New hope is on the horizon that those responsible for domestic abuse can be helped to change.
For 30 years, abuse inside the home has been the “poor relation” in terms of both research and funding.
But now a University of Portsmouth forensic psychologist is to work with Portsmouth City Council to try and change that.
Dr Dominic Pearson, a forensic psychologist at the university, has been awarded funding to measure the effectiveness of a new domestic abuse treatment programme, Up2U: Creating Healthy Relationships.
As part of a trial of the programme, he will collect and analyse clinical and criminal justice data on the first 100 domestic abusers living in the city and referred by the police, children’s social care, victim support, or self-referral.
Dr Pearson said: “Statistically speaking, in the UK one woman is murdered every four days by their current or former partner. If we can find new, effective ways of tackling domestic violence, which has for so long been the underdog in terms of research funding, we will be delighted.”
Most time and money in domestic violence has until now been spent on supporting victims, which was, he said, understandable.
“But if we can show that changing the mind-set of abusers works long-term, even for just some abusers, then the programme has the potential to bring about long-term effective change including, importantly, for the victims of domestic abuse.”
Up2U: Creating Healthy Relationships was designed and authored by a former Portsmouth forensic psychology postgraduate student now working for the council, Amy Ford.
Dr Pearson will gather data from those on the year-long programme and, if results show a clear benefit after one year, the programme could be rolled out to other regions.
The first 100 referrals are measured against three criteria: the risk they pose, their crime-related needs, and how they respond to treatment.
Participants on Up2U: Creating Healthy Relationships will be treated to a personalised plan based on their own ‘life map’, including beliefs and difficulties with relationships, attitudes, behaviours and self-control.
The treatment aims to identify what drives those responsible for abusing those who they live with, to work with them to try and undo flawed or false assumptions, and to change their thinking therefore creating healthier relationship attitudes and behaviours.
The results of the 50 Up2U: Creating Healthy Relationships cases will be compared to the results of 50 abusers who did usual community support (‘business as usual’).
The trial of the 100 cases is possible, thanks to £10,000 funding from the British Academy.