2 June 2014
Solace launches new research demonstrating the long term impact of domestic violence
Today Solace Women’s Aid has launched the findings of a 3 year research project, Finding the Costs of Freedom, that examines how women and children rebuild their lives after domestic violence. Conducted in partnership with the Child and Woman Abuse Studies Unit (CWASU), this is the first longitudinal study of it’s kind in Europe.
Tracking 100 women who had accessed one or more of Solace Women’s Aid services, the research identified that for all of the participants, removing themselves from the immediate control of an abusive man was only the first step. Over 90% experienced post-separation abuse, indicating the critical need for specialist support for women in the period after leaving an abusive situation.
Professor Liz Kelly, Director of CWASU, said: “That 90% of the sample experienced post separation abuse shows that leaving violent men does not make women and children safe. Specialist support and the women’s own ongoing safety work was more effective here than interventions of statutory agencies.”
Women faced a series of barriers in accessing the resources to rebuild their lives and quality support from statutory agencies, including; protection from further abuse, housing, employment, financial support, divorce and safe child contact. These were exacerbated by changes to the legal and policy context over the course of the research.
The study highlighted that the specialist and holistic service provision at Solace Women’s Aid was critical to women being and feeling safe, as well as dealing with the legacies of abuse for themselves and their children through counselling and therapeutic support.
One of the participants in the research study said “I don’t know what I would have done without them [Solace]…they were really helpful. They were so good, never judged, never made you feel bad…just supported.”
Mary Mason, Chief Executive of Solace Women’s Aid, said “The research demonstrates that services which focus on short term risk reduction and time-limited provision is insufficient to support survivors rebuilding their lives after abuse.”
“This study provides a crucial evidence base, demonstrating the necessity to invest in the long term needs of women and children so that they can thrive in safety and freedom from abuse.”
Key recommendations that have emerged from the research include:
1. All women and children who have experienced domestic violence should be able to access a range of practical and therapeutic support for a minimum of two years after separation from their abusers.
2. All agencies dealing with victims of domestic violence should ensure staff are trained to recognise domestic violence and have an understanding of coercive control and the reality that leaving does not necessarily end abuse.
3. Refuge provision should be guaranteed and funded through a national refuge fund with a move on pathway. Women and children made homeless through domestic violence should be acknowledged as a unique group fleeing crimes that take place in the home. This should be recognised through special measures, including the offer of a social housing tenancy.
4. The end of crisis loans and community care grants has made the rebuilding process even more complex, and welfare benefit reforms have created serious hardship. A specific fund for families relocating due to domestic violence should be created by central government.
5. Community resources and individuals hold the potential to be enablers or barriers to women rebuilding their lives. National and local awareness raising work needs to expand understanding of what domestic violence is, including post-separation abuse, alongside clear messages about listening to and respecting survivors and offering support when needed.
As one of the research participants said, “I think there should be more Solaces…and there should be more training for the external world out there.”