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When Standing Together recently published the Domestic Homicide Review (DHR) Case Analysis – it was clear that there are huge failings in agencies identifying risk successfully, and a lack of understanding of control and coercion. Such findings are common, but no less depressing and urgent because of how many times we read them. We want to make things better, working with agencies, charities, and survivors to make sure we have the best tools to provide a quality, tailored response that saves lives.

No profession is perfect; there is no organisation immune to the fact that people are fallible. But when those organisations support survivors of domestic abuse – that variation in quality can have life-threatening implications.

The Dash was developed in order to go some way to counter this. To provide a useful and uniform tool that could help everybody to identify risk – whatever their background or expertise.

It means that we speak the same language. If we believe in a multi-agency, holistic response to domestic abuse – and we do – it is a lot more effective if each agency not only has a common goal, but a common understanding of how to get there. If a police officer talks about whether a woman is pregnant, if a midwife asks whether the perpetrator has used an object or weapon in the home, we are successfully working outside of our silos. We are creating an understanding that reflects the complex nature of abuse, not our own professional agendas.

The Dash is not the answer to everything; it does not replace professional judgement or empathy. On its own, it does not change behaviour and culture. We know it takes more that that; we are staunch believers in high quality training to create change, such as our programme with the College of Policing: DA Matters.

Disclosure of domestic abuse is not predictable. It cannot be summarised with tidy flow charts and linear decision making. Survivors disclose in all manner of ways to a huge range of people. Creating a tool available to everyone means that all professionals can easily and quickly identify risk in challenging and changing circumstances.

The Dash makes the links for professionals between overt criminal and coercive behaviours, suicide, substance misuse, separation, child contact, pregnancy and fear.  Of course it is not a magic wand. It will not stop people from taking short cuts, or give them the confidence to ask sensitive questions. It’s guidance; it prompts risk thinking and provides consistency.

The Standing Together report reminds us that we have so much more to do so before we all have the same understanding of risk. A common tool is surely an essential part of making that a reality.