26th June 2015
I recently spent a few days in Murcia, southern Spain. I'd been invited to talk about the UK model of responding to high-risk domestic violence and abuse and to compare that with ”Proyecto Core”, a series of EU-funded projects in the region.
There was lots to celebrate about the level of international co-ordination and co-operation achieved in the years this project has been running. The Spanish regions involved are working hard to implement a network of dedicated, professional advisors who can co-ordinate the support that a victim needs when they seek help. The Idva model is in its infancy here but is being embraced with enthusiasm by support services and other champions of improvement.
The audience of around 150 people was also keen to talk about 'co-ordination tables', the local approximation of Marac. I was asked about how a victim is represented, how the level of information sharing is determined and kept safe, and how co-ordination tables could work for areas with small, geographically spread populations. There was a presentation by the Guardia Civil talking about risk assessment in a way that felt familiar and reasonably well developed.
I was disappointed to find, then, that international co-ordination still has its limits. A support worker in the audience asked me about a survivor who was in her refuge. This British woman has successfully escaped a viciously abusive relationship with a man in the UK. He has tracked her down, and is now harassing her in Spain. The Spanish police wanted to help, but had asked for evidence of previous abuse so they could act. The hold up? Health officials in the UK were unwilling to release the women's medical records to her. Her own medical records!
Speaking to people afterwards I found out that this struggle to access (your own) personal data once out of the country is far from exceptional. Leave aside the madness of being refused your own data and consider how arbitrary it is to draw a boundary line at Folkestone or Stockport or any other end point of the British Isles. A flight between Spain and the UK can be bought for less than £80, and the internet has no borders. Recent EU legislation has recognised just that and Europol was explicitly designed to help police forces across Europe co-operate. Support for victims and the tackling of perpetrators should live up to these ideals.
I was encouraged by lots of what I saw and heard in Spain but as ever, there's a lot more to do.