Karen and Daisy* are survivors of domestic abuse. After fleeing with their children from their respective violent partners, they both struggled to get back on their feet. Karen felt trapped in her new top floor flat, as her partner kept threatening her. Daisy fell into depression due to the stress of being homeless, dealing with an ongoing court case and having to manage her children’s health issues.
While both families finally found safe new accommodation, Karen lives with daily anxiety and hypervigilance, and Daisy has left her job to take care of her children full time.
Through Glasgow’s ‘Making A House A Home’ (MAHAH) project, both women received funding for furniture and works they couldn’t afford themselves, support which has helped them to rebuild their lives. In Karen’s case, she was able to buy new blinds, which have given her more privacy and improved her mental well-being.
A little help to feel at home
Domestic abuse is the single biggest cause of homelessness for women and children in Glasgow. Women who experience it are also frequently subject to financial abuse, with research showing that women’s experiences of poverty have a tendency to last longer than men’s. This makes it even harder for women and families fleeing the abuse to get back on their feet.
To help tackle these issues, the MAHAH project provides a one-for-all voucher of £100,000 (€116,529.88) to help establish and furnish a new home. The fund is available to all women with children who are fleeing abuse and can be accessed through various services.
Improving a system that adds to the abuse
Some challenges women face are direct consequences of the abuse, others are due to the system they have to navigate when denouncing it. “Despite victim-centred policies and legislation, criminal justice processes and individual responses can diminish their impact,” says Nancy Lombard, Professor at Glasgow Caledonian University.
Together with colleague Katy Proctor, they carried out research involving 130 women survivors of domestic abuse and stalking. “Our participants described repeatedly how they felt the criminal justice system further controlled them and often facilitated the perpetrators’ abusive behaviours to continue,” adds Lombard.
The study informed a short, animated video that reflects the women’s lived experiences. For example, it reflects their frustration at a lack of communication from the police and courts, lengthy case delays, and perpetrators breaching bail conditions.
Lombard explains that women felt “there was reluctance by individual officers to take the case forward or that the reported incidents were seen as ‘just’ a relationship breakdown and not an abusive course of conduct. To some, it felt like someone else was deciding what was best for them.”
Lombard and Proctor’s study was also followed by a report calling for police and criminal justice staff to better understand the trauma caused by denouncing coercive control, for bail conditions to be better enforced, and for survivors to be listened to and heard throughout the justice process. It concludes that communication must be improved in every stage of the investigation and prosecution process.
Long term approach
The fight against domestic abuse is one run on multiple fronts, and one cities like Glasgow are ready to take on with a holistic approach. Earlier this year, the city launched its Domestic Abuse Strategy 2023 – 2028, the result of several months of consultation using a ‘whole life approach,’ with public, professionals, survivors and perpetrators were involved at different stages.
One of the main aims of the strategy is to improve the staff’s knowledge so they feel confident to identify people at risk and so that victims feel supported throughout their journeys. Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership has worked together with Police Scotland, Glasgow City Council, third sector partners and leading academics to create a consistent strategy.
In Glasgow, a city deeply dedicated to addressing domestic violence, compassion serves as a steady guide for progress. Through the stories of survivors like Karen and Daisy, we see the resilience of individuals and the city’s commitment to confronting a challenging issue. Glasgow refuses to turn a blind eye to the harsh realities of abuse, steadfastly working to provide vital support to those in need.
*Names and identifying features have been changed to protect the people in this story.