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Mandie Burston was the Royal College of Nursing's Nurse of the Year in 2015, and is a passionate advocate for domestic abuse awareness in Health settings.

With no bias or boundary domestic abuse continues to infiltrate every sector of life, where no one is immune. It can begin at any time in life, it is rarely a one off event, and it is devastating and destructive to those directly and indirectly affected.

As many prepare for the upcoming festive period, all those involved in domestic abuse take 16 days of activism, raising awareness with public promotions, social media updates, conferences, TV and radio campaigns, with the single aspiration: that that the person suffering hears the messages of hope, and reaches out on to the road of recovery.

On the 28th November, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall visited a programme embedded into University Hospital of North Midlands Accident & Emergency department, showcasing an award-winning project which helps those who are attending A&E and affected by abuse. ARCH, a local charity, with over 30 years’ experience have improved education & awareness for staff, who in turn, now recognise & respond promptly, initiating early interventions.  

Domestic abuse is often hidden by shame, guilt, and confusion. It is known as the most unreported crime and continues to affect 1:3 women, 1:6 men, 1:5 children. Those affected can be silenced through fear, crippled by depression and mental health complexities; they may have addictions which began as coping strategies or forced behaviour by a perpetrator. The only commonality of those abused is a failure by professionals to recognise and respond early.

In Health, we see those affected by depression, addiction, with bumps and bruises, unexplained injuries, vague symptoms, but do we ask why? Do we enquire about the safety of the person; do we ask if they are being abused? Do we fully understand the dynamics of a perpetrator-victim relationship and conduct ourselves accordingly ensuring the safety of those affected?

Early intervention is going to save lives. Sadly time and time again the headlines tell of a tragic story of a lost life, despite countless attendances to an A&E department, despite several GP appointments, despite various professional agencies' involvement, no one asked the question 'Are you safe?' On average a women dies at the hands of her perpetrator every 2.5 days. This does not include the deaths of those associated to addiction and health associated disease process.

Simple solutions are often the best solutions and with current NHS resources being stretched to the limit, by fostering a partnership with an Idva service, the human, emotional and financial cost of abuse can be met head on.

The role of an Idva is a light at the end of a very dark frightening tunnel to someone who is living with abuse. An Idva understands, advises on safety, will never say “just leave”.  An Idva becomes a helping hand in the hell of abuse. Those who work as Idvas do so silently, discretely, with empathy and understanding, with knowledge and compassion. With time and resources, Idvas can turn lives around into something worth living, in a world without fear.

For more information and resources, visit our 16 Days homepage