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Domestic abuse: why a ‘first of its kind’ survey is being launched - and how it will help victims

The “first of its kind” survey will seek to understand what services and level of support is available to domestic abuse survivors and victims

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner has launched a national survey in England and Wales to understand the level of support offered - and what needs to be improved.

The national mapping survey is aiming to reach as many domestic abuse survivors as possible to help to identify gaps in provision, make recommendations for improvement, and see where support is lacking for minority communities.

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The ambition is to “create the most far reaching and geographically comprehensive survey for domestic abuse victims and survivors,” Ms Jacobs said.

In an exclusive interview with NationalWorld, the Commissioner explains the importance of this survey and why it is being carried out.

What is the survey for domestic abuse survivors?

The survey is aimed at all domestic abuse survivors who have used or thought about using domestic abuse services in the last three years.

The Commissioner wants to hear from people who have experienced any kind of domestic abuse including, but is not limited to: coercive control (a pattern of intimidation, degradation, isolation and control with the use or threat of physical or sexual violence); psychological and/or emotional abuse; physical or sexual abuse; financial or economic abuse; harassment and stalking; online or digital abuse.

Ms Jacobs said: “We need to hear from people in every part of England and Wales, including those victims who have tried and failed to access services.

“These could include helplines, community-based services such as domestic abuse caseworkers, or accommodation such as refuges.”

The Commissioner’s office is keen to hear from victims and survivors of all backgrounds, including women, men, those from black and minoritised communities, Deaf and disabled persons, those aged 16-25 and over 55, migrant victims, LGBT+ victims.

The confidential survey is available in 14 languages: English, Welsh, Polish, Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, French, Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, British Sign Language and in Easy Read. (A Romani version will also be available at a later date).

It will be available online for eight weeks from 7 December to 31 January 2022.

You can find it on the Domestic Abuse Commissioner website on the news page.

What findings are there already on domestic abuse?

The wide survey is being conducted after already damning findings on domestic abuse services.

Ms Jacobs said: “We know from reviews following domestic abuse related homicides that key failings are the lack of understanding about domestic abuse in services and wider society which leads to victims not getting or being signposted to the support they need.”

The Commissioner explained “specialist services for domestic abuse are often under strain and are underfunded” causing both survivors and victims to go without the support they need.

Research commissioned by the Commissioner’s office from the LGBT+ anti-abuse charity Galop found there were only 3.5 full time specialist frontline domestic abuse support workers for LGBT+ victims in England and Wales.

The report found there were no funded LGBT+ ‘by and for’ domestic abuse services across the southwest, northeast of England and Wales.

‘By and for’ services are those provided by and for the community they serve.

This highlights there are already regional imbalances in service provision.

In a space of a year 50% of Black and minoritised women’s specialist refuges were forced to close or were taken over due to lack of funding, a 2016 Imkaan report revealed.

Others continue to operate without any local government support.

In a recent exclusive investigation, NationalWorld uncovered evidence revealing Black and Asian domestic abuse victims are less likely to see their abusers convicted in court cases.

The investigation highlighted the lack of justice for minority victims and how if they had the support from services designed for them their cases would be followed through to the end.

From these findings, this survey will seek to identify the availability of organisations that provide ‘by and for’ support to minority victims.

So far the national mapping survey has found only two organisations that are ‘by and for’ disabled victims, and another two organisations that are ‘by and for’ Deaf victims.

What will be done from the survey’s findings?

Ms Jacobs explains she will be “mirroring back to government” the survey’s findings of “what people tell us they need and what they are currently getting.”

The findings “will help us to make the case for how we get to an improved level of services,” she said.

The Commissioner emphasises she will be “quoting the survey results” to government, more than any other analytical work, because of the importance of using the voices of domestic abuse survivors and victims.

Ms Jacobs adds the Victims Bill next year, where the government will consult the public on what provision of community-based domestic abuse and sexual violence service should exist, as well as spending review rounds, will increase the level of support and funding for these services.

Ms Jacobs said: “We want to reach out to the public and see in their point of view how easy or difficult it has been to get the support that they need.

“It’s a hugely important survey in terms of bringing that picture together for England and Wales directly from the voice of survivors about whether they are getting the support they need.”

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and are in danger, please call 999.

If you need support please contact the national helpline for England on 0808 2000 247. Live Fear Free Helpline for Wales 0808 80 10 800; Men’s Advice Line 0808 801 0327; National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline 0300 999 5428. A fuller list is available on the DAC website.

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