Policy blog

Domestic abuse is a public health epidemic

A year ago SafeLives’ launched our report A Cry for Health which argued that every hospital in the UK should host an Idva service. The findings reflected four years of research into hospital-based Idvas in five English hospitals who had located specialist domestic abuse services in their A&E and Maternity units.

We know that only one in five victims of domestic abuse call the police which is why identifying them earlier in health settings is so important. Our research found that hospital Idvas were supporting victims on average six months earlier compared to Idvas in community settings, and in the year before the hospital Idva service started, 56% of hospital victims had accessed A&E because of the abuse, compared with only 16% of victims who accessed a community service. These represent missed opportunities to intervene, which is particularly important for victims who do not have any contact with other agencies.

Hospital-based Idvas are also very important for safeguarding children. We know that around 30% of domestic abuse begins during pregnancy, while 40–60% of women experiencing domestic abuse are abused during pregnancy. NHS staff are under a duty to safeguard children at risk of harm and a hospital Idva service is well placed to help with identification, referrals and support, to enable hospitals to fulfil their duties, not least by ensuring mothers at risk are identified early on.

Since the launch of the research last year, we have been pushing the Department of Health and other health agencies to support the roll-out of more hospital Idva services. Our latest findings from our Practitioner’s Survey suggest that around 40 hospitals host or have strong links to an Idva service. But given that there are around 160 registered acute NHS providers in England, that means 75% of providers are without a dedicated specialist domestic abuse resource.

As part of continuing to make the case for health-based links with domestic abuse specialists, SafeLives successfully bid for money from the Tampon Tax fund in consortium with Standing Together, IRISi, AVA, Imkaan and the University of Bristol to pilot a Pathfinder Project which brings together domestic abuse systems leaders to establish comprehensive health practice in relation to domestic abuse in acute hospital trusts, mental health trusts and community based IRIS programmes in GP practices. We’re looking forward to hearing about the successful Pathfinder areas in the next few weeks!

We are also excited to have recently provided training to King’s College medical undergraduates on domestic abuse, ensuring that the next generation of health staff have a grounded understanding of coercive and controlling behaviours and how to best support domestic abuse survivors and their children in a health-setting. We will be looking to work closely with other medical schools in 2018 so do get in touch if you have links with universities who might be interested!

Finally, we will be pushing hard for the crucial involvement of health in identifying and supporting victims of domestic abuse in the forthcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill. Quite rightly, domestic abuse has been identified as a public health epidemic and the sooner we can see real commitment from all part of the health service, both NHS and private providers, the better we will be able to reach victims and signpost them to the specialist support they need to get safe.

We hope you enjoy our #16Days campaign to increase the focus of health on domestic abuse and do get in touch if you want to work with us further.

Jess Asato is Public Affairs Manager at SafeLives. She can be contacted at Jessica.asato@safelives.org.uk


Please would you consider making a regular gift of £10 a month, or whatever you can afford to help us call for specialist domestic abuse teams in every hospital in the country? You can donate online here or for a one-off £10 donation, text SAFELIVES to 70085. Thank you.

Why men and women must work together to end domestic abuse

In the wake of #MeToo, a powerful reminder of just how dangerous, threatening and downright exhausting the world can be for women, I didn’t think I’d find myself writing a blog post in defence of men – and yet here we are.

This week the conversation around men working in the domestic abuse sector has come to the surface once again. I want to explain why I think that men have to be part of the solution, and therefore must be part of the sector.

Firstly, we must not forget that domestic abuse can affect all of us in many different ways, and we cannot always know what personal experiences our colleagues bring with them when they choose to work in this sector. No one should feel the need to disclose those experiences as a way of justifying their presence here – whatever their gender.

Frontline domestic abuse support is one thing. If you run a service that supports women who have experienced abuse from male partners, there are very valid reasons not to have men working in a support role. But what about at a research, campaigning and policy level?

If we exclude men from working alongside us, what message are we sending? That violence against women is a ‘women’s issue’ that we are supposed to solve by ourselves – rather than something which society as a whole has a responsibility to tackle. In my view, recognising the gendered nature of domestic abuse means recognising that men have to be part of the solution; men who abuse women will not stop just because women ask them to. If we’re going to change the conversation and stop asking ‘why doesn’t she leave?’ and start asking ‘why doesn’t he stop?’ then we need campaigns and policy aimed at and co-created by men.

