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Issues in Recovery: Addressing Intimate Partner Violence

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Domestic violence picDrugScope have been working with London services, commissioners, and academics to examine how the needs of individuals who have experienced intimate partner violence can be better addressed within substance misuse services. Lauren Garland writes about the new briefing published by DrugScope on behalf of the Recovery partnership.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is an issue which disproportionately affects people accessing drug and alcohol services. Research suggests that women who have experienced gender based violence are 5.5 times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance misuse problem over the course of their lifetime, while another study suggests that 21% of people who had experienced IPV believed that the perpetrator was under the influence of alcohol and 8% thought the perpetrator had used illicit drugs.

DrugScope have published a briefing paper which considers how substance misuse systems and services can better address the needs of people affected by drug and alcohol problems and IPV, with a regional focus on London. The paper follows a roundtable event held in December which was attended by London drug and alcohol commissioners, substance misuse and domestic abuse service managers, and policy specialists and academics. It also draws upon earlier work carried out by DrugScope, service visits, and published research and reports.

Many substance misuse services already address IPV on some level, from asking new service users about their experiences around relationships as part of routine enquiry, to building referral pathways with specialist domestic violence organisations, to offering in-house support for victims and perpetrators. However service managers also reported a number of challenges they can face in their attempts to do so. These include issues around disclosure for both victims and perpetrators, and that violent or coercive behaviours may be normalised for some people accessing substance misuse services. Service managers also reported that there can be reluctance among staff to enquire about IPV, out of a fear that raising the issue could trigger a violence incident.

The briefing includes a number of good practice case studies from drug and alcohol services in London that are engaging with IPV. Blenheim CDP’s Evolve service in Southwark, for instance, trains frontline staff to maintain an awareness of IPV throughout the treatment process, in discussions around healthy relationships, for instance, which take place as part of Evolve’s Men’s Group and Women Only service. They also refer IPV victims out to specialist domestic violence agencies where appropriate.

Another of the case studies looks at the in-house support for perpetrators of IPV offered by Cranstoun and the Domestic Violence Intervention Project (DVIP):

Cranstoun and DVIP are in the second year of running an integrated perpetrator programme for men in Islington. The programme runs in accordance with Respect standards and is the only substance abuse service perpetrator programme co-running with a (ex) partner support service.

The service is available to men in Islington and the partner service is offered to women wherever they live. Early indications are very promising:

  • In the first year 20 men commenced the programme and 18 continued to participate beyond 30 treatment hours.
  • The partnership programme has a linked partner support service which proactively contacts partners and ex-partners of the men on the programme to offer them safety services and support.
  • None of the participants have exited the programme on the basis of the material taught.
  • Although several of the men have not been in relationships for many years, the linked partner service has established contact with 60% of the partners and ex-partners of the men.
  • The project has trained around 80 frontline staff and managers in two London boroughs.

When working with perpetrators of domestic violence it is essential to work with those exposed to the risk. DVIP has learned repeatedly that it is the women involved with the men attending who have the most realistic picture of the risk, or indeed, the changes the men are making.

The work, in itself, aims to increase the participants’ self-awareness and self-reflection, it sets the violence in context and looks to build empathy for the victims of their behaviour. It addresses early childhood experiences and issues of shame, the societal supports for their behaviour and tries to break the link between the past and the present.

The men’s programme is showing how deeply entrenched issues of violence, childhood trauma and substance use have been in the lives of men attending

The full briefing, which makes recommendations for drug and alcohol services, domestic violence and abuse services, and commissioners, may be found here. The Local Government Association have published a guide to support practitioners and managers around adult safeguarding and domestic abuse, which may be accessed here.





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