Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey. London: Home Office) multiplied by the average length of time victims are abused from SafeLives’ Insights database (SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives.) By “effective help” we mean help from an Idva or other specialist practitioner. Idva support is currently the most effective intervention in stopping domestic abuse for high-risk victims in the UK.

5. Most victims – 85% - see on average 5 professionals in the year before they finally get effective support. 85% of all victims (5,358 individuals) accessing Idva support in the 12 months to end of March 2014, as measured by SafeLives Insights data tool, had either reported the abuse to the police, attended A&E as a result of the abuse and/or visited their GP at least once in the previous 12 month period. These clients had had an average of 5 interactions each across these three services. (SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives.) By “effective help” we mean help from an Idva or other specialist practitioner. Idva support is currently the most effective intervention in stopping domestic abuse for high risk victims in the UK.

6We have changed victims’ names to protect their identity.

7. SafeLives has produced a short, practical guide for non-specialists including GPs, nurses and midwives, teachers, family support workers and drug and alcohol services. The guide will help professionals identify victims, ask the right questions and act on the information. It is available at www.safelives.org.uk/professionals