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Domestic abuse perpetrators must be challenged to change

To reduce the number of domestic abuse victims, perpetrators must be challenged to change their behaviour, say specialist charities and three leading Police and Crime Commissioners.

  • Two women die a week as a result of domestic homicide
  • 100,000 people a year are at high risk of being murdered or seriously harmed every year
  • Fewer than 1% of perpetrators receive a specialist intervention to change

Leading social sector organisations, Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance are working together with Police and Crime Commissioners and local authorities in Essex, Sussex and South Wales and the Lloyds Bank Foundation to launch the Drive project.

Drive logo-1




The project will develop and evaluate a new approach to hold perpetrators of domestic abuse to account in order to keep victims and children safe.

The response to domestic abuse in the UK has always focused on expecting the victim to leave and start a new life in a new community, causing major disruption and taking them away from their support network of family and friends.

Often the perpetrator is left to continue their life as normal and frequently repeats the same behaviour with new partners, creating more victims.

Providing an extensive system of support for victims and their children is essential, but on its own it will not stop domestic abuse. We need to develop effective interventions for perpetrators that minimise repeat and serial patterns of abuse and complement support for victims and children.

Domestic abuse victim, Rachel Williams said: “The perpetrator is the problem. Why is it that the victim is the one who has to move and seek refuge, when the perpetrator carries on as normal? If we don’t deal with them – then they just move onto the next victim. We have to at least try and change their mind-sets.”

There is a failure to respond to perpetrators coherently – or in many cases at all. If long-term change in the prevalence and patterns of domestic abuse is to be achieved, perpetrators must be challenged to stop.

In response Respect, SafeLives and Social Finance are working with the Police and Crime Commissioners in Essex, South Wales and Sussex to launch the Drive pilot. Starting in April 2016 it will test an innovative approach to challenge the behaviour of perpetrators and co-ordinate the response they receive across all agencies. For the first time in England and Wales, Drive case managers in these three areas will work with some of the most dangerous perpetrators, on a one-to-one basis, to reduce their abusive behaviour.

Drive is funded by Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales, Tudor Trust and the Police and Crime Commissioners in all three areas. The project has also benefited from local authority support.

Commenting on this important new initiative Diana Barran, Chief Executive of SafeLives, a leading national charity working with to tackle domestic abuse said:  “SafeLives is committed to reducing the number of victims of domestic abuse – this is not possible without reducing the number of perpetrators. The victims we work with have asked us why they are always the ones expected to change – and why too often the perpetrator is left free to continue their abuse of them and others. We want to help victims today and reduce the number of victims of tomorrow. We are evidence-led and will therefore be testing this intervention in three areas, with the aiming of proving it could work and be rolled out nationally”.

Minister for Preventing Abuse, Exploitation and Crime Karen Bradley said:  “Domestic violence is a devastating crime that shatters the lives of victims and families and the Government is determined to put an end to it. Protecting victims will always be at the heart of our approach, and this includes future partners and children who may also be at risk.

“Our new Violence Against Women and Girls Strategy, which we will publish shortly, will look at ways to better understand and address the causes of offending behaviour to stop these terrible crimes from happening in the first place.

“This innovative pilot will give us greater insights into the causes of offending behaviour and the role of rehabilitation.”

Jo Todd, CEO Respect, added: “Keeping families safe from domestic violence requires a focus on the perpetrator, a sustained focus on both reducing further harm and changing behaviour. When we fail to do this effectively, it allows perpetrators to continue to abuse from one relationship to the next.”

Emily Bolton, director of Social Finance’s Impact Incubator said: “We work hard to tackle many of the most serious social issues we face in the UK. But we cannot break the cycles of vulnerability and harm if we do not properly address the causes of domestic abuse. To really improve the life chances of the children and victims, we must develop a national and coordinated response to deliver long-term change in perpetrators’ behaviour.”

Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “All too often, when an individual has been subject to domestic abuse, the question is asked ‘why didn’t they try to leave their situation’. However it is the behaviour of the perpetrators of domestic abuse that must be questioned and challenged as they are at the root of this crime. We must take steps to address the behaviour of dangerous and serial domestic abusers if we are to seek a long-term and meaningful solution to this problem. I welcome the Drive initiative which is bold but necessary if we are to stop abusers in their tracks and create a safer future for victims of domestic abuse and their families.”

Katy Bourne, Police & Crime Commissioner for Sussex, said: “By addressing perpetrators’ behaviour this programme will target the root cause of domestic abuse and, crucially, improve outcomes for victims and children. It is vital that we improve the response to perpetrators to reduce the number of victims currently experiencing domestic abuse, limit the harm to children and prevent further victimisation.”

Paul Streets, OBE, Chief Executive of Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales added: “We have invested in a range of charities providing services to support victims of domestic abuse for over 30 years. Whilst vital, we know that sometimes we are helping only to patch-up victims again and again –  if we are ever to reduce domestic abuse, we must effectively deal with the perpetrators who are causing the hurt, violence and harm and ensure they have to address their behaviour to reduce the number of victims now and in the future. Our funding will support the development, testing and evaluation of this model with the aim that it will demonstrate a long-term solution to a national problem that causes so much misery to too many.”

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