How housing associations can help in the fight to end domestic abuse

On 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women we want to thank housing associations who are working hard to protect survivors and support their local domestic abuse specialist organisations.

Sian Hawkins is Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs at Women’s Aid Federation of England

Sian Hawkins is Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs at Women’s Aid Federation of England

25 November 2018

For many women and children ‘home’ is the most dangerous place they can be. For survivors of domestic abuse home can become a place full of fear, violence and control, with a set of invisible rules that they constantly seem to break.

On average, two women a week in England and Wales are killed by their partner or ex-partner.

Many of them will be killed when trying to leave the relationship, or after fleeing. In 2016, the Femicide Census shows that 65 women victims of domestic abuse were killed by men in their own homes. We know that many women living in housing association properties will be at risk of, or experiencing, domestic abuse.

We recognise that responding is not always easy to do. Tackling a social issue as endemic as domestic abuse, with limited scope and resources, may seem like an impossible challenge. But it is possible to do, and we know that housing associations can make a real difference to the lives of women and children survivors of domestic abuse who are living in, or who are future tenants of, your properties.

Here are some of the ways that housing associations tackle domestic abuse, providing help and support to their tenants and working collaboratively with the wider domestic abuse sector.

Separating responses to antisocial behaviour (ASB) and domestic abuse: some housing associations have a clear policy on domestic abuse, which is best practice. Housing associations must ensure that, domestic abuse and ASB are not confused, to make sure their responses to domestic abuse are handled appropriately and not within a wider ASB policy.

Training for staff: giving them the knowledge and tools to be able to confidently identify, support and signpost tenants who may be experiencing domestic abuse can be a lifeline. Women’s Aid have a National Training Centre that can help with this and the Domestic Abuse Housing Alliance has an accreditation system for housing providers.

Dealing with perpetrators: don’t assume the victim will always move out of the property and the perpetrator will stay – even if this seems to be easiest option. Having a range of options available will help the victim chose the safest route to exiting the relationship.

Information available and signposting to services: having information on display about domestic abuse will send an important signal to victims that there is help and support available. It will signal to perpetrators, that domestic abuse will not be tolerated. There are downloadable posters available on the Women’s Aid website.

Supporting the survival of specialist services:

We know housing associations hugely benefit from the expertise of local specialist domestic abuse services when trying to support survivors; and the local response to domestic abuse is best when delivered in collaboration, where all players in the local response have a place at the table and the expertise of the specialist domestic abuse sector is fully harnessed and supported.

Housing associations can be crucial in identifying and responding to domestic abuse. Where they are delivering appropriate safeguarding and support to survivors, it can make a huge difference.


Find more about International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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