Not enough focus on perpetrators in domestic abuse cases, inspectors say

A report has warned domestic abuse is a 'public health issue' and professionals aren't focusing enough on perpetrators

Picture: Bits-and-splits/Fotolia

Social services and partner agencies are not focusing enough on the perpetrators in domestic abuse cases, inspectors have said.

A report published today said services focused on separating families from perpetrators, but they  could move on to another family and repeat the pattern of abuse.

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“Professionals did not always recognise that, though not always, separation could escalate risk,” the report by Ofsted, the Care Quality Commission, and the probation and police inspectorates said. The report was written following a six multiagency inspections on the topic of domestic abuse carried out since September 2016.

“For many victims and their children, violence can increase and escalate when the relationship ends. Some victims suffer persistent post-separation violence over long periods of time. Those perpetrators who go on to kill their victims are most likely to do so at the point of separation,” inspectors found.

Even in the best cases there was a “lack of accountability or responsibility attributed to the perpetrator”, the report said.

‘Public health issue’

More broadly, inspectors said professionals were making good progress in dealing with immediate crises, but there needed to be a long-term strategy to reduce the prevalence of domestic abuse, which they viewed as a “widespread public health issue”.

More from Inform

Inform Children subscribers can find out more about how to work with perpetrators by reading this new guide, which explains how domestic violence perpetrator programmes work and when it’s appropriate to refer, and techniques to engage perpetrators.

They called for a national public service initiative to raise awareness of domestic abuse and violence.

“Agencies can be overwhelmed by the frequency of serious incidents, particularly higher risk ones. However, keeping children safe over time needs long-term solutions,” the report said.

“Accepted practice in tackling social problems is to prevent, protect and repair. While much good work is being done to protect children and victims, far too little is being done to prevent domestic abuse and repair the damage that it does.”

The report was critical of the widespread use of written agreements for domestic abuse cases in two local authorities, despite “no evidence that they are effective”.

“Given that the focus of written agreements is often not the perpetrator who is the source of the abuse and therefore the risk, it is unsurprising that they are ineffective,” the report said.

Prevention and repairing

Eleanor Schooling, Ofsted’s national director for social care, said the inspections revealed a lot of good work being done to protect victims of domestic violence, and emergency services were “particularly effective”.

“But we’re not so good when it comes to helping victims deal with the aftermath and get on with their lives. The justice system must play a role, but there is work to do to stop it happening in the first place,” Schooling said.

“It is a sad truth that the sheer scale of domestic abuse means that it can be all too easy for police, health professionals and social workers to focus on short term responses to incidents. But the best teams are able to see the bigger picture,” she added.

She called for a new approach to domestic abuse that focuses on prevention and repairing long-term damage to child victims.

Schooling told Community Care there was a “widespread deficit” of services for supporting families to repair from the effects of domestic abuse.

“Longer term, we don’t make decisions that help people to start to recover and repair from all of this,” Schooling said.

She said public service messages about how unacceptable domestic abuse is would support prevention, as there are perpetrators capable of changing their behaviour.

“There’s a whole spectrum of perpetrators and it would be quite good to get them early and stop them. There’s been some good stuff in schools about healthy relationships and what to expect from your boyfriend, girlfriend.”

She also called for more evidence about what would work, as more supporting information for interventions would help support decision makers to fund and resource services.

Funding

Responding to the report, Alison Michalska, president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, said domestic abuse cases were the most common factor in cases where children were at risk of harm.

“Whilst this report recognises that much good work is being done by local authorities and their partners across the country, the terrifying scale of this issue means that agencies have had to focus virtually all of their available resources on protecting children and victims from the immediate risk of harm, rather than on prevention, at which point the damage to children and victims has already been done.

“Some councils have had to cut back on non-statutory services, as our funding reduces, which means that vital support services for victims of domestic abuse aren’t always available or accessible despite the clear need for these services,” Michalska said.

She added that there would not be a shift from towards prevention without “sufficient, sustainable funding from government”.

“A shift to a more systematic focus on prevention and changing perpetrator behaviours is long overdue and the government must lead this endeavour from the front as a matter of urgency.”

