7 December 2023

Author: Nicole Douglas, European Training Delivery Specialist at Safe and Together Institute

During 16 Days of Activism we’ve invited other organisations to shed light on how they’re combatting gender-based violence and domestic abuse. Join us as we learn, explore strategies, share stories and advocate for a future that ensures all victims are supported.

At the Safe and Together Institute we recognise the vital role each member of society has in identifying domestic abuse, believing survivors and responding effectively to ensure that they get the help and support they need.

We have a bold mission – to create, nurture and sustain a global network of domestic abuse informed child welfare professionals, communities and systems. Being domestic abuse informed is recognising the impact of the person causing harm’s behaviour on adult and child survivors, and importantly doesn’t hold survivors accountable for abuse perpetrated against them.

We are a global, systems change organisation, using a perpetrator-based approach centred around the perspective that the actions taken by the person causing harm are what should be focussed on – exploring what impact this is having on the adult and child survivors and how the family is functioning.

Our model is based on three key principles:

Keeping children Safe & Together with their non-abusive parent. We recognise that this is the single best route to safety, healing from trauma, stability, and nurturance for children.

Partnering with the non-abusive parent as a default position. This will allow us to recognise their myriad strengths and move us towards efficient, effective, and child-centred practice.

Intervening with the perpetrator with a focus on reducing risks to child and adult survivors via engagement, accountability, and relevant services and / or interventions with clear expectations around behaviour change

Our principles enable a shift away from the historic tendency not to believe survivors of abuse, and to see parent survivors (in most cases mothers) as failing to protect their children from abuse perpetrated against them. This ‘failure to protect’ narrative has created mistrust and restricted the ability of practitioners and services to create meaningful, collaborative relationships that centre the safety and wellbeing of children. Furthermore, it hinders a thorough assessment of risk, strengths and safety as survivors feel unable to share what the perpetrator is doing to them and their children.

In that vein, we also challenge gender double standards in relation to parenting, striving to hold fathers to the same high expectations as we do for mothers.

We owe it to child and adult survivors to believe them, offer them the support they need, and crucially to start to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable for their behaviour.

Our principles are grounded in practice through our suite of tools that guide practitioners in how to be domestic abuse informed in their casework tasks; assessment, engagement, documentation and case planning. For example, our web based mapping tools allows professionals to map perpetrator behaviours and tactics through to the impact they are having on all family members. Mapping in this way encompasses survivor strengths and protective capacities as well as considering important aspects of intersectionality, power, and privilege.

Because of our focus on systems change, we understand the need to go beyond a single intervention or training delivery – implementation of the Safe and Together approach is bringing about a shift in how we approach, support, and intervene with families impacted by domestic abuse perpetration. A child-centred approach that focuses on engagement and empowerment will lead to better outcomes for these families. We owe it to child and adult survivors to believe them, offer them the support they need, and crucially to start to hold perpetrators of abuse accountable for their behaviour.

Nicola Douglas has 18 years of experience in the field of domestic abuse including front-line experience in refuges, outreach, strategic roles and leading teams. Most recently, Nicola completed her MA in Criminology and Criminal Justice, achieving a Distinction and award for best dissertation which focused on the impact of the Domestic Abuse Act on strategic partnerships in the UK.

This blog was written in a personal capacity and may not reflect the view of the organisation.