Women’s domestic violence help-seeking strategies are often thought of and responded to in place. Both statutory and voluntary sector services work within administrative boundaries; with the Local Authority, or sometimes the County, as the key scale of planning and providing services.
But domestic abuse causes displacement.
Even important tools to help women – such as Bright Sky – start by asking women to “Enter location, postcode or address”. They say:
Bright Sky is here for you. Our directory of services can help you find local support.
This can help women who are trying to stay put or remain local – so are looking for help close to home.
But many other women will be seeking help not in a specific place, but simply thinking – any place but here!
Whilst individual women will be keeping their location and relocation secret – to keep themselves and their children safe from the abuser – they need services and authorities to have a greater understanding of the journeys that are going on.
It affects access and eligibility for services – it affects the kind of support needed.
Policies and practices can also make things worse – giving women little control over where they go, and whether they are able to resettle long term.
It can be much harder for women and children to ‘move-on’ after abuse, because of the amount of actual moving they are doing…
Service providers tend to be familiar with their local area, but have little sense of the extent to which women and children may be moving through their area due to domestic abuse.
But linking administrative data that used to be collected by services shows both the distances travelled by women and children, and the multiple stages of thousands of journeys.
This graph of London domestic violence journeys shows some of the turbulence of displacement due to domestic abuse:
journeys to access service support – and journeys after services
This analysis is just data on women in London who accessed services, and shows the massive churn going on as women seek help where they can.
Many London women (just over 20% in these data) seek help from services outside London; but safely linking the data shows that some of these women do actually manage to return to London afterwards. And, of course, excluded from this graph are the women who come into London to seek help from London services – however, it is important to know that the numbers are lower than for London women seeking help elsewhere. Overall, it shows the displacement of women and children throughout London due to domestic violence: the massive churn going on under the surface which is often under-recognised by both services and policies.
 Analysis by Janet C. Bowstead using data fromDepartment for Communities and Local Government and University of St Andrews, Centre for Housing Research (2012) Supporting People Client Records and Outcomes, 2003/04-2010/11: Special Licence Access [computer file]. Colchester, Essex, UK Data Archive [distributor]. Available from: http://dx.doi.org/10.5255/UKDA-SN-7020-1