Shining a spotlight on parents who have experienced domestic abuse

03 June 2019

SafeLivesAmy Hewitt

No one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and together – we can make it stop.

SafeLives are a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse, for good. We combine insight from services, survivors and statistics to support people to become safe, well and rebuild their lives. Since 2005, SafeLives has worked with organisations across the country to transform the response to domestic abuse, with over 60,000 people at highest risk of murder or serious harm now receiving co-ordinated support annually.

Our Spotlights series focuses on different groups that have experienced domestic abuse who may be 'hidden' from services, or face additional barriers to accessing support. Each Spotlight brings together insight from survivors, practitioners, academics and other experts, alongside our own data.

How Spotlights works

We run two series each year for approximately six weeks. Each series features various blogs, podcasts and webinars from professionals in each field – such as academics, organisations across the country and frontline workers.

Spotlights is available on our website, publishing new material throughout the series. We also use our Community platform to host webinars and encourage discussion. With over 1,000 members, the Community provides a space for professionals responding to domestic abuse to share articles, discuss issues and read/write blogs, as well as access free online learning modules and a directory.

We know that Spotlights is regularly speaking to people beyond our traditional audience and engaging them in new ways; we have had over 50,000 page hits since Spotlights launched in 2016 and our policy reports have been downloaded almost 1,300 times. We are excited to build on this success, bring more people to the conversation and to make domestic abuse everyone’s business. 

What’s next?

Our eighth Spotlight launched on 30 May 2019, and focuses on the experiences of survivors who are also parents. We know that often survivors receiving an intervention from Children’s Social Care feel that the abuse they have suffered is invisible within that space; that responses to their child(ren) are too separate from support for their own needs.

Therefore, the series will examine how we can improve collaboration between children’s social care and the domestic abuse sector, working towards a ‘whole system’ approach – rather than repeated, poorly sustained interventions with individual family members. Domestic abuse is never all of a person’s experience; those affected need the system to see and respond to everything that’s happening for the individual and family, from mental health to substance misuse to housing. Agencies working with the family must also respond to the perpetrator – holding them to account and challenging them to change their behavior.

One of the parents we worked with, who has experienced domestic abuse, said ‘No one understands what is happening for us as a family. We have eight different workers in our house but each one cares about something different.’ 

Since we started scoping for this series at the beginning of the year, we have been inundated with associates, academics, social workers, social work managers and colleagues who have all been passionate about this topic and keen to take part.

This series will feature: 

  • Webinars: including Stacey Stewart on mothers’ experiences of domestic abuse and Children’s Social Care, and Jodie Das on how we can turn multi-agency working into a reality
  • Blogs from Luke Martin on experiences male victims within children’s social care, James Rowlands on DHRs, and SafeLives’ Emma Retter exploring survivor responses to our Every Story Matters project
  • Podcasts from Anna Mitchell (Safe and Together Scotland) and a service manager for our Drive programme

We know that families who have experienced domestic abuse have had difficult experiences with children’s social care and other agencies. We also know that social workers and other professionals work incredibly hard under a great deal of pressure, and want to do everything they can to protect children and support non-abusive parents.

We hope that this work can bring people together, find examples of great practice and work towards a multi-agency approach that sees the whole picture for every family.

About the author

Amy Hewitt is a knowledge Hub Advisor with SafeLives. Prior to taking on this role, Amy was a service manager for a domestic abuse charity in Cheshire, specialising in working with perpetrators of domestic abuse.

Related resources


Spotlights: Hidden Victims

Related Research in Practice events

Domestic abuse: Developing more effective responses in children and young people’s social care – Research Messages Workshop

17 September, Cambridge: view details

12 November, Birmingham: view details

20 November, York: view details

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