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Women speak out about experiences of domestic violence and abuse to help others

6 July 2017

A new resource designed to support women experiencing domestic violence and abuse has been launched on the HealthTalk charity website today. The resource, developed by researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Oxford with funding from the NIHR Research for Patient Benefit Programme, includes over 30 video- and audio-recorded interviews with women who describe a range of abuse, including physical, emotional, financial and sexual abuse, and coercive and controlling behaviour, which became a criminal offence in 2015.

The women’s accounts reveal that domestic abuse is not just about being ‘battered’ but can be about being subjected to coercive and controlling behaviour, such as threats of harm to the woman or other members of the family, if she does not comply with her partner’s demands. Women stressed the importance of making safety plans when preparing to leave an abusive relationship.

Dr Emma Williamson, Head of the Centre for Gender & Violence Research, School for Policy Studies, who co-led the project, said:

“Personal stories open a ‘window’ into real-life experiences, providing insight to others. We are extremely grateful to the women who chose to speak out about their experiences of domestic violence and abuse. Although speaking about these experiences can be difficult, the women wanted to help others in similar situations and to let friends, family and professionals know how best to help if they think a woman is being abused.”

Professor Gene Feder, a GP who leads domestic violence research at the Centre for Academic Primary Care said:

“Domestic violence and abuse can happen to anyone. We hope that this resource helps women and those who are concerned about them to recognise this and find the right help and support.”

The interviews are with women aged between 20 and 62 years from a range of cultural backgrounds, including some first-generation migrants. They had experienced between one and 33 years in an abusive relationship, 11 years on average. Half of them had experienced abuse from more than one person, either previous partners or a family member, sometimes in childhood. Most of the women were free of abuse at the time of their interview and they talked about how they got help and, over time, took back control of their lives from their abusive partners.

Dr Williamson added:

“The safety of the women who took part in the interviews and those who use the website for information, advice and support is our top priority. For their own safety, three women who took part decided not to include their interviews on the website, and many others preferred to remain anonymous, so some of their words are read by actors and some are in audio rather than video format. For those using the website, we have protections in place, including the ability to quickly exit the site and cover your tracks online at one click.”

The website also contains information on other resources and support available to women. It is hoped that, as well as being used by women, their friends and families, it will be used by health and other professionals, such as GPs, counsellors and therapists, and the police, to help them identify, support and refer women experiencing domestic violence and abuse to appropriate services.

Domestic violence can be experienced or perpetrated by men, women or transgender people in straight, gay or lesbian relationships. Globally, direct experience of being subjected to domestic violence is greater among women than among men. In the UK, 27 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men have experienced some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime.

Domestic violence support

For help and support on domestic violence, these services provide free helplines:

  • National Domestic Violence 24 hr Helpline for women experiencing abuse: 0808 2000 247
  • Men’s Advice Line for men experiencing abuse: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 801 0327
  • National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0800 999 5428
  • RESPECT Phoneline: Confidential helpline offering advice, information and support to help men stop being violent and abusive to partners. Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 802 4040
Women speak out about experiences of domestic violence and abuse to help others
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