A group of people hold hands and form a protective ring around the world. Illustration.

Multi-agency partnerships

There are a range of professionals, provider services and specialist agencies who can work alongside healthcare professionals to support victims of DVA. This is known as a ‘multi-agency response’ and is the most effective way to respond to DVA.

Women who have experienced DVA also experience high rates of poverty, homelessness, substance misuse, poor mental health and offending. This means that victims come into contact with a whole range of services and organisations.

Healthcare professionals are well placed to refer those experiencing DVA to services that can better support their needs.

The image below highlights the range and diversity of services and organisations that may be involved with victims of DVA and their families.

The DVA support network includes primary and secondary health care services, Social services, Mental health services, Sexual violence services, Criminal justice agencies, specialist DVA services, Housing services and education services.

However, individual agencies and service providers often operate very differently, making it difficult for professionals to work together at the same pace. Take, for example, the variation in language used to describe someone experiencing DVA.

  • Victim (criminal justice system)
  • Survivor (women centred organisation)
  • Patient (healthcare services)
  • Tenant (housing services)
  • Service user (welfare agencies)
  • Customer (adults social care)

Services may use different tools and instruments to assess and report DVA; they might collect, record and store data differently; there may even be differences in their understanding of what constitutes DVA.

Services are often poorly prepared to support women across organisational boundaries. Consequently, the victim must provide information, including details of their abusive experiences repeatedly to different people in different organisations. Recalling the experience in itself can be a traumatic experience and may deter the victim from accessing support.

What makes a successful partnership?

Effective responses to DVA require a coordinated approach across agencies and organisations. The points listed below can be drawn upon by professionals and organisations when developing their own agreed set of principles:

  • At the initial engagement with the services, informed consent of the victim-survivor should be gained to ensure information between agencies can be shared, when required, without unnecessary delay.

  • Everyone within the partnership should understand each other’s roles and responsibilities.

  • Set a clear and shared vision, with clearly articulated and agreed goals, aims and objectives.

  • Develop and adhere to shared policies and procedures to guide information sharing between different organisations.

  • Data about all incidents of DVA should be recorded, analysed and shared with management of agencies working together regularly and appropriately.

  • Ensure that perpetrators are known by appropriate and required agencies to ensure the safety of the victim-survivor and that perpetrators may also be referred to appropriate services.

  • Empower DVA victims-survivors to make well-informed choices and decisions for themselves, wherever possible. Do not make decisions for them without their involvement.

  • Recognise additional barriers affecting access, availability and acceptability of services for victims-survivors of DVA (for example, women from minority ethnic background; those with disabilities; those with no recourse to funds or issues with migration status)

What do you think?

Do you know what services and supports are available for those who disclose DVA in your area of practice, organisation and locality – and are contact details available to you?

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This article is from the free online course:

Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

The University of Sheffield