Developing an ETHICAL response to service provision for domestic violence against women

This research on women’s domestic violence journeys aims to underpin an ETHICAL response, highlighting seven key elements of an effective service provision: Eligibility, Type, Holistic, Independence, Capacity, Accessibility, Location.

  • Eligibility
    • rights and needs-based – a service infrastructure designed around women and children rather than forcing women and children to navigate a fragmented and ill-suited infrastructure.
    • no location or risk-assessed criteria or rationing.
    • not excluding women and children due to legal status – such as migration status, criminal convictions or debt – with any proceedings being put on hold until support and security have been provided.
  • Type
    • A range of types of services for a range of needs, including:
      • Women’s Refuge accommodation + support
      • Other accommodation-based support
      • Non-accommodation services – one-to-one support
    • Specialisms – around cultural, health needs, higher support needs.
    • Note that core service needs not addressed in this formula include: Peer support, children’s support, advocacy through complex and hostile systems.
  • Holistic
    • Services as only a part of wider co-ordinated and multi-agency responses so that women and children can journey through at their pace and need – involving and not involving the services and support they choose.
    • Providing support on abuse issues in the context of other issues women and children may be experiencing over time.
  • Independence
    • Recognising the pervasive nature of coercive control within abusive relationships, the interactions and relationships of services with women and children must not replicate coercion, control, or limitations on freedom or autonomy.
    • Service provision must operate with independence from statutory authorities (even if receiving funds from statutory authorities), including not sharing personal information inappropriately.
  • Capacity
    • Sufficient for the level of expressed need – at the point of need.
    • Including an expected level of vacancy/voids/free capacity, so that service provision does not exploit or exhaust the workers or ration the availability of support.
    • Flexibility – able to respond when needed – recognising that women have to seek help when they can and may be unable to wait on a ‘waiting list’.
    • Evidence-based – not reducing, developing or changing services unless there is clear evidence of needs.
  • Accessibility
    • Services must be constantly vigilant about barriers to accessibility – where women and children who deserve and would benefit from a service are unable to access it.
    • This may be due to issues of Eligibility, Capacity, or Location; but may additionally be about addressing aspects of specialist support, legal status, and the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of service providers.
  • Location
    • Women experience domestic abuse everywhere, so the location of services must enable both staying put and journeys – including return journeys where appropriate.
    • All types of places – so that you can go as far as you need/ stay as near as you can.
    • The location of help-seeking should not necessarily cement the location of longer-term resettlement.
    • About fundamental eligibility as a survivor of abuse – violence against women as a human rights violation – to go and be wherever is best.

Technical Paper on a formula for the Type and Capacity of services in England

The elements of service provision characterised as Eligibility, Holistic, Independence, Accessibility are based on principles, and are evidence-based from past learning, research literature, human rights law, and experience of decades of domestic abuse service provision. These are discussed in other blog posts, briefing papers and publications available on this website.

A technical paper on developing a formula for the Type and Capacity of domestic abuse services in England has just been published and is available here. The minimum required capacity of three types of services is estimated as:

Accommodation – A minimum of 5,369 family bedspaces

  • 4,497 should be ‘Women’s Refuge’ spaces
  • 872 ‘Other’ types of support accommodation

Non-accommodation – A minimum of 1,084 fte (full-time-equivalent) community-based specialist support workers (separate roles from ‘advice’; or risk-based ‘advocacy’) rising to a minimum of 1,543 fte workers to be able to support women with additional needs beyond the domestic abuse

Love is the only language I speak fluently

Women’s experiences and voices are vital in this research – their understandings and insights into their journeys. 

As part of the project, participatory photography was carried out with groups of women in three areas of London: two groups in women’s refuges where women would soon be on the move again, and one at a women’s centre with women who were beginning to resettle. 

As well as individual projects, producing images and captions about their experiences, women shared their insights and messages.

Love is the only language I speak fluently
Love is the only language I speak fluently © Amy/Cordelia/Daisy/Marilyn/Qiana/Solace Women’s Aid/Janet Bowstead

In this poster, women took the slogan from graffiti on the London Southbank as a metaphor for their own beliefs about love, care and kindness – received and given. In making a poster, they wanted to pass on the love and positivity to women they imagined seeing the poster in the future. Blending together their individual images into a collage, they celebrated their shared experiences, and how being in a group reduced their isolation.

Women on the Move – report published

On Human Rights Day – 10th December 2021 – the report from this research was published.

