Mental health and domestic abuse

Domestic abuse has a significant, and often life-long, impact on the mental health of survivors and their children, and it does not go away once a survivor has left an abusive relationship.

In new Women’s Aid research, almost half of women in refuge reported feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts as a direct result of the domestic abuse that they experienced. But we know that these figures are likely to be even higher, as stigma and fear around disclosing mental health problems prevent many women from speaking up.

#DeserveToBeHeard

On 14th September 2021 we launched our urgent new #DeserveToBeHeard campaign in parliament. The campaign aims to highlight the devastating impact of domestic abuse on the mental health of women and their children. We are extremely grateful to Nicole Jacobs, Domestic Abuse Commissioner; Apsana Begum MP; and Baroness Gabby Bertin, co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Violence and Abuse for their support. We also extend our thanks to Gamesys Foundation for funding the campaign and for their ongoing support.

Together we will ensure that all survivors are heard and their mental health needs are responded to.

Left to right: Nicole Jacobs (domestic abuse commissioner) and Farah Nazeer (chief executive of Women’s Aid)

Left to right: Apsana Begum (MP and chair of the APPG on domestic violence and abuse), Baroness Gabrielle Bertin (vice-chair of the APPG on domestic violence and abuse) and Farah Nazeer (chief executive of Women’s Aid)

Left to right: Holly Spiers (trustee of Gamesys Foundation), Farah Nazeer (chief executive of Women’s Aid)

Left to right: Holly Spiers (trustee of Gamesys Foundation), Farah Nazeer (chief executive of Women’s Aid), Celeste Sangster (Senior Campaign Communications Officer at Women’s Aid), Teresa Parker (Head of media relations and communications at Women’s Aid), and Sarah Mercer (Gamesys Foundation)

Our new flagship campaign, Deserve To Be Heard, aims to ensure that the mental health needs of women, who are all too often not listened to and not believed, are heard and responded to effectivelySurvivor voice is at the heart of this campaignand we will not be silenced until all women and children have access to the mental health support they deserve.    

Our federation of member services works alongside these women every day and understands their needs.  We know that specialist services – particularly those led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised women, d/Deaf and disabled women, and LGBT+ women – are best placed to deliver the long-term healing needed to support women through the trauma of abuse. Throughout the campaign, we will be highlighting the importance of dedicated funding for these specialist women’s services.  

Campaign aims

  • Change perceptions and attitudes towards survivors’ mental health which compound women’s trauma and inequality. 
  • Secure sufficient funding to enable specialist women’s services – particularly those led ‘by and for’ Black and minoritised groups – to deliver vital mental health support and long-term healing.

Take action

Take action!

We are stronger together and speak louder as one.

We need your support to highlight the devastating impact of domestic abuse on women’s mental health because survivors #DeserveToBeHeard. Add your voice to the call by signing up to become a #DeserveToBeHeard campaigner today! Once you’ve signed up, you will receive a monthly newsletter, keeping you up-to-date with the latest campaign news, sharing useful resources, and supporting you to take action.

Campaign partners and supporters

At Women’s Aid, we are always striving to be survivor centred and inclusive. For #DeserveToBeHeard, this means making sure that the campaign is informed by lived experience of domestic abuse, mental ill-health, and intersecting forms of oppression and ensuring that the voices of survivors and specialist women’s services are at its heart.

Survivor Advisory Board

We are running a Survivor Advisory Board in partnership with Imkaan. The board is made up of survivors from diverse backgrounds, including women experiencing multiple forms of oppression due to their race, sexuality, disability, and other factors, which create even greater barriers to being heard. It is an empowering space for survivors to use their lived experience to campaign for change, and provides opportunity for healing through activism. 

Expert Advisory Group

We recognise and celebrate the expertise of our sister organisations. The campaign’s Expert Advisory Group consists of ten specialist services, whose expertise will help ensure the campaign is centring and meeting the needs of survivors facing multiple forms of oppression, as well as the specialist services that support them. 

Women's Aid Federation and member services

We know that our life-saving network of Women’s Aid member services across the country understands survivors’ experiences and needs, and provides the expert and empowering support to enable women’s recovery and long-term healing.  

Member services are at the heart of the campaign. Alongside nearly 700 survivors, they told us that mental health was their key priority for change, helping us to develop #DeserveToBeHeard – and they continue to provide expertise and vital support for the campaign.  

