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Update from AVA - Against Violence and Abuse

Donna Covey CBE, Director at AVA - Against Violence and Abuse gives an update at today’s identifying and supporting victims of Domestic Violence conference on:

recognise the most at risk factors

  • the role of health and social care services in the identification and support of high risk victims of domestic violence and abuse

  • developing the role of the independent domestic violence advisor (IDVA) in health and social care

  • developing effective training and education

  • effective risk assessment methods

  • targeted focus: FGM, forced marriages and honor based violence

  • improving awareness

Donna reminded delegates that "risk is fluid and changes over time, perceptions of risk can also change, it is very important to ask more than once. It can take years for someone in an abusive relationship to seek help."

Donna’s full presentation is available to download at the end of this page

Abstract of Donna Covey’s presentation

This presentation focusses particularly on the role of health and social care services in supporting victims of domestic violence and abuse. It begins by emphasising the fluid nature of risk, and the importance of not measuring risk at a single point in time. It talks about the help seeking model, and the importance of understanding that women’s perception of risk, and willingness to disclose domestic violence and abuse, will depend on where they are in this process. The single biggest indicator of risk is whether the woman feels frightened by her partner’s behaviour.

As set out in the NICE guidance, health and social care professionals have a vital role to play in identifying, and supporting victims of, domestic violence and abuse. It is, therefore, important to understand the barriers both to survivors disclosing their abuse, and to professionals asking about abuse. Research (Rose et al, BJP 2011) shows that the main barriers to enquiry by mental health professionals, e.g. are lack of knowledge and expertise in the area, and thinking that it was not part of their role.  These findings are particularly relevant a 69% of women with serious mental health issues have experienced DV in their lifetime(Khalifeh et al 2014) , and people with extensive experience of violence and abuse are five times more likely to experience a common mental disorder than those with little or no abuse (UK Psychiatric Morbidity Survey 2007)

Education and training are, therefore, essential to give professionals the confidence and skills to enquire about domestic violence, respond appropriately to disclosure and understand why it is an important part of their role.  It is also important for the health and social care environment to reinforce the message that it is a safe place to disclose through displaying leaflets etc.

Public Health England funded AVA to produce e learning aimed at supporting the introduction of the NICE guidelines. This is available free at  

The presentation also looks at how IDVAs in health and social care settings can help encourage routine enquiry amongst professionals, and refers to the Themis projects findings on Hospital IDVAs (Safe Lives June 2013)

The presentation also emphasises the importance of combining professional judgement with risk assessment tools.

The final section of the presentation touches on FGM, forced marriage and so called Honour based violence, highlighting the new mandatory reporting duty for FGM, as well as highlighting useful resources, including the film “Our Girl”

It makes the point that these, like domestic violence, are all forms of violence against women and girls and that many of the same guidelines about how and when to encourage disclosure apply.

Donna Covey’s Biography:

Donna has been Director of AVA - Against Violence and Abuse- since December 2014. She started her career in the trades union movement, specialising in equality and diversity issues, and spent 10 years as a member of the TUC General Council. She has run a number of third sector organisations, including Asthma UK and the Refugee Council.

She has written extensively on health, equality and human rights issues.

In her current role she sits in a number of advisory groups related to gender based violence, and currently chairs the National Steering Group for IRIS (Identification & Referral to Improve Safety)

In 2013 Donna was awarded the CBE for services to equality and human rights.

We are also running Implementing the NEW NICE Quality Standard for Domestic Violence & Improving the effectiveness of MARACs on Wednesday 2 March 2016 in London

Future conferences of interest:

Improving Mental Health Services for Young Adults Supporting the Transition to Adulthood
Thursday 28 January 2016, ICO Conference Centre, London

Psychological Therapies in the NHS
Wednesday 3 February 2016 — Thursday 4 February, Millennium Conference Centre, London

Improving Mental Health Crisis Care: Maintaining Momentum
Wednesday 3 February 2016, The Studio Conference Centre, Birmingham

Eating Disorders: Developing a Gold Standard Service
Wednesday 10 February 2016, Hallam Conference Centre, London

Improving Physical Health for People with Mental Health Conditions
Tuesday 23 February 2016 , Hallam Conference Centre, London

Download: donna-covey_1244.pdf

16 November 2015


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