Barriers Continue to Thwart Victims Of Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse From Accessing Services
The debate that revolves around the accessibility of essential services by victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse often reveals the inadequacies that exist and how agencies still lack visibility. This has time and again led to victims who are in desperate need of access to services, being left with no support.
The lack of culturally appropriate support means individuals from certain sections of society are unable to engage with organisations. There is no doubt that many organisations offering support to victims have made tremendous strides over the years in making adaptations to accommodate victims that are for instance not able to speak English, but more could be done to get people from BAME (Black, Asian, Minority and Ethnic groups) to engage with services that are available by coming up with more outreach programmes that will best serve this community.
On the other hand one could argue that organisations face limitations in terms of the resources they have at their disposal and this has no doubt had an impact on how they provide services to victims. Women needing counselling provided by Rape Crisis groups have at times had to face long waiting lists of up to one year. Even though there are at least over 500 refuge and support services in England, there are reports that suggest this is not enough to accommodate women and children trying to escape violence in their own homes.
Victims with disabilities face additional barriers in the sense that they are heavily reliant on the abuser to get around. There are issues of vulnerability, isolation and power which exacerbate the situation. This almost invariably rules out any chance of seeking confidential advice from an agency. There is a need to identify the gaps that exist in terms of service provision to victims with disabilities and how to make it possible for them to get the support they need.
There is no doubt that women are more affected by domestic violence than men but we can not deny the fact that a huge gap exists with regards to the provision of services for men (although research suggests that services required by men are different to those required by women). According to MANKIND very few services are available to men despite the results of a crime survey of 2014 by the The Office Of National Statistics which indicated that 7.1% of women and 4% of men had experienced domestic abuse an equivalent of 1.2 million female and 700,000 male victims.
For individuals in the LGBT community, the fear of being “outed” prevents them from seeking help. “Societal homophobia deters victims from speaking out”. Furthermore, as recently pointed out in a recent Guardian article, the discussion regarding domestic violence and sexual violence in the LGBT community is pushed to the margins with emphasis being laid on heterosexual victims. Most refuge/shelter spaces do not cater to the needs of this community who may end up facing secondary victimisation while trying to access services.
Organisations need to seek out victims where they are in order to let them know that there is help out there. Awareness of domestic violence and sexual abuse could be brought to the attention of victims in places where they might go for other activities. For victims with disabilities day centres where the perpetrator is less likely to be around could provide a great opportunity for raising awareness. There are organisations already doing this but as mentioned earlier, many still lack visibility. With the support of the government more outreach work needs to be done.
As the population of this country continues to become more diverse, organisations need to develop strategies that will ensure there are no gaps in knowledge and services available to victims from minority groups and the LGBT community. Most research on domestic violence focuses on victims who live in “settled groups and communities” and very little attention is given to the problems individuals from LGBT groups face.
The current one size fits all approach to service provision still has gaps that need filling. Communities could be better serviced if current strategies are enhanced in order to embrace all groups.