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Practitioner advice: supporting hard to reach communities

In this video, we asked our practitioners about how they support groups that might be at risk or harder to reach.
There’s a very public narrative about what domestic violence is that a lot of people buy into. And that public narrative is that domestic violence and abuse is heterosexual male violence perpetrated against heterosexual females who are of childbearing age. But, actually, people from any hard to reach group can experience domestic violence and abuse. And people can have real fears about accessing services. In the work I’ve done with trans people, for example, there can be a fear about if I approach a service, will I be eligible, will I be turned away, will I experience discrimination and a transphobic response. And these are real experiences that people have across the public sector, whatever field you’re looking at.
So when you’ve also got this really difficult issue, which is domestic violence abuse, that’s sort of - it’s another layer. On average, it takes a woman seven attempts to leave a violent relationship, and she will endure 35 physical, for example, beatings. For black and ethnic minority women, those figures– both of those figures - are much, much higher. Sometimes people think that there may be cultural or religious aspects, and we sort of challenge both of those. So, at times, we get women coming to us who will, for example, say, we are Muslims, and we have been told that it’s our duty to remain within the marriage, remain with the husband.
And what we then do is get them to look at the fact that if there’s abuse within the marriage, they then have a religious duty to leave that marriage and take action to do something about that. It’s not always about engaging with communities about domestic abuse. It’s about building relationships with communities so that you can tackle a range of issues, because domestic abuse is not the only thing that affects our hard to reach communities. So we put on some women’s pamper days, which were health orientated pamper days, come and find out about services in Sheffield.
Rather than putting on a domestic abuse event, we went down the kind of let’s be bit fluffy about it, but make sure that we’ve got lots of information about domestic abuse available. And is the imagery that is done, any posters that are done, are usually to do with white people and white people’s issues. So people who don’t belong to those communities think, these issues don’t affect us, or that there isn’t appropriate support. So for us, it’s really, really important that we have posters, imagery. We also do regular plays where we raise the issues that are going on and what support is available.
But one of the reviews that we had pointed us to the possibility that sometimes interpreters might not be as skilled as they could be. In thinking about the phrase domestic abuse, and thinking, how can I phrase that in a way that’s going to make sense to this person. Because we know that, for example, domestic abuse doesn’t translate into Urdu, for example, which is one of the main community languages in Sheffield. There was one lady who I had seen regularly with low mood, and she - I was asking her each time about domestic abuse, how are things at home, were things stressful. Everything’s fine. Everything’s fine. I kept signposting it.
In the practice, we did a pilot on routine inquiry, and we were asking every unaccompanied female about domestic abuse. It was only because other people that had asked within the practice, I think it was our practice nurse, that she disclosed, then, to me at my next appointment that she realised she was experiencing domestic abuse. And I think it was the reflection that, actually, it’s not just one person, it wasn’t just me and my perceptions of domestic abuse, that she realised she was experiencing it. Most agencies get government funding which requires them to offer services that are gender neutral. So that means that they offer services to men and women.
So if you don’t identify as male or female, where do you fit in terms of that service structure? For trans people and non-binary people, so people who don’t identify in that gender binary, there can be particular barriers to accessing support. And in a field like domestic violence and abuse, you don’t necessarily see yourself fitting as a service user, for want of a better word. There’s problems around refuge accommodation. So, for example, if you have a woman who was born as a man, ascribed a male identity at birth, but then transitioned to live as a woman, not all refuges will accept that woman into services.
Another a major issue that we’re facing at the moment is the whole introduction of universal credit. We have numerous women who are not literate, either in using computers, or just the whole process that you’d need to go through to apply for benefits. So, although as an organisation, we’re a support organisation for domestic and sexual violence, a lot of the staff time is being taken up in terms of supporting women. And if you don’t get the money issue right, often women who have left violent relationships will end up back in those relationships. So it’s a really important element to get right.

DVA can happen to anyone regardless of their race, culture, religion, social background or sexual orientation. However, all of these aspects can have an additional impact on the way DVA is experienced or responded to.

In this video, we asked our practitioners how they support groups that might be at risk or harder to reach.

Older people and domestic abuse

People of any age can be affected by domestic abuse. Although this didn’t come up in conversation with our practicioners, many felt it was important that we recognise older people can be particularly vulnerable to certain forms of domestic abuse, including abuse by a carer and financial abuse. This resource from Age UK has some important information about this issue.

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Supporting Victims of Domestic Violence

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