We’re halfway through a new programme to train medics and other staff at Russells Hall Hospital to help them recognise and act on domestic abuse.
It’s a new partnership built on long-standing relationships between our own Karen Turnock and the safeguarding team at Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust.
Karen is clear about why it helps to sharpen knowledge in the team. It will make it easier for them to spot domestic abuse, think of ways to offer people the chance to say they are being abused and then have a clear way to act to help them. Above all though: “this saves lives”.
“So many professionals don’t recognise what constitutes domestic abuse and we find many common misconceptions:
- That it doesn’t just happen to young people, this can happen at all agesAbuse is only physical violence. It is also control and coercive patterns of behaviour, that reduce someone’s free will and their ability to make their own mind up.
- If you’re being abused you’d just leave. It is very difficult to leave, the abuse doesn’t stop when someone walks out of the door, it affects someone’s whole way of life and can stay with them for many years.”
“At the point where someone does tell you – that’s very dangerous and organisations need to think about how they deal with that and what they do” This training supports the trust to do that. “In fact, it’s at the point of disclosure that they are at greater risk and more homicides happen when someone has left that during the relationship.”
Domestic abuse and medical problems
Our experience at CHADD through our refuge work and domestic abuse outreach work also tells us that so many medical problems could have domestic abuse as a root cause.
“Everything else sits on top of that,” explains Karen. “We’re learning that the whole hospital needs to learn to recognise domestic abuse. It’s not enough just to worry about a broken bone or a bruise, other health issues show up. Anxiety, depressions, self-harm, suicide attempts and even the long term impact of constant stress on the body and the immune system.”
And this also matters to the staff. Across the entire NHS we calculated that more than 50,000 NHS staff will have experienced domestic abuse in the last 12 months.
A chance to think and reflect
The training is for all staff, consultants, nurses, managers all learning alongside each other. It deliberately gives them time to talk and think and reflect, to explore their own understanding and misunderstandings. The training also appreciates that for some this will be part of their experience or their past.
And the training helps them ask routine questions which can give people the opportunity to start sharing the position they are in.
This is our business
We’ve known for a long time that supporting survivors of domestic abuse involves all agencies. For CHADD we want to do more than provide refuge, we want to intervene as early as possible. Spreading skills through the health service is part of that mission.
“This is CHADDS business because it’s early intervention, it helps safeguard people and it can improve a person’s options. We want all professionals to be as aware as they can. No one agency can be responsible for reducing domestic violence, no one agency is accountable for families.” says Karen. And “It saves lives”.
If you think we can help your organisation better understand domestic abuse please contact Karen.