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Thursday, 30 April 2009

Update on BMA domestic abuse seminar

As promised, an update on Tuesday’s domestic abuse seminar, held by the BMA at the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay. First of all, I’d just like to thank everyone involved in making the event such a success, it was very well attended, perhaps in part due to the wide field of experts we had speaking there. And a special note of thanks to the speakers, Simon Jones – NSPCC, Professor Jonathan Shepherd – Director of Cardiff University’s Violence Research Group, Paula Hardy – Welsh Women’s Aid, DCI Martyn Dew – Gwent police and Dr Brian Gibbons – Social Justice Minister. It was really interesting to have such a broad cross-section of organisations, able to represent some of the different facets of domestic abuse.

There were quite a few statistics mentioned, too many perhaps to quote them all here. However, one that did stand out for me was the fact that a victim will be attacked at least 34 times, before first contacting police and seeking help.

Professor Jonathan Shepherd’s account of a patient he sees on a regular basis in his dental clinic, was also very powerful. The patient, who didn’t want to be identified, was stabbed repeatedly by her partner and continues to suffer post-traumatic stress and depression because of the abuse, re-living events constantly in her mind. A couple of things that have really helped her however was the response from ambulance staff and doctors who she said saved her life and also the continuity of care that she was given which meant she didn’t have to recount her distressing ordeal over and over again. The one drawback this particular victim found was a lack of any kind of support network and that despite the fact she wanted to talk to people about it, there wasn’t necessarily anyone there to listen.

I think there was general agreement that the Welsh Assembly Government has done a great a deal of policy work in the area of domestic abuse, perhaps more so than the Home Office when it was that Government department’s responsibility. There were several key recommendations made though as well, including the need to audit every A&E department in Wales over domestic abuse attendances, a better forensic medical service and to challenge the cultural acceptance by many that domestic abuse is the “norm” and “the way things are”.

Following on from this event, we’ll be putting together a report, which will detail all the findings and recommendations made on the night, which of course, I’ll post on here.

Despite the fact that invites were sent out well in advance to all 60 Assembly Members, only a handful turned up (including the Social Justice Minister who was speaking). I wonder what was more pressing than addressing this issue, which is undoubtedly a very real one for many of their constituents?

If you were unable to make the event, but would like to see more about what was discussed, here's the webcast of it.

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