How important are informal supporters (friends, relatives, neighbours and colleagues) of women experiencing domestic violence?
PHE ePoster Library. Gregory A. 09/10/18; 221155; 273
Dr. Alison Gregory
Dr. Alison Gregory
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Abstract “Very important” - a simple answer to a complex question. If survivors disclose to anyone, it will be to informal supporters and, whilst they often witness abusive behaviours, informal supporters are usually uncertain about what it is they are seeing, and what their role should be.Why is this important? Survivors describe a spectrum of responses from informal supporters. When the responses are positive, they can buffer impacts on survivors' health, particularly their mental health including, depression, suicide attempts and PTSD, and can even be protective against further abuse. So, input from informal supporters matters, but they do not always 'get it right'. By systematically reviewing the literature, and conducting qualitative research with informal supporters and helpline staff, we now understand that tolls on informal supporters are multifaceted, intense, and frequently long-term, impacting on physical health, emotional wellbeing, and on relationships. Informal supporters also experience direct coercive control and physical violence. Most do not recognise the legitimacy of their own needs within the situation. Those who call specialist helplines are prompted by increased concerns, changes in circumstance, media storylines, and feeling overwhelmed by impacts they are experiencing. By adopting an informal supporter/community-oriented approach to domestic violence, reflecting more of the complexity around real-life situations, (e.g. a partnership campaign run in Bristol) we can help informal supporters to understand what they are noticing, why they might feel conflicted about taking action, and encourage their use of services to gain information and support, which will ultimately benefit both informal supporters and survivors. External funding details The author would like to acknowledge the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Primary Care Research, and the Elizabeth Blackwell Institute for funding this research.
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