9 Responses to Not enough focus on perpetrators in domestic abuse cases, inspectors say

  1. katherine mccourt September 20, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    Domestic abuse & sexual abuse are looked at in family court not interested in looking to blame the perpetrator but to punish the victim by taking the children into care even when they have NOT seen or experienced Mum being hit evidently. The victims pathology is investigated despite the fact that ANYONE can be a victim even a Domestic Violence police officer can fall victim yet all the focus is on the victim, which means in their absence often the perpetrators are not held accountable but used to punish the family it has to stop.

    • d12258 September 23, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

      I completely agree! It seems that the female, very often, has the child removed from her and then has to go through supervised contact – whereas the male (often perp) goes onto having another family and comes back later and gets unsupervised contact!! You are right, the perps are not held accountable enough and absolutely anyone can be a victim. So sad

  2. Anita Singh September 20, 2017 at 10:23 pm #

    I have dealt with a number of cases where the facilitators of domestic abuse programs have reported the perpetrator’s very good progress, but been completely oblivious to the continued incidents of domestic abuse within the home or even been remotely aware that abuse and/or violence was being used to seriously compromise the mother’s ability to safeguard the children from both physical and sexual abuse. In one case the mother had called 999 at least six or seven times whilst the perpetrator had just recently completed a perpetrator program and had supposedly made good progress. The mother did not inform them of what was really happening, as she was too frightened. In that case the violence was used to obliterate her capacity to protect the children.

    In another case the eldest child of a group of siblings who were removed informed me that the DA prevention program that her father was meant to attend had made little difference. The YP informed me that the probation officer undertook a home visit to find out why the perpetrator had missed a couple of the latest sessions. Just prior to the P.O’s arrival, the father had poured petrol over the mother and threatened to set her alight. The probation officer was sat in the same room with her mother stinking of petrol, but the PO said and did nothing, accepted the flimsy reasons given for his non attendance and left the mother to continue to deal with the very real risk that existed to her life.

    When we talk about the need for families to repair the damage, I am wondering just exactly how children can repair the harm to them, when perpetrators remain in the same household whilst addressing abusive behaviour? Who makes the checks to find out just how much progress is really being made?

    Perpetrators should attend such programs whilst in separate accommodation and only when they can clearly evidence that they have addressed their abuse and really can show they have changed that consideration should be given to a gradual reintroduction into the family and only in cases where we know there has not been any physical or sexual abuse or neglect of children associated with the DV. However, children cannot be treated as guinea pigs, where we experiment with programs and wait for the necessary change, whilst we risk their safety and further harm from further domestic abuse or violence.

    • Nenna September 22, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

      Dear Anita Singh,

      Whilst I may never know who you are, I just want to say THANK YOU ever so much for your comment. It’s so insightful and contains so much truth. Especially what you say about children being “treated as guinea pigs” whilst society experiments with finding intervention/treatment programmes that work. I can tell you I KNOW what it feels like to be such a guinea pig, who has spent a lifetime so far trying to get help and support to deal with abuse, but who was just left to deal with it alone. Perpetrators of abuse are astute at knowing just what to say, and how to behave, when they need to impress upon someone that they are a “nice person”. They are truly astounding when it comes to their ability to hoodwink services (e.g. police, probation, mental health) into believing that they are innocent, fine upstanding citizens, and will even lie openly to services by telling them that they are adhering to treatment programmes when actually they are not.

    • d12258 September 23, 2017 at 8:20 pm #

      It is just a personal view – but such ingrained and embedded behaviour of violent physical abuse, is something that a ‘programme’ often cannot repair over a period of 6-8 weeks! If you look into the history of a perp, they will have smashed doors, kicked at cars, when they were kids at home – they may have witnessed DV and then there is the ‘chauvinistic’ view of how a ‘real man’ should treat his ‘woman’ – yes it still exists!! This is something that takes years, if ever to see change -it’s in the same vein as alcoholics – which often fuel DV and go hand in hand. I am speaking as a victim of DV, with a partner who continued and some 20 years after I left him – hasn’t changed – and yes he went on the course!!

