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16 Days of Activism – ‘If we all work together it will make a difference’

16 Days of Activism – ‘If we all work together it will make a difference’

By Medina Johnson, IRISi

As we mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Gender-Based Violence it’s timely to reflect on the importance of the healthcare response to gender-based violence. IRISi’s vision is a world in which gender-based violence is consistently recognised and addressed as a health issue. “Violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions” (Dr Margaret Chan, World Health Organisation Director-General). The IRIS Programme is our flagship intervention working within primary care to change and improve clinical practice and to provide patients affected by domestic abuse with access to specialist advice and support.

The IRIS programme provides training and support to GPs, practice nurses and other primary care clinicians to help them identify and refer women with experience of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) to specialist domestic violence services. It also provides information and signposting for male victims and perpetrators.

The service is a collaboration between primary care and third sector organisations specialising in DVA. An advocate educator, based in a local specialist DVA service, is linked to general practices and works in partnership with the local clinical lead to co-deliver the training to those practices. She also supports patients referred from those practices.

Close to 1000 general practices have already benefitted from IRIS training, which equips GPs and other general practice clinicians with the knowledge and confidence to ask patients sensitively about domestic abuse. 9.4 out of 10 clinicians would recommend IRIS training to a colleague: “What an excellent clinical teaching session – one of the best I’ve been to in eight years of medicine” – IRIS trained GP.

Over 10,000 patients with experiences of domestic abuse, nearly all of whom are women, have been referred to their local IRIS advocate educator for emotional and practical support. “I found it helpful to be asked [about domestic abuse] by my doctor. It made me feel less alone and I never knew this support was available” – IRIS service user. For clinicians, IRIS changes and improves clinical practice. For patients IRIS improves quality of life, overall health and wellbeing, and enhances safety. 95% of patients referred into the IRIS service were pleased to be asked about domestic abuse. 70% of patients referred into the IRIS service report visiting their general practice less frequently since receiving support. “I’m hugely grateful that the doctor referred me. I wouldn’t have done it myself. I was in a very bad place. I was really lonely and she listened, heard me, and just picked up where I was making excuses for my partner’s behaviour. She didn’t push anything at me but made it clear there were options” – IRIS service user.

IRISi’s mission is to improve the healthcare response to gender-based violence through health and specialist services working together. We look forward to continuing relationships with existing partner organisations that deliver the IRIS programme within local areas, and to developing adaptations of the IRIS programme within sexual health settings, dentistry and community pharmacies. In the words of an IRIS-trained clinician, “if we all work together it will make a difference” Join us in making a difference during the 16 Days of Action: #irisintervent

For help and support on domestic violence, these services provide free helplines:

  • National Domestic Violence 24 hr Helpline for women experiencing abuse: 0808 2000 247
  • Men’s Advice Line for men experiencing abuse: Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 801 0327
  • Galop (National LGBT Domestic Abuse Helpline): 0800 999 5428
  • RESPECT Phoneline: Confidential helpline offering advice, information and support to anyone concerned about their own or someone else’s violent or abusive behaviour. Monday-Friday 9am-5pm: 0808 802 4040

About IRISi

IRISi is a social enterprise established to promote and improve the health care response to gender based violence. IRISi:

  • supports the local commissioning, implementation, maintenance and growth of the IRIS programme, including bid development, training for trainers, ongoing support, national analysis and monitoring
  • collaborates with partners to develop innovative, evidence-based health interventions for those affected by gender based violence
  • provides expert advice and consultancy in the field of DVA and health

See www.irisi.org

Domestic violence and abuse facts

Domestic violence and abuse is defined by the UK government as “any incident or pattern of incident of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are, or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality“.  https://www.gov.uk/guidance/domestic-violence-and-abuse#domestic-violence-and-abuse-new-definition

Globally, direct experience of being subjected to domestic violence is greater among women then among men. In the UK, 27% of women and 13% of men have experienced some form of domestic abuse in their lifetime; 44% of female murder victims compared to 6% of male victims are killed by a partner or an ex-partner (Home Office, 2015). Intimate partner violence is responsible for more ill-health and premature death in women under the age of 45 than any other well-known risk factors including high blood pressure, obesity and smoking (VicHealth, 2004).


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