Featuring more than 250 images by women who have been forced to relocate due to domestic violence, the book and maps provide an overview of the project, highlighting key research findings and new conceptualisations and knowledge from the research.

The publication presents the key messages – and points to further reading – on aspects of People, Places, Patterns and Processes of women and children on the move due to domestic violence and abuse.

To order a copy, please send postal address to info(Replace this parenthesis with the @ sign)womensjourneyscapes.net or send details via the contact form

Women on the Move – Vol. 1: Journeyscapes of Domestic Violence (book). ISBN: 978-1-7399686-0-1

Women on the Move: Journeyscapes of Domestic Violence. From Everywhere to Everywhere (map). ISBN: 978-1-7399686-1-8

Women on the Move: Journeyscapes of Domestic Violence. One Year of Spatial Churn (map). ISBN: 978-1-7399686-2-5

See the flier for further information.

There is always a way ahead

Women who have relocated due to domestic abuse talk about their multi-faceted journeys: emotional, practical and geographical journeys.  Often, during the journeys, they do not know what the next stage will be – or what they need to prepare themselves and their children to face.

Women in the creative groupwork for this research produced images and captions for women they imagined making such journeys in the future – wanting to encourage women in their journeys from abuse to freedom.  The posters were then put on display in the women’s refuges and centre where the women met.

One of the participatory photography groups in London produced this poster of a path in a local park – leading to the blue sky and sunshine ahead.  The original image was then made into a mosaic of hundreds of their photographs: the idea of combining everyone’s contribution into one image, and one strong message:

There is always a way ahead

© Image by women who have relocated due to domestic abuse – from the research project “Women on the move: the journeyscapes of domestic violence”.  For further details see: https://www.womensjourneyscapes.net

Transport yourself to a better place

Women’s experiences and voices are vital in this research – their understandings and insights into their journeys. 

As part of the project, participatory photography was carried out with groups of women in three areas of London: two groups in women’s refuges where women would soon be on the move again, and one at a women’s centre with women who were beginning to resettle. 

Over weekly sessions, participants used their photography and captions to communicate their experiences, producing images, maps and collages for themselves, for the group, for display in women’s services, and for wider presentation through the research.

Transport yourself to a better place © Amy/Cordelia/Daisy/Marilyn/Solace Women’s Aid/Janet Bowstead

In this poster, women took the slogan from a London bus as a metaphor for their own journeys from abuse to freedom.  As a mixture of London-born women, and women who had come to London, they took many photographs of their journeys around London on public and private transport, documenting their growing confidence and familiarity with different routes. 

Within the groups they also shared knowledge of places and journeys – taking photographs and developing maps of useful locations and services for other women they imagined coming after them.  Whilst recognising what they had lost, women also focused on what they could take with them, and on sharing messages of strength and hope to reach other women they imagined making similar forced journeys.  Captions to the photographs included “There is always a ‘Way Out’!” and emphasising in the image of traffic lights that “all the lights are green!”  Through the groupwork, women explored their experiences of displacement and resettlement, and brought their individual images together into collages to show their collaboration.

More images from the groups are in a recently published book chapter – the book will be launched at a free online event on Wednesday 23rd June 2021 at 4pm (BST)[1]

Some of the posters were also part of an online exhibition at the Im/mobile Lives in Turbulent Times conference:


[1] http://itd.territorial-identity.ro/evenimente/

London’s Churning, London’s Churning

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[1] – 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[2] 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.


[1] https://www.bright-sky.org.uk/

[2] 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

Who does what to whom?

There are many kinds of evidence and information that help us decide how to respond to domestic violence: how to prevent abuse – and the kinds of services to tackle perpetrators and support and empower survivors.

One important part of the evidence is the data that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reports in November each year[1].  It often forms the basis of media articles around this time[2].

And it is around this time of year because of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November)[3] – because domestic violence is predominantly gender-based violence – predominantly violence against women by men.

So it is vital in all our responses to domestic violence that we are clear about who does what to whom.

But here the data collection in England and Wales lets us down – Police Forces are still failing to produce the most basic data on whether victims and perpetrators are male or female.

If these are the data being used to make decisions on the seriousness of the issue and what should be done to tackle it, what does it say about priorities that only 28 out of 43 regional Police Forces in England and Wales can report the sex of the victim and the perpetrator[4]?

Police Forces producing adequate data in 2018 (coloured blue)


Police Forces producing adequate data in 2019 (coloured blue)

At this rate it will still be years until England and Wales has just the very basic evidence of “who does what to whom” in terms of domestic abuse reported to the Police.

