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Focus on perpetrators needed


domestic abuse, focus on perpetrators, inspectors' report, End Violence Against Women, The question is ‘Why doesn’t he stop?’

Women’s groups, campaigners and assorted sisters have welcomed the publication earlier this week of an authoritative, new joint inspectors’ report on domestic violence and children.

The report comes from the second part of a ‘joint targeted area inspections programme’ which brought together Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), HMI Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), and HMI Probation (HMIP) to ‘examine how well agencies are working together in a local area to help and protect children’.

The findings in the report, which has the title ‘The multi-agency response to children living with domestic abuse Prevent, protect and repair’, consider the extent to which, in the six local authorities inspected, children’s social care, health professionals, the police and probation officers were effective in safeguarding children who live with domestic abuse.

The report also calls for a national public service initiative to raise awareness of domestic abuse and violence and for a greater focus on perpetrators and better strategies for the prevention of domestic abuse.

As the report says, one stakeholder captured the problem women face as follows: the question that is still being asked is ‘why doesn’t she leave?’ – But the right question is ‘why doesn’t he stop?’

The implications of this mindset are far-reaching, the report points out, saying: ‘We saw some good work at a local level where partnerships had invested in work with schools and children to educate them about relationships and abuse.

‘But what was notable in its absence was a widespread public service message designed to shift behaviour on a large scale.

‘Domestic abuse has an enormous impact on the workload of professionals in all the sectors we inspect. Yet accessible interventions –at different levels of intensity –that are designed to reduce the number of perpetrators now and in the future are simply not part of the system.

Developing practices could be helpfully borrowed from parallel areas of work, it continues.

‘Having recently completed a JTAI [joint targeted area inspection] on child sexual exploitation, the contrast between the practices in this area and domestic abuse is stark.

‘Most practice in preventing child sexual exploitation is now intently focused on the perpetrators of this abuse.

‘Local areas build perpetrator profiles and they focus on disruption.

‘Where are the profiles of domestic abuse perpetrators?

‘We have heard there may be some disruption practice in some areas, but we did not see it in these inspections and it is not widespread.’

Remarking on the report, the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) said that the recognition that agencies need to focus on perpetrators was welcome, but there were still points to be dealt with.

Regarding perpetrators, EVAW said: ‘The inspectors’ key finding that while ‘crisis response’ is happening, there is less commitment to and investment in long-term prevention of abuse is extremely important.

‘Their observation that statutory agencies’ focus on immediate crisis leads them to reduce their attention to perpetrators is critical.

‘Tackling perpetrators, who are overwhelmingly adult men and usually repeat offenders, is the key to long-term prevention of domestic violence.

‘We welcome the report’s call for “a more systematic focus on perpetrators’ behaviour”.

‘There is a growing evidence base about what kinds of interventions actually work with perpetrators of domestic violence.

‘We need those who commission and fund this work, including national government and also police and crime commissioners, local authorities and others, to guarantee that they will invest in developing this evidence base and only support work which is safe and effective.

‘Such work puts women and children’s safety at the heart of the intervention and does not treat offenders in isolation as this report finds some public services doing (including probation and adult mental health). National standards for perpetrator work are available and should be made statutory.’

On specialist support services:

‘Independent women’s support services, who over more than four decades have developed holistic victim-centred support and who have profound understanding of the causation and dynamics of domestic violence, are the critical local partner in ensuring the best ‘systemic response’.

‘The failings described in this report, in particular the lack of awareness and training on coercive control among frontline workers, can be addressed by working collaboratively with women’s support services.

‘All those charged with following up on this report should ensure they are in touch with and making the most of relationships with the independent women’s support sector.’

On schools and systemic change across public services:

‘We warmly welcome the comments by Ofsted that schools are critical in the drive to end domestic violence and have a huge role to play, including detecting abuse and helping to develop attitudes and behaviours which foster equal and respectful intimate relationships.

‘The call for an awareness drive across public services is also extremely welcome.

‘The upcoming Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill is an opportunity to put some of what is needed in this area into law, and to create a Commissioner in this area who has real power and influence to help build the systemic change described.

And remarking on what the report said about gender inequality as a key driver of violence, EVAW said: ‘Finally, it is notable that the report acknowledges that domestic violence is very disproportionately experienced by women and committed by men, but that it does not reflect on gender inequality as a key driver of abuse or as being part of what children are experiencing when they ‘witness’ or are subjected to abuse.

‘Long-term efforts to end and prevent domestic violence, and all the other forms of violence that women and girls very disproportionately experience, need to be based on a perspective that sees and names and responds to gender inequality as a key cause – this includes perpetrator work which tackles some men’s sense of entitlement to control their partners, and preventative work with young people in schools that unpacks gender ‘rules’ about how men and women should behave.

‘This is never to say that men are not sometimes victims of domestic violence, but this fact does not make gender irrelevant.’

To read the full report, click here.

You can help the cause by passing it on to your MP and asking them what action they will be taking in support of the report’s conclusions – and when. Thanks.

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