  3. Jo September 21, 2017 at 3:35 pm #

    As an Early Help Social Worker based in a primary school in a deprived coastal town, I see so many families where domestic abuse is an issue.
    Currently, I am supporting a family in conjunction with the Local Authority, where the children are protected by a child protection plan. Their mum is in a new relationship with a self confessed abuser, who has a criminal history of domestic violence. He is asking to attend a programme which will help him to understand his behaviour in the past and help him not to re-offend.
    So,we have an ex perp who wants to change and the only programme we can find him is at least one and half hours drive away across the county and is a 27 week programme which has already started, so he would have to wait for the next intake anyway and it will only be viable if he can afford the travel costs and also get the time off work that it will require over 27 weeks.
    I totally agree that domestic abuse and domestic violence are a public health problem and I see the fallout of this in the impact on the child’s development, the prevalence of mental health issues in the (usually female) victims and the effect this has on parenting; we often see learned behaviour in the children when they replicate violent and abusive behaviour towards their peers and sometimes the adults that care for them, including staff. When and how can this cycle be broken?
    Why is it so hard to find programmes for such men (or women) who perpetrate domestic violence and abuse?
    Why also, do we not place more emphasis early on, and throughout high school, what an unhealthy relationship looks and feels like, by delivering education aimed at preventing domestic abuse?
    Furthermore, why is it that every single family I have worked with (which is a lot over the last 6 years in my current post), the victims are the ones that have to move out of the area, disrupting the children’s schooling and all that is familiar to them, often away from their families and support network? Why is the perpetrator not the one who should have to move out of the area and start their life over again?
    Yes, Domestic Abuse is a public health problem and I think the whole issue needs to be remapped holistically, with a multi agency approach – listen to those of us that work on the ground with these families, listen to the families themselves and look at changing the law to protect the victims more, but also, look at the causes of domestic violence and prioritise early education but also, more immediately please provide programmes for perpetrators so that they can start to work out their behaviour and change it and break the cycle.

    • Nenna September 22, 2017 at 5:30 pm #

      Dear Jo,

      I am addressing this directly to you, as I did my reply to Anita Singh (above) because the comment you have made is so perceptive, insightful and thus important. First of all, allow me to say that I think it very brave of you for speaking out in this manner. I too, did the same in the past, and it lead to me getting bullied at work. WHY is it that when staff try to ask questions that they hope will lead to improvements in services, or ask questions about why some services are lacking/underfunded, or why services go wrong, these staff find themselves in trouble? Social Workers who raise awkward questions about service deficiencies or failings should be commended for doing this, because they are showing that they want things to improve. Without someone pointing out what is flawed or failing, how can improvements ever be made? I do NOT understand this “shoot the messenger” culture (i.e. punish the whistleblower culture) because it is the whistleblowers who are bringing to attention important areas that require improvement. True, acknowledging failings may be embarrassing at first, but it is something that NEEDS to occur, as it spurs change for the better.

      I have written a (sorry!) somewhat lengthy post below outlining what I personally feel about domestic violence and what could be addressed to make things better. You raise some extremely valid issues yourself, and I totally agree that the matter of domestic violence needs to be remapped, with a multi-agency approach. Fragmentation of services and input is rarely helpful, and perhaps the best way to address the problem of domestic violence is to pool the knowledge and resources that already exist amongst services so that they can better share and coordinate their expertise, this leading to a more holistic response. Perhaps, also, cross-disciplinary dialogue and research needs to take place, so that services work together right from the outset – consolidating their roles and knowledge-bases, but also making more effective inroads into addressing domestic violence in a truly multidisciplinary fashion.

      The sad thing, as I have pointed out, is that often the voices who speak most, and who speak with most understanding and knowledge, about domestic violence are the ones that get ignored. There still seems to be an awful lot of societal stigma surrounding the subject, making it difficult for both victims and perpetrators to truly be heard, and to have their needs addressed. After all, just WHO wants to be identified as either a victim, or a perpetrator, of domestic violence? The shameful nature of the subject alone renders it something that society would prefer not to talk about. Sadly, not talking often means making little progress. I mean, how do you address a problem that nobody wants to discuss?

