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London’s Victims Commissioner visits Woman’s Trust as suspected suicides related to domestic abuse overtake intimate partner homicides.

London’s Victims Commissioner, Claire Waxman OBE, visited Woman’s Trust – the leading mental health charity for survivors of domestic abuse, this Mental Health Awareness Week (on Thursday May 16) to hear how women and girls are suffering in silence, without vital life-changing support for their mental health.

The recent Domestic Homicide Project (DHP) review carried out by the National Police Chiefs’ Council, found that in the year to March 2023, there were 93 suspected victim suicides following domestic abuse (SVSDA) and 80 intimate partner homicides (IPH) in England and Wales1

In that same period, Woman’s Trust, which works across London, supported 800 women, with a further 1200 women not able to access mental health support as services were at capacity.

This trend continued, in the two years to March 2024, the charity, had to turn away more than 1,900 women for their specialist mental health services, whilst supporting a total of 1800 women.

Without specialist support to help their mental health recovery, women survivors are at an increased risk of taking their lives, if they are not supported with the right services when they need them most.

Heidi Riedel, Chief Executive of Woman’s Trust, says: “There is a lack of understanding nationally, about the impact of domestic abuse on the mental health of the survivor.

“Domestic abuse is complex. Many women experience multiple forms of abuse and the psychological trauma that the women endure has a lasting and devastating impact on their mental health and wellbeing, often leading to depression, PTSD and suicidal thoughts.

“At Woman’s Trust, we work with women by providing a safe space for them to untangle the trauma from their abuse and help them regain their confidence and self-esteem, empowering them to continue rebuilding their lives.

“The recent DHP review shows that the number of suspected victim suicides following domestic abuse is now overtaking the number of intimate partner homicides for the first time. Our own research shows that when our clients come to us for the first-time, half are experiencing depression and more than a third have considered taking their own life.

“We are calling for specialist mental health support to be prioritised and funded for every woman and girl survivor of domestic abuse, through specialist mental health services such as Woman’s Trust and the National Health Service. The current system is failing women and leaving many with no option but to take their own lives.”

London’s Victim’s Commissioner, Claire Waxman OBE says: ““Survivors repeatedly tell me that the most profound impact of domestic abuse is on mental health, self-esteem and wellbeing. The high rate of suicide ideation amongst those accessing the Woman’s Trust services and levels of suspected victim suicides nationally is a cause of serious concern. We need a public health approach to domestic abuse so that all agencies, including generic mental health services, can identify and respond to domestic abuse appropriately.

 

I’m pleased the Mayor of London invests in services such as The Woman’s Trust and is launching a new ten-point plan to tackle violence against women and girls. However, we need much greater focus and investment from the health sector and central Government to tackle the public health harms of domestic abuse in London.

 

Without support for their recovery, victims will struggle to engage with the criminal justice and safeguarding measures that can disrupt offenders and prevent future harm.”

 

Rachel, who was supported by Woman’s Trust, says: “I am a survivor of 24 years of coercive control and domestic abuse. In the years I was in that relationship I suffered all types of abuse and experienced my children being abused or knowing they were watching me be abused.

Leaving was not the end of the story. I had to battle to get protection, keep my children safe and completely start life again from zero. This was not easy. But the hardest impact were the wounds and scars that are left psychologically and emotionally from the abuse – that I needed to heal from.

Woman’s Trust offered me support groups and workshops run by therapists where I could heal, get emotional support and where I could meet other people like myself, survivors that understand. This helped me feel less alone and isolated and allowed me to reclaim my mental health.”

 

Ends

National Police Chiefs’ Council report, March 2024 https://news.npcc.police.uk/releases/report-reveals-scale-of-domestic-homicide-and-suicides-by-victims-of-domestic-abuse

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