Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse in Later Life Launch

A ground-breaking Welsh initiative, which supports older people who suffer domestic abuse and is set to be extended across the UK will present the debut of it’s next phase at The Angel Hotel Cardiff on Wednesday 19th February.

 

Post launch review by Freya Salisbury, Student Volunteer.

An insightful day into the sharing of Dewis Choice’s research findings on the five year longitudinal study capturing the lived experiences of older victim-survivors and the subsequent steps being taken to embed the research across the UK.

Firstly, an introduction from the Principal Investigator Sarah Wydall with a brief overview of the Dewis Choice project, what it aims to achieve and how it originated “all good things start over a cup of coffee” as Sarah rightly said. A mention of the Dewis Choice team including two of the younger volunteers who travelled to join us on the day. Also thanks to the team in preparation for the big day and the many late nights that occurred! Followed by introducing the first copy of the Practitioner Guidance drawn from the 5-year longitudinal study.

We were delighted to be joined by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Helena Herklots who informed us of her bold and brilliant ambition to make Wales the leading country on changing the perspective on older people. Her main three priorities as the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales are to stop age discrimination, to stop elder abuse and to allow us to age well. The ambitions for the next year are to enable and empower people to tell their story. This is both to help themselves aSarah speaking at launchnd to help move forward with the issue of elder abuse and to have necessary actions in place.

Helena shared a quote with us “don’t judge my story on the chapter you walked in on” which really relates to the experiences older people may have in later life and how to not judge them but provide the help they not only need but deserve.

The Dewis Choice team, alongside the incredible producer and his film crew have worked together to make a short film on older LGB victim-survivor experiences on domestic abuse, which proved to be very empowering and elegantly shines a light into the darkness that a lot of people experience every day.

A question and answer session after the film led to many attendees excitedly asking when the two films would be made available to the public for training purposes however due to various factors it won’t be out for a few months yet.

The second film is currently being made on the views of Practitioners responding to the older LGBT+ victim-survivors of domestic abuse.

Then Rebecca Zerk, the Project manager of Dewis Choice discussed the barriers & enablers to help-seeking in later life. The older people are very underrepresented when it comes to being a victim of abuse and are less likely to report for a variety of reasons for example a lack of services or even the very narrow minded and inbuilt ageist perspective of organisations that older people aren’t abused and what’s happening is ‘behind closed doors’ and don’t go through the same things younger people do. Some of the key barriers Rebecca identified were fear for consequences of leaving their pet behind, isolating themselves from their family and friends and being wrong about the person they thought they could trust and the lack of knowledge about their rights as a human being.

Sarah then talked about the many research findings. They found that coercive control is just as common in family members as it is in partners and women are just as likely to be coercive as men. A key finding was that practitioners do not recognise domestic abuse in older life and that the practitioners think they know what is better for older people without considering their feelings or experiences. The Dewis Choice team have always done the opposite and strived to put the older person at the heart of the decision making.

Prof John Williams closed with his reflections on Dewis Choice, with an informative talk on human rights: “The work undertaken by Dewis Choice has shown that ageism continues to be significant problem. People who experience domestic abuse in later life can be denied some of their basic human rights.  It is essential that older people are empowered to make informed decisions about what they want from the social care and health, the criminal and civil justices systems, and from society.  Enabling older people to make informed choices free of pressure from abusers is key to ensuring that they regain control of their lives and that their well-being is protected and promoted.  That is the ethos of Dewis Choice.”  

Then the team explained the next steps in transforming the response widening to Scotland, Northern Ireland and England over the course of the next year.

The day concluded with John Rose the Director for Wales National Lottery Community Fund which contributed to the Dewis Choice project.  John was delighted with the progress the Dewis Choice project has made since the funding and is optimistic about the future of the research.

 

For an insight into the event take a look at the presentations delivered by Sarah Wydall and Rebecca Zerk below. We hope it won't be too long before we will be able to make the LGB film public for you to view and the practitioner guide should be available for release soon.

A copy of the presentation delivered by Sarah Wydall at Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse in Later Life launch event.

A copy of the presentation delivered by Rebecca Zerk at Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse in Later Life launch event.

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The Dewis Choice project based at the Department of Law and Criminology at Aberystwyth University (2015-2019) involved co-produced research funded by the National Lottery Community Fund.

Hosted by the Centre for Age, Gender and Social Justice, Dewis Choice continues to offer a holistic package of support and advice for people aged 60 and over in Wales who are experiencing abuse by intimate partners or other family members.

Now Sarah Wydall, Principal Investigator on Dewis Choice, has been awarded £335,000 by UK Portfolio to fund ‘Accelerating Ideas - Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse’.

This new project will explore the potential for developing new pilots that integrate justice and wellbeing approaches across the UK.

It will also draw on research undertaken by Dewis Choice over the past four years as it aims to transform the response to domestic abuse for older people.

With the funding provided by the UK Portfolio ‘Accelerating Ideas’ programme, the Aberystwyth based team will visit Northern Ireland, Scotland and England to share their longitudinal research findings on older people and domestic abuse with a range of stakeholders.

Sarah Wydall said: “The Dewis Choice initiative has produced a grassroots intervention that has been designed by the community specifically to support older victim-survivors of abuse make informed choices about justice, civil, criminal and restorative and to ensure they are not treated differently on account of age, gender, sexuality or disability. The research is also the first of its kind to conduct a prospective longitudinal study examining decision-making in the context of domestic abuse in later life.

“We are delighted to have been awarded new funding to share our learning on new areas in this field such as the co-existence of domestic abuse and dementia, LGBTQ and domestic abuse and the justice response to older people when seeking help. It will be interesting to see if there is scope to work with partners to develop interventions in the other areas, especially given the different legislative and policy frameworks in these countries. It is important that should there be any potential opportunities that arise, the models that are designed involve older victim-survivors and local communities and compliments existing services in each individual area.”

“The launch is a great opportunity for us to share our findings to date; plans for the future; to release our newly published Practitioners Guidance and premiere our short LGB film with those who have shared our journey so far and who we look forward to working with in this new and exciting phase.”

The Practitioner guidance has been developed based on the longitudinal research findings from the Dewis Choice Initiative. The guidance addresses significant gaps in knowledge, service provision and research about people who experience domestic violence and abuse in later life.

The short film was co-produced with older LGB victim-survivors of domestic abuse, highlighting their lived experiences. A further film will be released later this year, offering advice to professionals on how to identify and respond to disclosures of domestic abuse when the victim-survivor is an older LGBTQ+ person. 

 

To date, the Dewis Choice research findings have helped raise awareness of domestic abuse in later life with over 5,000 people nationally and internationally including academics, the public, practitioners and policy-makers.

In all 376 volunteers worked on Dewis Choice. Many will continue to contribute to the new project and raise awareness of domestic abuse in later life.

In August 2019 Sarah Wydall was also awarded £70,000 Comic Relief grant for a twelve month study into the co-existence of domestic abuse and dementia in older people.

The findings of this research will inform the UK-wide initiative and future developments in policy and practice, as well as highlight gaps in legislation.

Dewis Choice was established in 2015 by Professor Alan Clarke, Sarah Wydall and Professor John Williams, with funding from the National Lottery Community Fund.

It was the first dedicated service in the UK to have been designed and implemented by older people, key practitioners and policymakers to integrate justice, civil, criminal and restorative options with wellbeing support.