    • d12258 September 23, 2017 at 8:24 pm #

      It needs to be seen as ‘socially unacceptable’ a bit like smoking – then change may happen!

  4. Nenna September 22, 2017 at 5:04 pm #

    There are a whole host of reasons why it is so difficult for victims of domestic violence – and also, other victims of abuse – to survive the aftermath and get on with their lives. There are also reasons as to why services may struggle to help them to do so.

    When we think about a functional, healthy family, we imagine this family to possess certain qualities. In such a family, there may well be a good network of support and mutual affection between members; good communication between members; unconditional love; trust; tolerance (i.e. family members do not interfere in each-other’s lives, or try to control or manipulate each-other); shared interests, and suchlike. A family like this may easily gel together, and acts in such a way as to maintain and strengthen bonds between its members. It is unlikely that members of such a family will display pathologies (e.g. personality disorder, alcoholism, severe learning disability), but where they do – or where a family member is otherwise seriously ill, disabled, or having difficulty – the family will pull together to help, support and comfort this individual. Such a family shows a high level of empathy.

    In families where there is domestic violence or some other form of abuse, it is likely that the above (healthy) patterns of behaviour and familial interactions are not in evidence. Many organizations that help deal with domestic violence talk of specific behaviours and traits that may be found in violent offenders and perpetrators of abuse, plus specific pathologies that they may have. These organizations (e.g. “Women’s Aid”, and “Refuge”) suggest that perpetrators frequently demonstrate traits and behaviours that include high levels of:

    Need to dominate
    Coercion and control
    Bullying
    Jealousy and envy
    Bitterness
    Intrusiveness, snooping, spying and stalking
    Possessiveness
    Paranoia
    Viewing the target of their aggression as a “thing” not a person

    The violent offender/abuser may also show pathologies such as:
    Personality disorder
    Narcissism
    Sociopathy
    Psychopathy

    Research by organizations like “Women’s Aid” and “Refuge” has also demonstrated that many perpetrators of domestic violence work through a so-called “cycle of abuse” (first described in 1979 by Lenore E. Walker) which tends to follow a particular pattern with several distinct phases:

    Phase One – the tension building stage is where the abuser starts fault-finding (sometimes deliberately) and throwing accusations at the victim. The abuser gets irritated and enraged. Communication breaks down, and the victim starts to feel guilty, intimidated and desperately wanting to pacify the abuser. The victim may attempt to concede or to apologize to the abuser (even if not guilty).

    Phase Two – this is the acting out stage, where the abuser is violent or aggressive towards the victim. Many types of abuse may take place within this phase, and could include verbal abuse (e.g. name calling, ridicule, taunts), physical abuse (e.g. hitting, smacking, slapping, putting hands round throat), sexual abuse, emotional abuse (e.g. flirting with partner’s best friend) and so forth.

    Phase Three – this is the reconciliation stage, where the abuser (who is now very likely to be aware that the act of abuse could land them in trouble) pretends to apologize and be sorry for the abuse. Some abusers promise it will never happen again. Much, if not all, of the apologizing is fake, and occurs in order to prevent the victim from going to the authorities. Some abusers may also seek in this phase to distract the victim, or to shift blame. They may blame the victim for provoking the abuse, deny it happened, minimize its severity, deny that events were as the victim says they were, or insist that the abuse is never spoken of again. It could be argued that during this stage, the abuser is regaining the control that they lost when they became violent. They are aware that the victim sees this as a loss of control, and are also fully aware of the consequences of their abuse (consequences they wish to avoid, by further manipulation of the victim).

    Phase Four – the calm before the storm phase. This is where the cycle of abuse is returning back to stage one to repeat itself all over again. During this stage things may appear to be good for the victim. The abuser may seem to be contrite, and may temporarily act really pleasant to the victim, sometimes even giving gifts. Promises that the abuser made to the victim during phase three may temporarily be kept during this phase (e.g. helping more with housework, allowing victim more privacy). The abuser acts like the abuse never happened. The victim desperately hopes that it will never happen again. However, matters frequently cycle back to stage one again.

