Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) charity introduced a brand new strategy for improved responses towards domestic and sexual abuse, at Manchester Metropolitan University, on 30th of November.

In 2013, AVA was funded by the Department of Health Innovation, Excellence and Strategic development in order to Promote Recovery In Mental Health (PRIMH) .

Throughout a three-year long project, PRIMH managed to offer strong support to two mental health trusts, the Sussex Partnership NHS Trust and the Camden and Islington NHS foundation Trust, in executing a change management strategy to produce care improvements concerning people who fell victims of abusive behaviour.

While mental health services are a key in responding towards abuse, limited research exists on how to improve domestic and sexual abuse services and responses in mental health.

Only 10-30% of domestic and sexual violence cases are identified leaving them under-detected by mental health services. According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) some 8.2% of women and 4% of men were estimated to have experienced domestic abuse in 2014/15, equivalent to an estimated 1.3 million female and 600,000 male victims.

Police forces keep track of domestic violence incidents. The number of cases recorded by police has increased year on year from 2007/8. The incidents reached a 43% increase by 2014/15.

AVA does not provide services by itself, but can provide a range of services to organisations working with people affected by gender-based violence and abuse. The services include training, consultancy support, mental health and alcohol services.

Jennifer Holly, the project manager of AVA, said: ” The PRIMH project aims to increase awareness and confidence among the staff.The reason why a lot of cases are not identified is because the staff is not able to ask about these issues.

“So, the project I run in Sussex and Camden is aiming to provide training and support in mental health trusts so that we can increase the rate of sexual and domestic violence detection.”

The strategy that AVA used with both trusts was based around the understanding of how practitioners work and the importance of training which makes a big difference.

Jennifer adds: “If someone comes to training they are being told to ask this question or that question and when they go back into their office, their paperwork doesn’t remind them that they need to ask the question about sexual and domestic abuse.

“Our strategy is very much about working with organisations and concentrate on policy and procedures such as paperwork, assistance, and recording assistance so that the staff will be able to ask about domestic and sexual violence.”

PRIMH has been successful as both trusts have been contacted by more staff in order to take advice about sexual and domestic violence.

Also, AVA is now providing a new service under the name BARTA (Be Aware & Respond To Abuse) aiming to roll out the support that they are offering to any Trust in the country.

At the moment, the organisation hasn’t had any contact with people from Manchester but they aim to develop their relationship and hope to provide support if it’s needed.

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