[1]https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwalesoverview/november2019

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/nov/25/domestic-abuse-charges-fall-despite-rise-in-recorded-crimes

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-7725361/Domestic-abuse-cases-rose-quarter-2018.html

[3] https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/take-action/16-days-of-activism

[4] A rise from 24 in 2018 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018  – but it is different Police Forces producing adequate data, with some which produced adequate data in 2018 failing to do so in 2019.

The churn of thousands of journeys

Most local authorities have around the same number of women arriving to access services because of domestic violence as the number of women who leave their area due to the abuse[1].  Authorities may not realise this, of course, as women (and their children) leave secretly – to reduce the risk from the abuser, they don’t tell the authorities when they leave, or where they are going.

Local authorities who provide domestic violence services – especially refuges or specialist accommodation services – tend to imagine a flow of women and children into their area from elsewhere.  They know nothing about their local women who escape violence and abuse by crossing boundaries – the women who leave.

It is only because of the service data for the whole of England (up to 2011) that we can see the wider picture[2].  And that is still only the picture of women and children who went to those particular types of housing services.

It is a striking picture – no strong flows between local authorities.  Not even strong flows into major cities, or along key public transport routes.

Animation to focus in on one year of women’s domestic violence journeys to services

It is a pattern of thousands of very individual journeys – including journeys from every single local authority in England.  It is a total churn of displacement – journeys probably far more complex than the straight lines on the map.  But even a flow map of one year of journeys[3] gives a sense of the disruption and upheaval for women and children seeking safety across the country.


[1] Bowstead, Janet C. 2015. “Forced Migration in the United Kingdom: Women’s Journeys to Escape Domestic Violence.” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 40 (3): 307–320. doi:10.1111/tran.12085.

[2] Department 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>

[3] https://vimeo.com/369289835

Invisible women

The latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) report on Domestic Abuse[1] uses a wide range of data sources to bring together the evidence on prevalence, on incidence, on accessing services.  As the report acknowledges – it raises many questions, and highlights many gaps in the evidence.

For the section on prevalence – on the numbers of the population of England and Wales who experience domestic abuse – the report relies on the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).  It focuses on the number of adults who experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2018.

But who is invisible in this evidence?

Anyone who is on the move or in temporary accommodation due to domestic abuse.

The Crime Survey is a survey – only asked of adults in “households”.

So women on the move (and it is mostly women), including women in domestic abuse refuges – the women most directly and acutely affected by domestic abuse in the past year – have no chance of being asked the Crime Survey questions.  They have no chance of being counted in this measure of domestic abuse prevalence.

This is briefly acknowledged in a note on page 11 of the report – but it’s a major gap – it could be made a lot clearer.  The prevalence figures from the Crime Survey are presented as the top “Headline figure” at the start of the report, with no mention of the problem of the invisible women on the move.

Maybe it would be better to estimate lifetime prevalence from the survey – rather than just the past 12 months.  But we know that women and their children can end up on the move or in temporary accommodation for years due to domestic abuse – so survey data are always going to have important gaps.

The key question here is to be aware that the main method for estimating the number of people experiencing domestic abuse automatically excludes those most acutely affected – tens of thousands of women and children on the move.

 

[1] https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/bulletins/domesticabuseinenglandandwales/yearendingmarch2018

What about the men?

Domestic violence and abuse is often very hidden, and people frequently ask for more evidence on the needs of women and children – and the needs of men.

Men do experience domestic abuse, but we have evidence of very different rates of abuse for men and women – and that men have different needs.

Administrative data collected by housing-related support services[1] show:

  • Men seek support on a wide range of issues at an equal rate to women.  But where domestic violence is the issue, men are a tiny minority – only 3.1%:

All support needs – men and women

 

 

 

 

 

Domestic violence support needs – men and women

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Men are equally likely as women to self-refer to services – to seek help themselves when they experience domestic abuse – but more likely than women to be referred by statutory agencies such as Housing and Criminal Justice.  In contrast, women are more likely to be referred by voluntary agencies.

 

  • Needs are also different, with men less likely to have children with them, and more likely to have stayed put or stayed local when they seek help.

Accompanied by children – men and women

Relocation and distance travelled – men and women

This kind of evidence can help people make the best decisions about support services – that the vast majority of domestic violence services should be provided for women – often accompanied by children – and that men’s needs are different as they are more likely to be staying put and staying local when they seek support.

[1] Department 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>