Transforming the response to domestic abuse

Closes 31 May 2018

Supporting victims with specific needs

Domestic abuse can affect anyone, regardless of age group, gender, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, disability, religion or ethnicity.

Maria, a disabled woman, is denied access by her partner to the specialist nurse for her condition; the partner refuses to have handrails installed in their home. She stops Maria from using a walking stick, and Maria tries to walk without it, mocks her walking and tells her to stand up straight knowing she will fall and hurt herself. [1]

We know that there may be additional barriers to reporting for some groups, which is why we have funded specific services which provide targeted support, such as for disabled women; older people; male; and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) victims.

  • through the Tampon Tax we are funding ‘Shaping Our Lives’ which will ensure that the needs of disabled women experiencing or at risk of violence or abuse are met through current service provision.
  • also through the Tampon Tax we are funding the organisation ‘Jackson’s Lane’ in Haringey, London to engage older people in community-based activities to increase their understanding of wellbeing, harassment and domestic abuse and provide the support services needed to tackle these issues
  • we provide funding for a men’s advice line and LGBT helpline to provide direct support to victims of domestic abuse
  • through MHCLG’s £20 million specialist accommodation-based support fund we are funding Manchester City Council to provide independent living accommodation for 10 to 15 LGBT survivors of domestic abuse - this also includes caseworker support and intensive outreach support for a further 20 people as well as work to raise awareness of services among the wider LGBT community

Other factors such as socio-economic status or area deprivation may also impact upon how victims seek help - those with fewer resources may be less able to leave perpetrators or seek help.

We are also aware that for some communities, there may be additional barriers such as lack of trust in statutory agencies (such as the police, social services, or housing authorities), or a fear of rejection from their community if help is sought. Insecure immigration status may also impact on a victim’s decision to seek help.

We also know that domestic abuse is not limited to abuse between partners. It can be adult child on older parent abuse, adolescent on grandparent abuse or abuse between teenagers (16+) in an intimate relationship.

It can be carried out by those who look after vulnerable (for example older or disabled) people. It can also be carried out within informal caring relationships due to the pressures of these circumstances. This can impact upon how a victim seeks support and how this is received.

Case study: Victim’s experience

A defendant and victim were involved in an arranged marriage and since arrival in England in 2012 the victim was kept in servitude. The defendant took wedding jewellery from his wife as a way of exploiting and controlling her.

The victim became financially dependent on her husband and was responsible for doing all the chores that he demanded. She was not allowed out unaccompanied and when she was alone at home she was called every ten minutes to make sure the phone was not engaged.

He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for holding his wife in servitude and for assault occasioning actual bodily harm, breaking her nose. A restraining order was also imposed. It is believed to be the first conviction of this kind in England and Wales.

Finally, we recognise that many victims of domestic abuse have multiple complex needs and may struggle to access services to support them.

While it should not be assumed that the presence of vulnerable factors means that victims will automatically have complex needs, their recognition is important as it can highlight when a different approach is required.

We have had extensive discussions with local authorities and domestic abuse partners to understand the scale of the problem and identify best practice. Local authority-led projects in England focusing on providing support to victims with complex needs have been funded from MHCLG’s £20 million specialist accommodation-based support fund.

We have joined-up across government to deliver a co-ordinated approach to improving the service and support we offer victims of domestic abuse with complex needs, and will continue to work closely with local authorities and domestic abuse partners as this work develops further.

12. What more can the Government do to better support victims who face multiple barriers to accessing support?