Dr. Sara A Morgan is an NIHR CLAHRC Research Fellow in Public Health – based at Southampton General Hospital
What’s the problem?
Official crime figures from 2013/14 show that 8% of women and 4% of men have experienced domestic violence within the previous year. In the past there has understandably been a strong focus on supporting these victims, but later there was a move to tackle the root cause, involving community programmes aimed at the perpetrators of domestic violence.
“I think there’s always been just the priority being the victim and there’s a lot of sense behind that because obviously those people need to be protected but, unless we actually deal with the source of the problem which is the perpetrator, we’re never going to stop that victim cycle.”
(Interview with stakeholder)
In Hampshire the Domestic Abuse Prevention Partnership (DAPP) aimed to bridge gaps for specialist services in domestic abuse, by providing an approach that integrated: robust information sharing system on perpetrators, engagement with frontline services, risk management for perpetrators with wider health and social needs, an integrated victim safety service, and a targeted behavioural programme for all perpetrators.
How did I get involved?
As a social epidemiologist and applied health researcher, I have a special interest in the health of vulnerable populations, particularly around the “toxic trio” of domestic abuse, substance misuse and mental health. Initially we heard about the DAPP through our community partners, who were keen to improve the evidence-base around perpetrator programmes.
Over the course of two years we gathered information through a combination of face-to-face interviews, focus groups and routine data. We interviewed over 30 participants (including victims, perpetrators and professionals) and collected data on over 300 individuals identified through the DAPP. Essentially we aimed to understand how the DAPP worked in practice and how it brought about change.
What did we find?
During this time, 80 individuals completed the main behavioural programme offered through the DAPP. Of these clients, the majority had been referred by Children’s Services. Whilst relationships with children were a common motivation for joining the programme, some spoke about the impact of the Children’s modules delivered through the programme.
“I’ve never seen him cry or anything. After one session at the course he came home, he apologised to my older daughter. I think it was the child thing that they had to do and pretend like they were in darkness and asleep and people shouting, just put themselves in the child’s point of view, if you know what I mean? I think that really done him in and made him realise and he come home and he was in tears and he apologised, like I say, to my older daughter and he’s apologised to me a million times. Yes, I think it’s a great eye-opener, I think it’s a wonderful course.”
However following initial assessment with the Hampton Trust, a high number of individuals failed to join the programme, which may be attributed to the long waiting lists reported by clients. Amongst those who completed the programme, there was also under-representation from 18-24 year olds.
Of those who did complete, however, many experienced positive changes in both emotional behaviours and physical behaviours which were also supported by examples from the victim perspective. Such change was also attributed to both the length and content of the group programme.
“I mean, the way it was facilitated, if you would bring something up, you would be questioned on it. You would be sat in this room and you would think, well, hold on a minute, and then you would start questioning yourself. Then you would start questioning it as you go home, and then as things progress along, you just realise that almost every little thing you can do, that you think, as they’ve said previously, you think is normal behaviour, is actually not.”
(Client, Focus Group Discussion)
So far the work has been shared with the Commissioners at Hampshire County Council and Hampshire Police, informing their new tender for perpetrator services. In the future, we hope to disseminate our findings more widely, adding to the scant literature on perpetrator programmes. We also aim to collaborate further with our community partners to understand how the next service delivery is working, and particularly how to engage young adults.
Read Sara’s report – DAPP evaluation – S Morgan, J Parkes
Contact Sara by email