This protocol summarises plans for a qualitative study to assess the the factors which influences a perpetrator’s ability to re-enage with their children and families in instances of domestic abuse. The study takes a novel approach to answering its research questions by conducting focus groups with perpetrators, survivors and professionals.
Background and problem statement
Domestic abuse is a prevalent issue in health and social care. In the year ending March 2022, the Crime Survey for England and Wales estimated that 5% of adults (6.9% women and 3% men) experienced domestic abuse. This is equivalent to 2.4 million adults (1.7 million women and 699,000) men. Statistics also indicate that the number of children affected by domestic abuse is continuing to grow, with almost 245,000 referrals to social services made for incidences of domestic abuse.
There is clear and strong evidence to show that being a witness or victim of domestic abuse, particularly for children, can have adverse consequences on one’s social, emotional and physical behaviour which last into later life. Conversely, when fathers have a positive role in their children’s lives, together with a strong bond, this can positively impact their social and emotional development. Despite this, little research has been conducted which explores ways of working with, or understanding the needs of, the perpetrator.
Where instances of abuse exist, fathers often have restricted legal access to their children and professionals may avoid actively engaging with abusive fathers. This can limit a father’s ability to seek out the appropriate support to rebuild relationships. Moreover, for professionals, there is a lack of clear policies and tools which would enable them to work effectively on re-engaging survivor and perpetrator. Together, this means the system is often unable to properly support the perpetrator to re-build these familial relationships.
Aims and objectives
This study aims to undertake research which will aid the development of policies and protocols to support social workers and other professionals who are working with domestic abuse perpetrators re-engaging with their children. The research aims to answer the following questions:
- What factors are relevant (to perpetrators, survivors, and professionals) in developing protocols for the re-engagement of domestic abuse perpetrators with their children/families?
- Do perpetrators, survivors, and professionals think that it is appropriate/possible to develop protocols?
- What are the risks to take into account when developing protocols?
- What would a protocol need to contain to support perpetrators, survivors, and professionals?
To answer these questions, three focus groups will be held. The first will be conducted with health and social care professionals, the second with domestic abuse perpetrators, and the third with adult survivors and carers. A policy development workshop will then be held after data collection and analysis. Focus groups are expected to take approximately 90 minutes with the recruitment of participants being assisted by the Domestic Abuse Team at the Kent Community NHS Foundation Trust.