For police: Domestic Abuse Matters

Over two million adults in the UK experience domestic abuse each year, and there is a growing body of evidence to show the strong co-relation between abuse and mental ill-health, insecure housing and financial position, and vulnerability to other crime types. The impact of not taking the right action - on individuals, immediate and extended families – is devastating. At the time they start school, we know that at least one child in every classroom will have been living with domestic abuse since they were born. 

There is no 'them and us' when we're thinking about victims and survivors of domestic abuse. They are our friends, our family, our neighbours and our colleagues. 

For too long, this daily, insidious abuse, where one person seeks to control another – with or without the use of physical violence – has remained hidden. With the right training and understanding, your force can make a difference to lives of victims, survivors and whole families. 

Domestic Abuse Matters

At SafeLives we believe domestic abuse can be stopped. We train and champion professionals across the UK to help them spot the early signs of domestic abuse and understand the tactics used by perpetrators. 

The College of Policing and the domestic abuse charity, SafeLives, worked with key stakeholders to develop ‘Domestic Abuse Matters’, a bespoke cultural change programme for police officers and staff in England and Wales. It has been designed to transform the response to domestic abuse, ensuring the voice of the victim is placed at the centre, and controlling and coercive behaviour is better understood. The programme is designed to have long-term impact: changing and challenging the attitudes, culture and behaviour of the police when responding to domestic abuse.

The work stemmed from the 2014 HMIC report, Everyone's business: Improving the police response to domestic abuse, which highlighted the need for improvements in how police forces and officers understood and responded to coercive control. DA Matters was born from this gap. 

DA Matters is much more than a training course - it is a cultural change programme designed to create long term, sustainable improvements and consistency in the response to domestic abuse across the country. It helps police understand what is meant by the term coercive control, challenges victim blaming, and prompts them to recognise the high levels of manipulation used by those perpetrating it, including in interactions with law enforcement. 

"SafeLives' DA Matters training really does deliver. Its slick, to the point and very impactive. Officers suggest it's some of the best training they've received. It provided the skills uplift we required sending a hugely positive message across the constabulary. It's thought provoking and has certainly influenced officers to consider better questions around coercion and control."
DA Matters Police Lead, Suffolk 

Interested in bringing Domestic Abuse Matters to your force? Read our getting started guide

Measuring impact

We are committed to ensuring that this programme delivers real, sustainable change that makes a difference to police practice, and to the support that victims of domestic abuse receive. That’s why we’re evaluating progress as we go.  

Evaluations to date have consistently found material change in first responder confidence and knowledge. Our 2019 evaluation results show that after the training, 95% of learners said they felt very/extremely competent at understanding the tactics perpetrators of domestic abuse demonstrate when they are coercively controlling their victims – compared to 21% before the training. 

I can honestly say it was the most impactive one day input I have ever been on. The content was excellent and the delivery was absolutely on point. Both [the trainers] showed such a passion, which demonstrated how they truly feel about how DA is understood and dealt with. 

You can read Professor Iain Brennan's research into the effects of force-wide training on arrests for coercive and controlling behaviour. This research shows the positive and sustained impact of the programme - leading to a 41% increase in arrests for controlling and coercive behaviour. And our own research evaluation and anecdotal evidence suggests the training leads to a change in attitude and thinking around domestic abuse, which will not just affect arrest rates, but also the overall response victims receive. 

Policing a new domestic abuse crime: effects of force-wide training on arrests for coercive control

"I feel that the art of listening is key to prevention. Victims can be very wary of approaching the police, which means the officers must have the education, awareness and empathy to transcend that. Reaching out to the police can be a courageous act and often the final straw"

Find out more



Pete Williams 


If you'd like to find out more about Domestic Abuse Matters, please get in touch. We recommend you have to hand the total number of individuals who would likely be the first to respond to an incident of domestic abuse, be it victims (external or internal), perpetrators or children. This should include:

  • all response officers,
  • PCSOs or equivalent,
  • All specialist public protection officers and staff
  • front counter staff,
  • all detectives or staff that interview and process perpetrators,
  • all front counter staff,
  • all call handlers and control room staff.
1 ONS (2015), Crime Survey England and Wales 2013-14. London: Office for National Statistics.
2 SafeLives (2015), Insights Idva National Dataset 2013-14. Bristol: SafeLives.