Then there is the fact that domestic abuse happens in every kind of relationship, and can happen to anyone. I’ve rolled my eyes countless times when a man asks ‘yes, but what about the men?’ when I’m discussing an issue affecting women. It is true that domestic abuse does disproportionately affect women, but it does also affect some men. Men in heterosexual relationships, men and women in LGBT relationships, in inter-family relationships, and as children growing up in homes where there is abuse. If we want to end it for one group, we have to want to end it for everyone. This isn’t to say that we should always give equal attention to men, or forget that the majority of perpetrators are men. But we do need to recognise that there is no ‘typical’ victim of domestic abuse.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve been reminded of the huge scale of the problem of male violence, on a spectrum that ranges from catcalling, to harassment at work, to groping, to abuse and murder. In the face of this, women are right to be angry. I am angry. But if that anger stops us from engaging with men, I believe we add years to the task of ending domestic abuse. And that’s years we simply can’t afford to lose. Women experiencing domestic abuse need us – all of us – to work together to make it stop.

I’ve been a feminist and around other feminists for long enough to know that the caricature of feminism as ‘man hating’ is inaccurate. It is misogynists who believe that men are inherently violent and dominant, that they ‘can’t help themselves’ and are incapable of taking on caring roles at home. Feminists know that men are capable of better; let’s give them a chance to be. 


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A Cup of tea with: Jo Morrish, Head of Learning and Accreditation

Ruth Davies is the Communications Officer at SafeLives. In this series she'll interview a different team member every month – over a nice cup of tea.

Jo Morrish is the Head of Learning and Accreditation at SafeLives

Ruth: Hi Jo, and congratulations on your ten year anniversary here at SafeLives! Could you start by telling me a bit about your background and how you came to SafeLives?

Jo: I was working at North Devon Women’s Aid many years ago, and I managed to get on the first Idva training course run by CRARG [the first incarnation of SafeLives] so that was how I met Diana Barran [SafeLives CEO]. I then did some freelance training work with what was then CAADA, and then started working here full time in 2007. Before working at Women’s Aid I’d been a youth worker too.

And now you’re Head of Learning and Accreditation at SafeLives – could you talk a bit about what your team has coming up in the next year?

Jo: So Learning and Accreditation really does two things. Firstly we deliver the training that SafeLives offers, which is obviously a huge part of what we do, and we’re also responsible for quality assessment of services – that’s the Leading Lights accreditation and the Service Managers course within that. So over the next year we’ll be running the Service Managers courses and working with those services to help them meet our standards for provision, and giving them Leading Lights status if they do.

In terms of training, we deliver over 400 days worth of training a year which is split between our accredited domestic abuse training, and training for other multi-agency professionals – so the police, Marac representatives for example. Over the next year we’re rolling out our new model which we developed last year, which is all about making the qualifications more flexible. We’ve developed training for professionals who are working with young people, and also training for Outreach workers.

Outreach has been really interesting; we’re just in the early days of running that course, and we’ve found Outreach workers saying that they really appreciate having a course that’s just for them. It’s been fascinating to see the really broad range of expertise that Outreach workers bring to the training. I remember when I finished my Idva training, feeling like I had a really special and important role and feeling valued. What I hope is that the Outreach workers who complete our training get that same feeling.

What’s your experience in terms of the impact that the training has?

Jo: People come to the training for all kinds of reasons. For some people having the qualification – the actual piece of paper – is really important and holds a real value for them. Others will have specific skills and areas of expertise they want to develop, and some want the chance to meet other professionals and share their practice. I think our learners get all of those things out of the training, and I think they also come away with a genuine sense of pride in their role, as well as what they’ve achieved in the training room.

In terms of our training for other professionals, we quite often get calls from the police or other agencies, saying that they’ve seen a difference within weeks in how they respond to victims of domestic abuse. Ultimately we see that our training helps to keep people safe and ensure a better chance of recovery.   