Funders

We are extremely grateful to the  Gamesys Foundation for its support, which has enabled us to design and develop this urgent campaign on mental health and trauma.

Policy recommendations

Mental health support for survivors is chronically underfunded and women’s experiences are poorly understood. Their lived experiences of abuse and trauma must be central to policy-making. We are urgently calling on the government to:

Recognise domestic abuse as a fundamental cause of women’s mental health issues  

Domestic abuse is a gendered crime. The Women’s Health Strategy must identify violence against women and girls as a major factor in women’s mental health issues. Services which can meet the mental health needs of survivors are enormously underfunded.

Put the needs of survivors and specialist services at the heart of upcoming health reforms   

The government must ensure the voice of survivors and specialist services are included in the upcoming health and care bill reforms.   

Properly fund domestic abuse services by delivering the £409 million per year needed to effectively respond to domestic abuse   

Women’s Aid estimates that at least £409 million is needed next year for specialist domestic abuse services across England. This estimation includes the funding needed to meet women’s mental health needs and holistically support their recovery. Current funding has a shortfall of over £200 million. .

Expert Advisory Group 

With thanks

We are extremely grateful to our sister organisations, who have shared their insight to ensure that #DeserveToBeHeard is an intersectional campaign which centres the voices of the most marginalised survivors, and responds to their needs.  

Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk, is working to build a society where women and girls are able to live their lives free from inequality, poverty and violence. We campaign for women and girls facing abuse, poverty, poor mental health, addiction, homelessness and contact with the criminal justice system to get the support and protection they need. 

AVA is a leading UK charity committed to ending gender-based violence and abuse through research, consultancy, training and prevention work. AVA works with survivors to ensure their work is informed by women’s lived experience.

The Faith and VAWG Coalition is a partnership of organisations. The Coalition seeks to build on existing work to address VAWG by providing a more strategic, and structural approach to centring the experiences of survivors of faith in this work. The Coalition works to build bridges between members of Faith Communities and Faith-centric organisations, domestic abuse specialists, and organisations within the VAWG sector. 

Galop provides specialist advocacy supporting LGBT+ survivors of domestic abuse, hate crime, sexual violence, and other forms of abuse including honour-based violence, forced marriage, and so-called conversion therapies.   

We are LGBT+ people working with LGBT+ people. We offer a safe, confidential and informed space in which people can talk about what’s happened, think through their options, and get emotional and practical support in an informed and non-judgmental way. 

Imkaan is the only a UK-based, ‘by and for’ Black feminist umbrella organisation dedicated to addressing violence against Black and minoritised women and girls i.e. women and girls which are defined in policy terms as Black & ‘Minority Ethnic’ (BME).  We work at local, national and international level, and in partnership  with a range of organisations, to improve policy and practice responses to Black and minoritised women and girls. 

LAWRS is a human rights, feminist organisation run by and for Latin American migrant women living in the UK. They support 5,000 women every year who are exposed to violations of their fundamental human rights. Since 2017, LAWRS leads the Step Up Migrant Women campaign upholding the right of women to live a life free from violence and abuse. 

SignHealth’s Domestic Abuse Service is a unique, Deaf-led service providing advice and support for Deaf adults and young people experiencing domestic abuse. SignHealth also delivers prevention workshops as well as closed groups for Deaf survivors. 

Stay Safe East is a Deaf and disabled people’s organisation (DDPO) providing holistic advocacy and support services to Deaf and disabled people across London who are survivors of domestic, sexual and other forms of gender-based violence against women and girls, hate crime, abuse in institutional settings and other forms of targeted crime. 

Welsh Women’s Aid is the national charity in Wales working to end domestic abuse and all forms of violence against women. We campaign for and provide advice, support and training on policy and service improvements for survivors, families and communities. Our federation of specialist organisations provide lifesaving services to survivors of abuse and a range of preventative services. We deliver the Live Fear Free Helpline funded by Welsh Government, and a National Training Service. The experiences and needs of survivors are central to all we do. 

Women and Girls Network (WGN) is a community-based organisation providing women/ young women and girls with a comprehensive, holistic, wrap around range of therapeutic services which facilitate healing and recovery from the continuum of experiences of violence and abuse. We work from a trauma informed, strengths based, relational, intersectional, anti-discriminatory, social justice agenda 

© 2021 Women's Aid Federation of England – Women’s Aid is a company limited by guarantee registered in England No: 3171880.

Women’s Aid is a registered charity in England No. 1054154

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