“Friends, relatives, neighbours, and colleagues have been very worried for the survivors they know during the pandemic”. IRISi interviewed leading researchers and key specialists to talk about the impact of the pandemic on Domestic Violence and Abuse in the UK – and here are 3 responses to our Look Beyond campaign questions from Dr. Alison Gregory, Research Fellow Centre for Academic Primary Care (University of Bristol).
As we continue with our “Look Beyond the Pandemic” campaign, IRISi interviewed leading researchers and key specialists to talk about the impact of the pandemic on Domestic Violence and Abuse in the UK. Here is what Dr. Alison Gregory, Research Fellow in the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol, told us. She has a specialist interest in domestic and sexual violence and abuse, and in resultant trauma for survivors and their families. Due to the practical nature of her work, Alison has a strong commitment to acknowledge exchange and research impact, and works closely with DVA specialist organisations.
1) Can you tell me a little bit more about your research on DVA victims and their friends, family and colleagues?
I’ve been researching support for women experiencing domestic violence and abuse (DVA), focussing on people’s friends, family members, neighbours and colleagues (informal supporters) for about 10 years. In the past, this research has largely focussed on the perspective of survivors and, whilst of course this is vital, we’ve yet to really understand why people on the other end of a disclosure might ‘get it wrong’, despite a strong desire and intention to help. What my previous research has drawn out is how it feels to be an informal supporter, in the midst of a complex situation, which is very confusing and challenging to navigate, particularly because the people involved are those you care about.
2) How did the pandemic impact the relationship between friends/family with DVA victims?
At the point where lockdown and social restrictions associated with the pandemic were introduced, I was part way through data collection for a project called Building Resilience. This is a project which explores what informal supporters need to feel better equipped and better able to offer support to DVA survivors. Given that I was already speaking with people about their experiences, it felt important to ask some additional questions about how the pandemic had affected the situation.
Preliminary findings indicate that friends, relatives, neighbours, and colleagues have been very worried for the survivors they know during this period. They have encountered communication challenges, making it more difficult to safely and accurately assess the potential risks in the situation. Having said this, people have also described the resourceful approaches they have taken to try to monitor what it happening and how the survivor is doing, to remain in touch, to thwart perpetrator behaviour, and to support survivors to leave abusive relationships.
3) According to your research, how do friends and family of DVA victims usually express their worries? What are their most common feelings and thoughts? And did it change over the pandemic?
Most of the people I have spoken to are seeking information, both to become more knowledgeable themselves and to be able to pass information on to a survivor. Clearly the appetite to provide the best support possible is there, people just need the resources to do this. And that is the direction of travel for the Building Resilience project, to develop a dedicated and tailored resource to equip people. In situations of DVA, we can all help, we just need the tools.
Dr Alison Gregory is a Research Fellow in the Centre for Academic Primary Care at the University of Bristol. Alison has a specialist interest in domestic and sexual violence and abuse, and in resultant trauma for survivors and their families. Due to the practical nature of her work, Alison has a strong commitment to knowledge exchange and research impact, and works closely with DVA specialist organisations..