Transforming the response to domestic abuse

Closes 31 May 2018

Alternative ways to report domestic abuse

Estimates based on those interviewed in the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that around four in five victims (79%) of partner abuse did not report it to the police. [1]

Victims are far more likely to confide in their family and friends. Survivors told Women’s Aid that opportunities to help them were missing in their local communities. To address this issue, and to take advantage of pre-existing community relationships, Women’s Aid have created the ‘Ask Me’ scheme.

Case study: Ask Me

‘Ask Me’ is an opportunity to join a community movement to break the silence of domestic abuse. A free, two-day course run by Women’s Aid in partnership with local domestic abuse services will upskill people that have a reach within their communities to take on the role of an ‘Ask Me ambassador’ where they will learn about how they can take action to break the silence and raise awareness within their networks. As we talk more about domestic abuse our communities will become spaces where people feel able to speak out.

The training also includes how ask me ambassadors can respond in a supportive and understanding way to anyone that shares their personal experiences of domestic abuse. The course works on the knowledge that often, it is a friend, family member or neighbour – a member of the community – that a victims speak to, rather than local authorities.

 The role of an ask me Ambassador is to:

  • break the silence around domestic abuse
  • raise awareness of domestic abuse
  • respond respectfully to anyone that shares their personal experiences

The scheme is currently being run as a pilot in three areas in England and Wales. [2]

We know there are other key groups of individuals (not employed by statutory agencies) who could potentially play a key role in tackling domestic abuse. As highlighted by learning from domestic homicide reviews, one such group is employers. [3]

Any employer with a substantial headcount is likely to have some employees affected by domestic abuse, either as victims or perpetrators. The Employers’ Initiative on Domestic Abuse is a group of over 200 companies and public sector organisations who have come together to take action to help staff affected by domestic abuse.[4]

These employers recognise that domestic abuse reduces work performance, increases absenteeism and ultimately may result in staff leaving. The network comes together to exchange information about best practice and to encourage, promote and develop action to help staff who are enduring domestic abuse or who are perpetrators.

Public Health England (PHE), in partnership with Business in the Community, is developing a toolkit which will provide clear and comprehensive advice on steps that employers can take.

The toolkit will be informed by an evidence review conducted by PHE and the recent report commissioned by the Vodafone Foundation.[5] Above all, it will feature the voices and testimony of those people directly affected and case studies of employers who have gone beyond compliance in tackling the issue and supporting their employees.

The government has also funded the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance (DAHA) to develop a set of standards for how housing providers should respond to domestic abuse in England and Wales.

Housing officers are likely to come into contact with domestic abuse victims on a daily basis and they are ideally placed to identify those carrying out domestic abuse and also those at risk, such as children. Recognising that abuse is taking place is only part of their role, and providing an effective and supportive response is even more important.

Tasks like carrying out a thorough risk assessment, developing an action plan and making suitable referrals are all activities that housing officers with the appropriate training are well placed to do. The set of standards [6] enable housing providers to examine service delivery and practice, identifying gaps and areas for improvement.

The government recognises there is a need to provide a directory of information for the public outlining clearly what domestic abuse is, what to do if they are a victim or concerned about someone who is a victim, what to do if they are a perpetrator or think someone they know is perpetrating domestic abuse and where to go to get help.

We are committed to updating GOV.UK to ensure it has easily accessible, clear and up to date information on domestic abuse.


[1] Office for National Statistics (2016) Intimate personal violence and partner abuse, Table 4.28


[3] Home Office (2016). Domestic Homicide Reviews

[4] Employer Inittiative on Domestic Abuse

[5] Vodafone Foundation (2017). Domestic violence and abuse: working together to transform responses in the workplace

[6] DAHA Accreditation

9. What further support can we provide to the public (employers, friends, family, community figures) so they can identify abuse and refer victims to help effectively?