Mothering Through Domestic Abuse and the Family Court - 2014

Veritas Justice and School of Health Sciences

The current Government campaign on domestic abuse has clearly identified an area of work that impacts communities across the country. In Brighton and Hove many services in our city are stretched and limited in time, resources and expertise and Family Court services have been reduced or cut completely. This makes it increasingly inaccessible for people to find the information they require to enable them to use the court system.

The partnership will be governed by the Lived Experience Paradigm principles that have informed the curriculum in the School of Health Sciences, it will include contributions from people who have experienced domestic and child abuse, who are court service users and will be framed and contextualised in relevant contemporary theory and empirical research work. Our project intends to strengthen links between community and university by robustly training professionals and empowering our community in order to improve outcomes for women and their children.

The partnership is based on the belief that personal experience must inform professional practice so that the needs of the community are coherently and appropriately responded to. We feel that our joint social responsibility is to raise awareness, inform curriculum, research policy and practice, change social perspectives and break stereotypes that affect families in our community in the long-term.

Progress of the project

The project was originally aimed at service users of the Family Court process who had experienced domestic abuse and were going through the court process. Due to the stigma attached to domestic abuse not many people came forward and subsequently the workshops were widened to include people working with, interested in and supporting those affected by these issues.

At this point we completed two groups with participants from varied backgrounds and interests, including social work students, counsellors and those working in the mental health sector. The experience of exchanging knowledge proved to be beneficial to the participants and informing the project as we worked through the sessions.


For the duration of the project we evaluated the impact it was having on the participants. We measured the outcomes and impact in the following ways:


Before Joining the group only 33% of the attendees felt confident in their understanding of domestic abuse. At the end of the sessions 86% felt very confident at identifying, responding, seeking help for domestic abuse. Victims felt more confident to take control of the decision making their own Family Court cases.

Knowledge exchange

48% of the attendees reported that they had increased their ability to cope with the effects of domestic abuse through the challenge of Family Court proceedings. Sharing of lived experiences whether personal or professional was reported to increase their understanding of the challenges faced by service-users and professionals when in the community.


96% of the participants reported an increased sense of wellbeing when having the opportunity to share their experiences and concerns within a group with a shared understanding of what one another had been through.

Social perceptions

97% of the participants reported at the beginning of the project that stigma and shame was a significant part of their experience. Towards the end of the project participants reported that whilst stigma remained similar or the same, they felt less ashamed to share their experiences and seek help for them.

Organisation/Seed funding outcome

The outcome for Veritas organisational purposes was the gathering of information and data analysis was the identification was that most domestic abuse cases also have an element of stalking and coercive control. Whilst there are services in the local area to support domestic abuse victims there were none to support victims of stalking, which has much more profound long lasting effects on individuals.

We have since been successfully awarded some funding by the Sussex Police Crime Commissioner to set up a pilot stalking advocacy service within the city of Brighton and Hove.

We have used the learning from this project to establish referral pathways and training with student services to provide a service to the university community staff and students, as well as awareness raising training around these issues which is currently funded by the Big Lottery. Referral pathways have also been set up with other voluntary and statutory organisations in the city and nationally and we are part of the National Stalking Consortium.

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