Study of suicidality and domestic violence published

By agency reporter
July 19, 2018

Greater recognition of the risk of suicide among victims of domestic abuse and increased provision of specialist services for survivors and their children, has been urged by Refuge, the national domestic violence charity.

In one of the largest studies of its kind, and the first in the UK, staff from Refuge and the University of Warwick looked at the experiences of more than 3,500 of Refuge’s clients with the aim of informing policy and practice in relation to victims of abuse who are at an increased risk of suicide.

The findings show that:

  • 83 per cent of clients came to Refuge’s services feeling despairing or hopeless – a key determinant for suicidality
  • At least 24 per cent had felt suicidal at one time or another; 18 per cent had made plans to end their life; three per cent had made a suicide attempt
  • 49 per cent of the suicidal group scored within the ‘severe’ range on a measure of psychological distress

The level of support for survivors from professionals and external agencies was seen as crucial; the research found that long delays in obtaining support had the potential to exacerbate difficulties, victims needed adequate time to disclose the full impact of their abuse and a suitable environment to ‘tell their story’ at their own pace. The report calls for a commitment to sufficient, specialist services, both outreach and refuge, for the survivors of abuse.

While having children was found to be a protective factor for victims of abuse, being childless was a risk. Although the research does not explore the impact of having a suicidal parent, the authors recognise the harm that living with domestic abuse can have upon children, particularly when the abused parent is suicidal. The authors highlight the need for specialist services for children impacted by domestic violence, especially those bereaved in this context.

Refuge offers specialist support services to men, women and children victims of abuse and believes all are entitled to a compassionate and appropriate response, particularly those who are so distressed that they have considered suicide.

However, the gender split in Refuge’s sample broadly reflected national and international trends in domestic abuse perpetration and victimisation – a phenomenon in which women are overwhelmingly the victims and males the perpetrators. As such, the researchers appeal to all agencies to recognise domestic abuse as a gendered issue and a gendered crime.

As discussions take place around the forthcoming Domestic Abuse Bill, on which the current Government has staked its legacy, they highlight this opportunity – and the need – for wide-scale engagement and educational efforts to eradicate the gender inequality and sexism that underpin violence against women and girls.

* Read the report Domestic abuse and suicide 2018 here

* Refuge https://www.refuge.org.uk/

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