“How important are informal supporters of women experiencing domestic violence?”: “Very” – a simple answer to a complicated question. The bottom line, in terms of statistics, is that if survivors disclose their situation to anyone, it will most likely be to informal supporters (friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues) rather than professionals.1 And this is true across the world, with research indicating that sometimes a disclosure to an informal supporter happens alongside a disclosure to a professional, but frequently this is not the case.2-5 In addition, it is not unusual for informal supporters to witness abusive behaviours, but commonly they are uncertain about what exactly it is that they are seeing, in particular, what it means, and what their role in the situation should be.6 ,7
Domestic violence is a violation of human rights with damaging social, economic and health consequences. It is any incident of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse. That abuse can be psychological, emotional, physical, sexual and financial.
The “domestic” element refers to abuse between people aged 16 or over who are, or have been, intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. Men, women or transgender people in straight, gay or lesbian relationships can perpetrate or experience it. So does this mean domestic violence is gender neutral? Is gender irrelevant to prevention efforts and to responding to survivors’ needs? We do not think so.
Seek the truth, not what is comfortable. Seek the real, not the easy.
— Gerald May
Talking about domestic violence and abuse can be uncomfortable. Avoiding talking about uncomfortable subjects keeps them hidden, fails to challenge injustice and arguably colludes with perpetration. We have a responsibility to shine a light into these dark corners.
In the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol we conduct research on improving the health care response to domestic violence and abuse. We have measured the prevalence and impact of domestic violence in patients in general practice and sexual health services; developed and rigorously tested training for doctors and nurses in general practice to ask about DVA and link patients disclosing abuse to specialist domestic violence advocates; run programmes … Read more