Domestic abuse survivors struggle to access mental health support – especially for Black and minoritised women

  • Women’s Aid launches two new reports highlighting the devastating and long-lasting impact of domestic abuse on the mental health of survivors and their children
  • Reports set out clear proposals to improve mental health response for survivors of domestic abuse 
  • Research is part of the charity’s ongoing #DeserveToBeHeard campaign

Domestic abuse survivors face barriers to accessing mental health support, according to reports published by Women’s Aid today. Fewer than a quarter of survivors responding to an online survey said they were not confident mental health professionals would be able to identify signs of abuse (Pathfinder, 2021). 

Deserve To Be Heard: A review of the literature on mental health and domestic abuse also reveals these barriers are heightened for survivors from minoritised and marginalised groups – such as Black and minoritised survivors, LGBT survivors, and survivors with disabilities. 

The report also highlights domestic abuse as a key driver of women’s mental health problems – one study found that women accessing specialist domestic abuse services in the UK were twice as likely to experience symptoms of depression and three times as likely to experience anxiety than women in UK general practice (Ferrari et al, 2016).  

Farah Nazeer, chief executive at Women’s Aid, said:

“We know from our work that trauma caused by domestic abuse can have devastating and long-term consequences for survivors’ mental wellbeing.

 

“Deserve To Be Heard is a vital campaign which centres the voices of survivors, and asks government to do the same. Our evidence, which informed the campaign, shows that almost half of women in refuge have reported depression or suicidal thoughts as a direct result of the abuse that they have experienced. We know that in reality the numbers are far higher – as victim-blaming and a culture of shame prevent many women from speaking up about mental health.

 

“Through the campaign we are urgently calling for effective responses to this mental health crisis – including the recognition of gender-based violence as a fundamental driver of women’s mental health problems.

 

“Women deserve better. Women’s Aid is here for all survivors – and is sending a clear message: we hear you, and we believe you.”

 

Reframing the Links: Black and minoritised women, domestic violence and abuse, and mental health – A Review of the Literature, by Ravi Thiara and Christine Harrison at the University of Warwick, shows the negative impact of structural racism on the mental wellbeing of Black and minoritised survivors and their attempts to access support. It highlights the dangers of the predominant ‘one size fits all’ approach to supporting survivors – which does not take into account the full range of differentiation and diversity among groups of women, and has contributed to structural exclusion and exacerbated distress and trauma resulting from men’s violence, frequently re-traumatising survivors. 

Women’s Aid is currently running a national campaign – Deserve To Be Heard – calling on the government to recognise domestic abuse as a fundamental cause of women’s mental ill health, and ensure that specialist services are sufficiently resourced to provide the mental health support that women need 

Alongside the publication of these reports, Women’s Aid is running a social media campaign #HearHer, which urges supporters to pledge their commitment to amplify survivors’ voices and take action to support them.  

Read the full report here: https://www.womensaid.org.uk/evidence-hub/research-and-publications/ 

Contact the Women’s Aid press office at [email protected], 020 7566 2511 / 07517 132 943 

Notes to editors 

  • Women’s Aid is the national charity working to end domestic abuse against women and children. Since 1974 we have been at the forefront of shaping and coordinating responses to domestic abuse, with survivors at the heart of our work. We are a federation of over 170 organisations which provide just under 300 local lifesaving services to women and children across the country. 
  • Women’s Aid provides expert training, qualifications and consultancy to a range of agencies and professionals working with survivors or commissioning domestic abuse services. Our campaigns achieve change in policy, practice and awareness, encouraging healthy relationships and helping to build a future where domestic abuse is no longer tolerated.
    An estimated 1.6 million women in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the year ending March 2020 with young women aged 16-24 years continuing to be the age group at most risk (ONS 2020). 
  • If you are worried that your partner, or that of a friend or family member, is controlling and abusive, go to womensaid.org.uk for support and information, including Live Chat, the Survivors’ Forum, The Survivor’s Handbook and the Domestic Abuse Directory. Live Chat is open from 10 am – 6 pm seven days a week for confidential expert support from specialised support workers. 
  • Dr. Ravi Thiara, Professor of Sociology, and Dr. Christine Harrison, Professional of Social Work, at The University of Warwick were commissioned by Women’s Aid to write the literature review, Reframing the Links: Black and minoritised women, domestic violence and abuse, and mental health – A Review of the Literature, to inform the Deserve To Be Heard Campaign. 
  • Campaign funding: These reports are funded by the Gamesys Foundation, as part of the Deserve To Be Heard campaign.  

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

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