    If we know that abusers and perpetrators of domestic violence often appear to act in similar ways, and share similar traits (as identified above) then it makes sense to consider the ways in which such behaviours and traits will be played out a) when the person is in a relationship with a victim, and b) when the abuser-victim relationship ends so the abuser has nobody to abuse. It may well be that abusers NEED to abuse, or that they LIKE abusing people. If this is true, then it makes sense to understand that an abuser will seek a constant supply of victims, or else one victim whom they can endlessly abuse. That is perhaps why the greatest risk for victims comes when they finally try to escape the abuser – the abuser does not want to lose their victim. Besides, if it is correct that abusers often have particular traits, it may be argued that said traits may drive, or contribute to, abusive behaviours. Where these traits are not modified over time (e.g. by a spell in prison for committing abuse), they are likely to contribute to an individual who repeatedly abuses. Added to this, it can be seen from the above cycle of abuse that many abusers are very good at making excuses for their abusive behaviour. They:

    Deny – e.g. father hits daughter, but then refuses to admit he ever did this.
    Rationalize – e.g. father admits he hit daughter, but tells her he only did so because she was annoying him.
    Minimize – e.g. father hits daughter, but tells her it wasn’t a hit, only a little tap.
    Change events – e.g. father hits daughter, but later says he did not, it was the daughter who hit him.

    The sad fact is that abusers can come across as extremely convincing, plausible and even pleasant to people outside their immediate family members. The old adage about what goes on behind closed doors rings very true. Abusers are adept at showing a different side to themselves in situations where they feel a need to make a good impression. Thus, they will do everything they can to hoodwink agencies, or individuals, who may be called in to resolve and abusive or domestic violence situation (which, incidentally, may often be the victim’s word against the abuser’s). Abusers may act very polite, controlled and appear to be “model citizens” when around members of the Police, Social Services, NHS, Civil Service and so forth. Indeed, as became clear in the case of Jimmy Saville, abusers will go to great lengths to prove that they are “perfect, upstanding citizens”. They may join things like the Freemasons or Rotary Club, become Scout or Guide leaders, join in with religious activities or community activities, make ostentatious public donations to charity, or do anything else to make themselves appear “whiter than white”. Furthermore, they will also operate a “smear campaign” against their victim(s), in order to make the victim(s) seem less credible. They may claim a victim is “mentally ill”, “naughty”, “rebellious”, “disloyal”, “a liar”, “unstable” – or any other term that implies the victim does not know what he/she is talking about. They may find ways to imply that the victim deserved the abuse – e.g. “I thought she was having an affair”, “it was punishment for bad behaviour”, “my wife is always nagging”, “he needed a wake-up-call to stop him going off the rails”…

    Maybe what Eleanor Schooling is describing is a situation in which services will obviously show a degree of competence when it comes to dealing with immediate crises – after all, if they are called out to tackle a husband who has just thumped his wife and given her a black eye, then the evidence is right in front of them. Where there is obvious evidence of abuse and/or the perpetrator is caught “red handed”, services are in a position to take action. The problem lies in the fact that much abuse that goes on is hidden, and perpetrators know how to abuse without leaving any visible signs. Services may be able to help people who are visibly showing signs of abuse, and who come to their attention – but what about those who don’t? Also, once an abusive situation Is supposed to be over (e.g. the victim has left the abuser) there seems to be an expectation that the abuser will never seek to return to the victim. Alas, this is far from correct. If you take the time to actually read up on abuse, and abusers, the fact is that many DO try to seek their original victims out again.

    It is this need of abusers to have victims that is important here. It is what perpetuates abuse and domestic violence. Abusers abuse, and unless some intervention takes place which irrevocably prevents them abusing again, there is always the risk that they will do so. In the main, current interventions DO NOT appear to prevent abuse in the long term. Perhaps because there is far too much focus on crisis-prevention, and little else. There are few, if any, interventions that recognize that some (perhaps many) abusers seek to abuse over and over again, and for this reason will either seek out past victims if nobody new is around to abuse, or else will move from victim to victim. If we consider that abuse and domestic violence are about power, control, manipulation and domination, the abuser seeks these things and is unlikely to want to give them up once they have them. Thus, victims ARE most at risk if and when they seek to leave an abuser. Sadly, this also suggests that MOST AT RISK are CHILDREN because they are obliged to live at home with their parents legally until at least sixteen. Thus, it is nigh impossible for children to escape abusive home situations, and they are totally dependent on the assistance of services to get them out of such dire circumstances.

