Countering Domestic Violence in BME communities via effective collaboration

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”

Sonal Sachdev Patel
CEO, GMSP Foundation

“The violence I faced from my husband was the most traumatic and isolating experience I have ever faced. Although surrounded by friends, family and so-called community support – I felt totally alone.”

“I did explain my situation to my GP, but when I called the police they didn’t understand that my own parents were pushing me back into an abusive relationship.”

These voices represent the concerns of  many women and girls across a section of the black and minority ethnic (BME) communities in the UK. Many women continue to live under the cloud of domestic abuse, unable to free themselves from the shackles as they struggle to find support.

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What does the data tell us about gender violence in the UK?
According to the Crime Survey of England and Wales, one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic violence in their lifetimes and 8% will suffer domestic violence in any given year. The Home Office data reflects that the UK police receive a domestic assistance call each minute and yet only 35% of DV incidents are reported to the police.

The data in the BME sector looks even more bleak. BME women experience higher rates of domestic homicide and are three times more likely to commit suicide than other women in the UK.

Bringing local leaders together is vital to delivering an effective response
GMSP believes in training local community groups and leaders about the specific factors that affect BME women and girls. If they are not aware of the cultural sensitivities around different communities, how can they provide an appropriate response?

We also believe that we can achieve much more if we work together. Collaboration is happening in the BME sector. The London Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Consortium, which is made up of 22 organisations, is one such example. VAWG partnership’s Ascent project delivers a range of services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence. However we need to see more coordination and partnerships.

An individual experiences her community as an interconnected web, and therefore stakeholders need to not only understand the issue, but also develop a coordinated response.

Partnering with Asian Women’s Resource Centre
We are partnering with Asian Women Rescource Centre (AWRC), and Hertsmere Council for a comprehensive training on “Ending Harmful Practices.’

AWRC’s training is aimed at community leaders such as local councilors, police, teachers, GPs about gender-based violence in the BME communities along with referral pathways and best practices. Such leaders with the right training can ensure multi-agency interventions to safeguard not only victims but also vulnerable sections of the BME communities.

The bigger picture
Why has the BME sector not witnessed effective collaborations? Part of the problem is lack of information and data. Even the limited research available is not shared amongst the BME organisations, which could lay the ground for joint programmes. Another obstacle is the sheer lack of resources. There is also a belief that many of the BME organisations compete for the same funding and therefore maybe skeptical of working together.

Such attitudes need to change. In this respect, funders too have role to play. Effective co-funding of several projects can pave the path for effective grantee and stakeholder collaborations. Ultimately, safeguarding our vulnerable communities is everyone’s business.