Having worked in the voluntary sector for two decades, I have seen first hand the hurt, heartache and repercussions suffered by victims of domestic abuse. The Hampton Trust believes that if we are ever going to put an end to these situations, we need to work with perpetrators to challenge and change their behaviour and stop more people becoming victims of domestic abuse. This means changing our approach to funding and partnerships.
The traditional response to domestic abuse has always focused on the victim, removing them from the situation and protecting them. Often, the perpetrator continues life as normal, free to commit more offences and hurt more victims.
Providing support for victims and their children is essential, and I am in awe of the work my colleagues do with survivors, but on its own this will do nothing to end the cycle of domestic abuse. Statistics tell us that two women die each week as a result of domestic homicide, and yet fewer than 1 per cent of offenders are receiving specialist intervention to change.
The challenge the Hampton Trust and other organisations like ours face is that funding has historically been reserved for victim services because they save lives and can engage a wide audience.
However, perpetrator services also change lives by rehabilitating the perpetrator and preventing more people becoming victims. Importantly, if the perpetrator does not show signs of changing or if risk factors are increasing it provides opportunities for perpetrator services to implement robust safeguarding measures.
There are women’s charities that vehemently disagree with this approach, arguing that our often-limited resources should be reserved only for the victims who deserve them. But I believe that if we put our ideational differences aside, both camps of the domestic abuse response can work together in a more effective way that will truly save lives
In recent years, I have seen a positive change in the contracts available for charities working with local authorities and other public sector bodies. Local authorities, commissioners and grant funders are starting to believe that there is merit in investing in perpetrators and we are seeing an increasing number of authorities commissioning victim and perpetrator services on the same projects.
Over the past four years, the Hampton Trust has been putting this into practice by working alongside Aurora New Dawn to deliver the Domestic Abuse Prevention Partnership. Aurora New Dawn is a charity that offers safety, support, advocacy and empowerment to survivors of domestic abuse. This partnership has seen perpetrator and victim organisations join forces to deliver perpetrator interventions, engage in identification, tracking and disruption of serial and priority perpetrators, and deliver an integrated victim safety service.
DAPP has proved very successful and is continuing to develop a range of services targeting domestic abuse perpetrators. Aurora New Dawn has made a significant impact in identifying, tracking and sharing intelligence with police on thousands of serial and priority perpetrators. These individuals are defined as high-risk or with multiple victims, some as many as seven.
If people are identified who are willing to engage in a programme and change their behaviour, these will be referred to us at the trust. After the Hampton Trust’s intervention, we have seen positive changes in both emotional and physical behaviours among men, which is supported by examples of improved relationships with their children, both from the victim and client perspective.
This is a radical change and a huge step forward. It is about taking a step back, looking at the bigger picture and realising there is not a one-size-fits-all approach.
Charities across the sector can use their individual expertise and methods to work towards the same end goal – in this case, to protect victims. By working alongside victim services and commissioners, we can review what works and look at gaps in services. We can do more of what works, less of what doesn’t, and innovate where we see potential.
Chantal Hughes is chief executive of the Hampton Trust