    Focussing on prevention is vitally important, because by the time a crisis intervention has taken place it is already too late – abuse has occurred. Once people are already living with the trauma of having experienced abuse or domestic violence, it is extremely hard to repair the damage – after all, we CANNOT turn the clock back. So, why allow matters to get to a point where it happens in the first place? In cases of domestic violence and abuse, there may have been signs along the way to suggest that something was amiss in a family – signs that services could have acted upon to ensure that the situation did not escalate. These signs may appear innocuous, or easy-to-miss; and they may not immediately seem associated with domestic violence or abuse; but it may be that if they were looked into, a pattern of abuse or other warning signs could emerge. For instance, obvious acts of abuse and domestic violence may stay hidden in a family, but there could be other telltale warning signs for services to look into, such as:

    1. A family member’s behaviour changes drastically (especially if this is a child) – they become withdrawn, fearful, anxious, stressed, or conversely they become rebellious, risk-taking or behave in an apparently irresponsible way. These may be signs that a person is being abused and is acting out as a result. Onlookers may see such changes in a person evidenced at school, at social events, at University, or at work.

    2. A family member is not allowed to live their own life – this can often occur in domestic violence and is symptomatic of coercive control. An abuser may try to tell a victim what to do, and how to behave. The victim may be prevented from dressing how they like, having their own choice of friends, having their own possessions, managing their own finances, getting an education, or working.

    3. A family member is being stalked by another family member, or by several family members – again this is coercive control. The abuser may constantly try to check up on the victim’s activities by listening in on telephone calls, opening and reading their personal mail, entering their room without permission, refusing privacy, reading personal things like diaries, hacking mobile telephones, tracking internet usage, following them in the car… An abuser may also use other family members, or friends, to check up on the victim. The abuser may ask family members to report back on the victim’s activities, or may try to contact a victim’s workplace colleagues to get information about what a victim is up to. Friends of a victim may be approached by an abuser, who will try to tap them for information.

    4. A family member shows signs of distress by repeatedly trying to contact services like the Police, Citizens Advice, Social Services, Samaritans, Relate, etc. Even if the victim does not get a chance to talk directly about the abuse, or finds it hard to talk about, the very fact that the victim is constantly trying to contact services to ask for assistance suggests that this is a person living in a difficult, and possibly abusive, situation. Victims may contact services in fear or desperation, not even knowing what help a service can offer. They may contact the wrong services, or go through a trial and error pattern of contacting several services in an attempt to find someone who can provide the correct assistance. Where a victim contacts a service who cannot help, they should immediately relay the victim to a service that can, and this service should instantly assist the victim. AS SOON AS A PROPSECTIVE VICTIM CONTACTS ANY SERVICE THIS SHOULD BE ACTED UPON AND TAKEN VERY SERIOUSLY OTHERWISE THE SERVICES THEMSELVES ARE LEAVING THE VICTIM AT RISK.

    5. A family member ends up having Counselling or Therapy for problems that, when discussed, do NOT appear solely to be their problems. For example, a victim of domestic violence may end up getting referred to Counselling because of so-called “anxiety” or “stress”. The root causes of such issues should ALWAYS be sought and identified. If a person in Counselling or Therapy even so much as suggests that another family member is abusive or violent towards them, this should ALWAYS BE IMMEDIATELY AND FULLY INVESTIGATED WITH PERMISSION OF THE VICTIM. Counsellors and Therapists should be trained in how to deal with victims of abuse and domestic violence, and how to make timely and appropriate referrals to other services.

