Tackling domestic violence
08/05/2012 11:21 am
For this week’s Focus we are looking at how housing professionals are working to tackle domestic violence. We’ve got case studies from Peabody and Gentoo, and an overview of the work being done by Against Violence & Abuse, but would welcome any more contributions or opinions.
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08/05/2012 3:15 pm
For some, domestic violence is something to be kept behind closed doors, between those involved, not for the State to interfer in. This corrolates interestingly with views about other areas of policy, with the individual being responsible in a 'Big Society' guided by a 'Small Government'. Perhaps the subject of Domestic Violence is the area that will help the misguided understand why Government needs to 'interfere', or more precisely advocate for and enable to weak to have the rights of the strong.
Domestic violence is simply abuse, the misuse of power, unacceptable. Although traditionally seen as male perpetraitors abusing female victims (a position that society seems to find easier to accept), the reality is that any gender can be the vicitim, and any gender the perpetraitor of the abuse. I know this first hand having been able to select two abusive partners over the years, each with their own mode of operation, and each having left their own very special scars. It is the emotional ones that are hardest to heal.
I am prepared to put such a personal slant out there because this subect is so important for people to understand. This is not something that happens to someone else. It may happen to you, it may be happening to someone you know well, you may even be a perpetraitor but not recognise the effects of your behaviour.
The suffering and cycles of abuse will continue to ruin lives until such time as it is perfectly acceptable for a friend to discuss how they are treated with another friend, until a victim can report to a police station and be taken seriously regardless of their own gender or perceived 'strength', until there is no where for perpetraitors to hide.
This would mean that victims no longer adopt the victim identity but are able to quickly and confidently say no, be supported in that, and have access to help in making life safe. This is not about rushing to lock up my ex-wife, or any other abuser. What it needs to be about is helping both victim and perpetraitor come to understand why the imbalance exists, what drives the behaviours, so that where possible they may be put right and people can go forward in their lives, even with the 'former' abusive partner where such is appropriate.
The removal of support services, legal advice, even Council Housing, have all played into the hands of the strong and moved victims into darker silence. The value of healing people and families is immeasurable and an obvious priority; but it is as an aspect of every policy area that challenging and eventually ending domestic violence will be achieved.
The 'life stress' triggers of abuse are very real. They are not an excuse, but for an abusive personality they are a victim of their own response to such circumstance - yet we unessecarily pile stress after stress on people until they break. The victim needs an immediate safety line to turn to. That means spending on support services. But it also means education from first years, public service education to reinforce the message, employment responsibility for wider wellbeing to include freedom from domestic violence, social responsibility to include protecting all from abuse.
The tendency for the strong to exploit the weak as a centre around which we build social and economic policy reinforces the 'correctness' of domestic violence. As such the very basis of our society needs to shift to strengthening those in need of support, channeling the strength of the strongest into enabling others. With Darwinism as the only alternative, systematically removing abuse from our society is the only viable option.
[As a footnote I've used the terms strong and weak for context. As I am completely aware there is no weakness in being the victim, no weakness in ceasing to being a victim, and no weakness in escaping with one's personality scared but surviving. The conflict is one of power, but language is a limitator.]
Inside Housing staff post
09/05/2012 9:53 am
Thanks for sharing, Chris!
09/05/2012 4:06 pm
Good to see this topic being highlighted within the sector. Housing and domestic violence is becoming even more pressing with services at risk of losing funding and refuge provision being cut. Homelessness services face an increasing demand from people fleeing domestic violence, and in particular from women with complex needs such as substance use and mental health problems. Recent St Mungo’s research among our female residents revealed that 35 percent of women who had slept rough, left home to escape domestic violence.
As well as a cause of homelessness, domestic violence can unfortunately continue to be a feature of the relationships of men and women whether rough sleeping, living in hostels, or even once in move on accommodation.
In this context, it is important that the workforce in the housing and homelessness sector are able to provide appropriate support to those fleeing or experiencing domestic abuse, so they can feel safe in their accommodation and move forward with their lives.
We welcome the work of Peabody and Gentoo and Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) linked from this article that aims to do just that. At St Mungo’s we have reviewed and re-launched our Domestic Abuse Policy and rolled out a new internal training course in partnership with AVA. It is vital that our staff are confident and comfortable to pro-actively support residents with this issue.
This summer we’re making our annual Action Week about women and homelessness and launching a campaign called Rebuilding Shattered Lives to focus on what works for homeless and vulnerable women, including domestic violence support. We will be asking people to share best practice, innovations and ideas. We want to hear from women who’ve experienced good practice, staff in the sector and many others to create a really comprehensive Showcase of what works for women. We’ll be launching this showcase website next month, on 18 June, and focusing on nine themes over 18 months, from domestic violence to employment and skills, offending to families, children and relationships. In the meantime, for more information and contact details see http://www.mungos.org/women and we will also let Inside Housing and forum contributors know more about this campaign in the months ahead.
Esther Sample, St Mungo’s Women’s Strategy Coordinator