Getting it right first time

A full-system response to domestic abuse

Our approach to domestic abuse transformed how high risk domestic abuse (where there is a high risk of serious harm or murder) is addressed in the UK. Getting it right the first time, published in 2015, looks at how we can identify every family where there is domestic abuse as quickly as possible.

This led to projects such as One Front Door and our Whole Family approach – which still informs our strategy today.

We know the impact of domestic abuse on adult and child victims is severe and long-lasting. And families live with domestic abuse for far too long before getting effective help – on average 2.7 years at the time of this report – and now 2.5 years for Idva support and 4 years to access effective outreach support (SafeLives Insights dataset, 2022).

Cutting the time it takes to find and help victims and their families is critical to stop murder, serious injury and enduring harm.

    Key findings

  • 85%

    of victims sought help five times on average

    from professionals in the year before they got effective help to stop the abuse.

Too many missed opportunities

Every contact represents a chance for us to help the victim disclose and get help – a chance that was missed, leaving the family to live with abuse for longer.

Our data shows in the year before they got effective help:

  • 78% of victims at high risk of serious harm or murder and 62% of victims at medium risk reported the abuse to the police
  • 23% of victims at high risk of serious harm or murder and 10% at medium risk went to an accident and emergency (A&E) department because of their injuries. In the most extreme cases, victims reported that they attended A&E 15 times.

What needs to be done

We need to create the system to find every family as quickly as possible and get the response right, first time, for every family.

That means all mainstream services must create an environment where any member of the family can tell someone about domestic abuse and know that it will be acted on. And every professional should make identifying domestic abuse part of what they do, day-to-day. They should ask about domestic abuse whenever they are worried about a family. And we should have more specialist domestic abuse services based in the community, like putting Idva services in A&E departments.

We have to get it right first time, for every family living with domestic abuse.


I was made to feel like our problems were just marital tiffs, that it was six of one and half a dozen of the other because I didn’t have the bruises to show anyone. The police would never do anything, they wouldn’t listen and they wouldn’t see it as abuse.

Debbie, Survivor

You may also be interested in

Domestic abuse response in the UK

Since we were founded more than two decades ago, we have helped transform the response to domestic abuse across the UK. Find out more about our risk-led approach, Idvas, Maracs and the work still to be done.

One Front Door

One Front Door brought together multi-agency specialist teams to help families living with domestic abuse. Read our evaluation report.

A Cry for Health report

Report outlining the current response to domestic abuse victims in hospitals and the benefits of investing in hospital-based Idvas.