The National Institute for Heath and Social Care Excellence this week recommended that health and social care staff should have more and better training around domestic violence. This is blindingly obvious and long overdue as health care professionals are often best placed to help victims who present at their most vulnerable. Over 2 million people experience domestic violence in England and Wales each year at a cost of approximately £20 billion.
Many clients however tell me that they have presented at A&E with a black eye or broken ribs and have not been asked how they sustained the injury. Most victims will tell if asked in the right way and we are failing them if we don’t intervene early on. Domestic violence is the biggest killer of women under 44 in the UK – more than cancer or road traffic accidents so it really is something that deserves the government’s attention.
It is essential that staff are trained to ask the right questions and that the victim is spoken to away from the person accompanying her who may well be the perpetrator. Victims should be given information about specialist agencies such as Women’s Aid or Paladin and ideally have access to an adviser there and then.
Health visitors in particular may be the only person outside the family allowed into the family home and are uniquely placed to pick up on signs in the home. 30% of domestic violence begins during pregnancy so it is vital that health professionals are trained to spot it and advise properly.
The NICE recommendations whilst welcome are futile unless the government back them up with funding for high quality training.
In addition to this it is important that a specific offence of domestic violence is created to allow perpetrators to be prosecuted and victims to get help in relation to psychological abuse in its own right and before it becomes physical. To be sent away by the police and told to return once you have been assaulted just isn’t good enough and why a new law is crucial if we are serious about tackling domestic violence.
Paladin – National Stalking Advocacy Service – www.paladinservice.co.uk
Women’s Aid – national charity working to end domestic violence against women and children – www.womensaid.org.uk
See Rachel Horman discussing these issue live on Sky News