Something that I like to ask everyone is whether there are any moments from your time at SafeLives that really stand out for you. A time when you felt particularly inspired maybe?

Jo: On the Idva training we have quite a big celebration at the end, and it’s always incredibly emotional. As a trainer you’ve worked with people over four months and seen them really grow, so that’s always a highlight for me. Seeing people come away from the training with that sense of pride and renewed confidence in their role is a really special thing.

For more information about SafeLives courses, visit our Training pages

A Cup of tea with: David Evans, Training Co-ordinator

Ruth Davies is the Communications Officer at SafeLives. In this series she'll interview a different team member every month – over a nice cup of tea.

David Evans is a Training Co-ordinator at SafeLives.

Ruth: Hi Dave, could you start by telling me a bit about how you came to work for SafeLives?

Dave: I was working as a recruitment consultant and then I saw the light! It’s a good career for some people, but I wanted to do something that put more of a priority on social good. So I left that job and started doing some temp work, and that’s how I came across SafeLives. I initially joined what’s now known as the Knowledge Hub, and when that contract came to an end I applied for a permanent position with the Learning and Accreditation Programme (LAP) team, which is where I am now.

And what does your role in LAP involve?

Well I’m a training co-ordinator, and I mainly look after the Foundation level Idva training programme. So it’s our national training programme for people who are working as Idvas, and it gives them a recognised qualification. We have two ‘semesters’ of training each year – Autumn and Spring – and I just make sure it all runs smoothly. So it’s making sure that all the learners are attending the course and completing their work, and that the trainers have got everything they need to do a great job.

What do you think is the most exciting thing that your team is doing at the moment?

We’ve got several different training programmes and they’re all really valuable to the sector, but for me the one that stands out at the moment is the Domestic Abuse Matters programme. It’s a really fantastic programme set up to support police forces in dealing with domestic abuse. It’s for first responders – so anyone in the police who comes into contact with someone experiencing domestic abuse – as well as others at different levels in the force. It’s had a really great start over the last year or so, and I think it’s going to have a real impact.

What would you say is your favourite part of the job?

I think my favourite thing is when we’re reminded of the bigger picture. We can get locked into the operational nitty gritty when we’ve got lots of courses running and we have deadlines to hit, but it’s stepping back and looking at how many Idvas we’ve trained, the effect it’s had on their clients, and the bigger picture of how we’re helping to end domestic abuse. It’s very easy to feel good about what we do, even when we have frustrating or difficult days.

Lovely. And is there a moment that stands out to you as a particular highlight of your time at SafeLives so far?

I received a card from a learner once which was lovely – I still have it. We find with some of the learners that they can have quite challenging personal lives as well as work lives, and we supported this person at a difficult time which she obviously really appreciated. Realising that just with a simple act on our part we’d helped out this person and had an impact on them was really nice, so that meant quite a lot to me.

You can find out about all of our courses by visiting our training pages

Same, same but different: the Kylle Godfrey case

The Kylle Godfrey case makes horrendous reading. Another example of a domestic abuse perpetrator who committed terrible and persistent abuse against not just one but two victims. Another example of a perpetrator who ignored the criminal justice system, harassing his partner after being arrested and assaulting a new partner while on bail. Another example of someone who has an established pattern of abusive behaviour in several relationships. Someone who needs to be managed effectively and who needs to be held to account.

And this is where this case is different.

Kylle Godfrey is not one of the 99% of perpetrators who receive neither a criminal sanction or a behaviour change programme. The police in Hackney appear to have done a really good job in securing not just the evidence for him to receive a 3 year prison sentence, but to use a Criminal Behaviour Order – for the first time in a domestic abuse case. This order, which lasts for 7 years, will require Godfrey to inform the police within 15 days of being in a new relationship – offering the chance of securing safety for a new partner, and making it easier for the police to keep the focus on him and his behaviour. 

At SafeLives we will keep asking ‘why doesn’t he stop?’ and doing everything we can to make this happen, working together with the police and other agencies. This case opens the way to offering victims of domestic abuse greater hope of being able to stay safe in their homes – so we can all stop asking ‘why doesn’t she leave?’