Spotlight on new scheme to support survivors of domestic abuse across Greater Manchester

Health leaders showed their solidarity with survivors of domestic abuse across Greater Manchester at an event to tackle gender-based violence on Wednesday 17 May.

Survivors joined with key city-region political and health leaders to talk about ADViSE (Assessing for Domestic Violence and Abuse in Sexual Health Environments), a pilot scheme which has been has been successfully delivered in sexual health clinics across Manchester, Stockport, Tameside, and Trafford.

As part of a wider Greater Manchester commitment to tackling all forms of gender-based violence across the city-region, ADViSE helps healthcare professionals to identify and respond to the signs of both domestic and sexual violence and abuse – as well as supporting victims to access the same referral pathway from their GP, Sexual Health clinic or Emergency Departments.

According to the Office for National Statistics, 36% of all violent crime reported to the police in Greater Manchester, entails domestic abuse, the majority of which involves offences perpetrated by men against women.* A study published by the World Health Organisation in 2012, also suggests that women affected by domestic abuse and sexual violence are three times more likely to have gynaecological and sexual health problems**, with these types of services being the first point of contact for support in most cases.

Kate Green, Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester for policing, crime, criminal justice and fire said, “Sexual health practitioners play a vital role in supporting women to access specialist support services. We know that victims and survivors of domestic abuse are most likely to disclose information to a health professional, but many staff will not have had training to identify and respond appropriately.

“The ADViSE pilot supports sexual health staff to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and help get victims of abuse the specialist support they need and deserve. I’m proud that Greater Manchester is once again leading the way and supporting innovative ways to tackle gender-based violence. The results of the pilot have been really impressive, and I hope to see the programme roll out to help people across all of our city-region.”

Survivors of domestic abuse and sexual violence can experience major impacts on their physical and mental health. The signs of this trauma can easily be missed by health care professionals during consultations and some survivors may even fear they will not be believed if they disclose this information.

Debs Thompson, spokesperson for the NHS Greater Manchester-funded pilot, said:
“The ADViSE pilot demonstrates the impact of embedding a ‘no wrong door approach’ in order to reach diverse populations and vulnerable groups. It confirms that sexual health services can play a key role in the recognition of previously undisclosed or unidentified domestic and sexual violence and abuse and help support survivors, who may not otherwise disclose their experiences and access much needed support. This includes patients with multiple and complex needs including long histories of abuse across the life-course, poor mental health, and disability as well as those impacted by inequalities.

“ADViSE is a critical component to support against domestic and sexual violence and abuse and referrals to date champions its continuation across current areas as well as expanding further across Greater Manchester”.

Malaika Baldwin, one of the Advocate Educators for the programme, said: “While we know that domestic and sexual violence are gendered issues that predominantly affect women, violence can occur in all relationships, across all genders and sexualities. Sexual Health clinics are safe places for LGBTQ+ communities, who may not feel comfortable attending their GP or non-specialist health settings.

“ADViSE is essential in addressing domestic and sexual violence and abuse within these settings and to see Greater Manchester leading the way in integrating health and social services into our response, reaffirms the Mayor’s commitment to eradicate gender-based violence and keep women and girls safe across the region.”

The programme has also been rolled out by Advocate Educators in domestic and sexual violence services, Manchester Women’s Aid, Trafford Domestic Abuse Services, Stockport Without Abuse and Jigsaw Support.

Find out how to get help if you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse.