16 Days of Activism 2020 – Day 4

A day in the life of a Health domestic abuse worker – an IDVA

Changing Pathway’s Health Independent Domestic Violence Advisors (IDVAs) share a snapshot of their work based in 2 Essex Hospitals.
We are Essex Domestic Abuse Partnership Protect (EDAPP) providing domestic abuse support to patients and staff at Basildon and Princess Alexandra Harlow (PAH) Hospitals.

We work closely with hospital safeguarding teams and provide training to staff. With survivors experiencing, on average, 34 incidents of domestic abuse before seeking help, providing instant support is early intervention at a critical moment – which might just save a life.

It could be an NHS staff member who requires domestic abuse support which often enables a victim to be able to safely remain in employment. Many victims of domestic abuse or stalking may lose their jobs due to feeling distracted at work, anxiety & depression, embarrassment, trying to hide the hallmarks of domestic abuse and/or time spent reporting to police. But for many victims the workplace is their safe haven and often they will work late, not take annual leave because this is the one place they are safe. All workplaces should have a safeguarding policy for supporting their staff with domestic abuse & stalking.

Monday morning, arrive at the hospital. Staff car park already busier than a supermarket at peak time! Although we work office hours, the hospitals are filled with staff at all hours of the day. We need to bear in mind what’s morning for us, could be the end of a long shift for the staff member we’re talking to.

At the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH), the Children’s Ward have asked me as an Independent Domestic Violence Advisor (IDVA) to come and speak to the mum of one of their patients. The staff member says there used to be domestic abuse. When more details are gathered it becomes apparent that, although the mum is no longer in the relationship with the dad, and they live separately, the abuse is very much still happening. The staff member discretely arranges a side room for a meeting. Abuse following a relationship is called stalking and is a crime.

Meanwhile at Basildon, there’s a patient who is medically fit for discharge but, because of domestic abuse, it’s not safe for the patient to go home. So commences a refuge search; calls to refuges and filling out application forms. The morning has almost gone already.

Back at PAH the child’s mother is risk assessed to see if she is at risk of significant harm from the alleged perpetrator. She comes out as medium risk, and we put a safety plan in place with her. This includes her being given details of solicitors so that she can discuss an injunction and child contact.

Over to our IDVA at Basildon hospital. The mental health unit have asked for the IDVA to come and see one of their patients who has disclosed severe domestic abuse. Unfortunately at the scheduled time, the patient has gone into a deep sleep on the sofa in the communal lounge. It’s agreed they will try again tomorrow, the patient is safe in the unit overnight.

Back at PAH – a staff member has decided to speak to the police about her husband who she is frightened may enter the hospital. A photo of him was given to hospital security, but because he didn’t act aggressively when he entered the hospital he didn’t raise any suspicion. It was later explained to security that perpetrators of domestic abuse are quite unlikely to act aggressively in front of others and the behaviour happens most often behind closed doors – plus there isn’t a stamp on people’s forehead saying “I’m a domestic abuse perpetrator”. One of the security guards said they understand how perpetrators can have a different persona in public, we often liken this to a Jekyl & Hyde character. It’s a relief to have the security guards on-site and the IDVA arranges to meet security for coffee to further discuss how to best safeguard survivors of domestic abuse at the hospital.

After some negotiation, the police have agreed to come to PAH to speak to the staff member. She makes a statement and says afterwards how helpful it is to have an IDVA helping her as she’s tried to separate from her husband before “but felt weak and took him back”. Now she feels stronger. She is grateful that her managers are so supportive of her and let her take time out of work, and arranged a room for her. She just wants to be able to do her job well. Separation is the most dangerous time and this is often the reason many people can’t leave – as they are frightened they may be harmed or killed as revenge. But there are many other barriers to leaving and it takes support and a safety plan to enable someone to leave safely.

Children’s Services call a while later regarding the referral that had been made to them. They are informed that mum has now reported to the police. The social worker asked will mum consider a refuge but is told we are supporting her to try to get the alleged perpetrator removed from the house. The social worker said that’s good because she never thinks it’s fair if the mum and children have to leave, and as an IDVA we reiterate that Social Care’s support to try to keep the child in their home would be appreciated!

Good news! The patient at Basildon has got into a suitable refuge and transport will be arranged in the morning. The day is coming to an end at Basildon but not before the discharge team co-ordinator announces he wants to talk through 3 possible referrals to the IDVA service. Tomorrow will be a busy day!

Within Essex – if you or anyone close to you would like to discuss domestic abuse or stalking please call us on 01268 729707. For help in other counties call the National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

#femicide @womensaid #16DaysofActivism #orangetheworld #EVAWG2020

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