    Much more work needs to be done to understand perpetrators and what motivates them. It is essential to understand the impact upon domestic violence and abuse of such environmental factors as poverty, unemployment, housing problems, low educational attainment, or teenage pregnancy. Issues such as these can place individuals in uncomfortable situations which may breed resentment (e.g. a teen mother may resent having her baby, or an unemployed father may resent having to still be head of the household), and may lead to people taking out their frustration and resentment via acts of abuse towards others. It is also essential to understand whether certain pathologies, or certain traits, in either the abuser or the victim, are more likely to lead to domestic violence and abuse. For example, are abusers more likely to show such traits as jealousy, narcissism, lack of inhibition, need always to control others, need always to be right? Are abusers more likely to be personality disordered, psychopathic, or to show signs of drug or alcohol misuse? In looking at these factors, abusers can be PROFILED to see what traits are most likely to stand out, and are thus most likely to be associated with abuse.

    Similarly, victims can be profiled. Are victims more likely to be submissive, or very sensitive by nature? Are they of the people-pleasing type who like to try to keep other people happy? Are victims more tolerant and accepting in nature, and perhaps therefore are more likely to put up with abuse? Are victims always low in self-esteem, and thus make easy targets for bullies – or, is their self-esteem only lowered as a result of abuse? Do some women who marry abusers have a sort of “bad boy” fantasy in which they always fall for rough, tough sorts of men, hoping that these men represent “rough diamonds” for the woman to “polish”? Are some women attracted to abusers because at first abusers may seem charismatic, strong, macho? Are victims of abuse more likely to be chosen because of a perceived, or real, weakness – such as disability (physical or mental), being old and frail, being a little dependent child, being a woman who is physically smaller than her male partner? If so, do abusers deliberately look for such weaknesses to exploit in victims, knowing that they make a victim more vulnerable?

    There is an already existing body of literature that services can make use of in order to better understand domestic violence, victims and perpetrators. Much of this literature already addresses issues such as the impact upon children, victim and perpetrator profiling, and interventions to address the issues of perpetrators, and this literature goes back YEARS, so this is nothing new! What needs to happen is for this literature to finally be pulled together, so that the findings of different surveys can be analysed alongside each-other in order to better gain a full picture of what goes on in domestic violence. We need to take a really comprehensive, holistic approach, looking at all manner of factors. Just as there are a huge variety of issues that can affect humans, there are a huge variety of issues involved in domestic violence and abuse. We need to understand whether the backgrounds and upbringings of abusers or victims have significance. We need to understand whether ex-military personnel (especially if suffering PTSD and/or having trouble adjusting to civilian life) are more likely to become abusers or victims. We need to look at abuser mental health, to understand if abusers are more likely to be personality disordered, narcissistic or sociopathic. We need to understand the role of triggers such as drugs and alcohol. We need to understand the function of children in domestic violence and abuse scenarios – are they more likely to put strain on a bad marriage? Does having a disabled, sickly or stillborn/miscarried child raise the risk that a parental relationship becomes fraught and abusive? Can children themselves become scapegoats for parental ill-feeling and thus get targeted for abuse? We need to look at wider family dynamics… Can interfering family members or family friends cause domestic violence? For instance, can a nosy, demanding and domineering mother-in-law incite her son to abuse his wife? Can parents who force an arranged marriage also force an abusive marriage? Can arguments and rivalries in the wider family magnify problems between a couple where domestic violence occurs? Do extended family members take sides when they know domestic violence is occurring between their relatives, and thus make it worse? Or, could extended family provide an escape route and support network for victims? If family members get involved to help a victim, are they themselves then at risk of violence?

    There is just SO MUCH work that could be done to address the issue of domestic violence and abuse, but if the people who want to do this work are not supported to do it, little changes. Sometimes, a person may have extensive knowledge and very good ideas, or an unusually comprehensive understanding of a situation like domestic violence, but because what they say is controversial, novel or even scary – or it angers and threatens to expose perpetrators – people like this may be silenced, sometimes by whole communities. The sad thing is that often such people with this knowledge, which could incidentally turn out to be very useful and helpful, are victims who have finally found a voice. Other times, they are perpetrators who have finally come good. Society should listen to both victims and perpetrators of domestic violence who dare to speak out about their experiences. We should remember that it takes courage for a victim to come forward. Equally, it takes bravery, and a degree of remorse, for a one-time perpetrator to come forwards to speak about domestic violence. Society needs to know that, ironically, the voices of past victims and perpetrators may be the solution.