It is important to point out here that an adult is classed as any person over the age of eighteen years old. Family members are said to include mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters or grandparents. It is also important to point out that using the term ‘family members’ does not only mean that those directly related are included in this definition of domestic violence, as in-laws or step-family members are also defined as being family members (Home Office, 2010).
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The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) also use this definition of domestic violence (ACPO, 2008). It is not uncommon, however, for various other agencies to have different definitions of domestic violence. This can prove to be a considerable problem when attempting to design and deliver services specifically aimed at tackling the problem of domestic violence (Humphries, Hester, Hague, Mullender, Abrahams and Lowe, 2000). This is a problem that will be considered in more depth in Chapter 4 when examining the implications of taking a multi-agency approach to tackling domestic violence.
The extent of the problem
According to the Home Office (2010):
‘Domestic violence accounts for 14% of all violent incidents’
‘One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute’
‘One in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime with women at a greater risk of repeat victimisation and serious injury’
‘Domestic violence currently claims the lives of around two women a week’
The definition of domestic violence given by the government states that domestic violence occurs “regardless of gender” (Home Office, 2010; ACPO, 2008). This would suggest that victims of domestic violence are equally likely to be male as they are female. However, whilst it is true that both men and women can be victims of domestic violence, statistics show that in most cases of domestic violence the victims are women. On top of this, the government follow the statistic ‘one in four women and one in six men will be a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime’ with ‘with women at a greater risk of repeat victimisation and serious injury’ (Home Office, 2010) but fail to point out that the former part of the statistic is based on ‘one-off’ events (Women’s Aid, 2010a). With women being at an increased chance of repeat victimisation, the gap between the extents to which women experience domestic violence compared to men is probably much wider than government statistics tell us. It is for this reason that the main focus throughout this piece of work is on violence against women. In addition to all of this, it is once again vital to stress that, given the hidden nature of domestic violence, it will always be difficult to know exactly how many people – men or women – are victimised in their lifetime because of domestic violence.
The nature of the problem
It is firstly extremely significant to point out domestic violence is rarely a ‘one-off’ event and, as mentioned previously, women are particularly likely to experience repeat victimisation (Home Office, 2010). Secondly, in every case of domestic violence power and control over the victim are remarkably evident. These points alone stress the fact that domestic violence is a devastating problem; however, by looking further into the nature of the abuse it is clear that this devastating problem is also awfully complicated.
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It would be fair to say that physical violence is the first thing that comes to mind when considering the type of abuse that a victim of domestic violence may suffer. However, by looking at the Government definition of domestic violence it becomes clear that most cases are much more complicated than this, as physical violence is just one element of domestic violence and domestic violence can occur with or without it. Other attributes of domestic violence, as stated in the Government definition, include threatening behaviour and/or ‘psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse’ (Home Office, 2010; ACPO, 2008).
The ‘Wheel of Violence’ (or sometimes referred to as the ‘Wheel of Power and Control’) reiterates this idea as it has been developed to show the different types of behaviour that constitute domestic violence (Women’s Aid, 2007) and all of these behaviours are based on power and control. The ‘Wheel of Violence’ suggests that there are eight different ways in which a perpetrator can gain power and control over their victim. These are: ‘using coercion and threats’, ‘using intimidation’, ‘using emotional abuse’, ‘using isolation’, ‘minimizing, denying and blaming’, ‘using children’, ‘using male privilege’ and ‘using economic abuse’. A ‘Wheel of Non-Violence’ (or sometimes referred to as the ‘Wheel of Equality’) has also been developed to show what a non-violent partnership looks like in comparison (Women’s Aid, 2007). This wheel is also made up of eight components which include negotiation and fairness, respect and trust and support. Both of these wheels have been developed by the ‘Duluth Domestic Abuse Intervention Project’ but are widely used by many agencies in the United Kingdom in an attempt to explain the nature of this complicated problem. During a three-day period of observing the work of the Sunflower Centre, a multi-agency support centre in Northampton, a copy of these wheels were provided and are included in Appendix 2.
The point that is trying to be conveyed here is that in every case of domestic violence devastating harm is caused to the victim and when considering just how many victims there are, it is clear that something needs to be done to tackle this huge and complicated problem. However, because of the complicated nature of this problem, it often ‘requires a response frequently involving more than one agency’ (Dominy & Radford, 1996: 43). This is why, before discussing any multi-agency initiatives that attempt to tackle violence against women, it is important to consider which agencies come into contact with victims of domestic violence, why they may come into contact with them and how they, as a single agency, attempt to tackle the problem.
Agencies concerned with tackling domestic violence
Gill Hague, Ellen Malos and Wendy Dear (1996: 23-28) give an insight into who the ‘major players’ are when it comes to dealing with domestic violence. They state that there are numerous agencies that come into contact with victims of domestic violence including those agencies ‘who specialise in the issue and those in which domestic violence work forms only a small percentage of their duties’ (Hague et al, 1996: 23). The agencies listed in the work of Hague, Malos and Dear is provided here, however, a variety of sources will be used to explain why these particular agencies regularly come into contact with victims of domestic violence and how they attempt to tackle the problem.
Women’s Aid and local women’s refuges
Women’s Aid are a core agency in attempting to tackle domestic violence as they are a national charity that specialise in violence against women. They work hard to help women who have suffered or are suffering violence in numerous ways. Firstly, they work hard to protect victims of domestic violence by ensuring that there are adequate laws, policies and practices in place for victims of domestic violence. Secondly, they try to prevent violence against women through their ongoing publicity campaigns and educational programmes and thirdly they provide numerous services for victims of domestic violence both locally (such as local refuges) and nationally (such as the National Domestic Violence Helpline). Women’s Aid help approximately 250,000 women and children every year (Women’s Aid, 2010b)
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