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Table of Contents

  1. Welcome to the C-SAP mini-site!
  2. Introducing the theme of the mini-site - domestic violence
  3. What do you already know about domestic violence? Try this quiz to find out...
  4. Surprised by some of the answers to the quiz? Here's an opportunity to find out more about domestic violence...
  5. Now you know more about domestic violence, what about volunteering in this field while you're at university? Why not consider working on a domestic violence helpline...
  6. Want to know more about how you might volunteer in the field of domestic violence? Read Damian's account here...
  7. More on volunteering in the field of domestic violence while you're at university... Why not consider outreach work with young people?
  8. So what's it like volunteering in outreach work? Here's an interview with Kirsty, who volunteers for Safe and Sound; and a piece by Lesley, who worked with women and girls involved in prostitution...
  9. A link to a key way of finding volunteering opportunities near where you're located...
  10. Counselling: spotlighting a career route you might take after volunteering in the field of domestic violence and starting to study for postgraduate counselling qualifications...
  11. Real-life case studies of careers that might develop from volunteering in the field of domestic violence or related areas...
  12. Emily's experiences of working part-time while a Sociology student
  13. Doing outreach work with children - A discussion of work done at Nottinghamshire Domestic Violence Forum
  14. Being a Service Manager for Refuge and Children's Services - BA (Hons) Social and Cultural Studies graduate, Jennifer, talks about her career
  15. Joining the Police - An interview with Tracy, a Chief Inspector
  16. Being a Training Officer - Diane talks about her work at Safe and Sound, Derby
  17. Working for an Offender Learning and Skills Service Project - An interview with Katie, who has a BA (Hons) in Sociology and Criminology and is currently studying for an MA in Criminology
  18. From Nursing to Counselling, via the Prison Service - Daphne talks about her career
  19. Managing a Voluntary Sector Organisation - Yasmin talks about her role at Derby Women's Centre
  20. Called to the Bar - An interview with Georgina, a Barrister
  21. Working as a Journalist - An interview with James, a Deputy Editor of a national newspaper
  22. Teaching as a Career - An interview with Christina, who has a BA (Hons) Politics and a PGCE in English and Citizenship, and is now a Head-Teacher
  23. Getting Elected as a Local Councillor - An interview with Stephanie, who did Combined Honours in Sociology and English and has an MA in Gender Studies
  24. Getting Elected as an MP - An interview with Sally Keeble MP, who has a degree in Sociology
  25. A link to a key careers website...
  26. If the material in this mini-site has affected you, here are organisations that can offer help
  27. Conditions of use

Surprised by some of the answers to the quiz? Here's an opportunity to find out more about domestic violence...

The text immediately below offers you more information about key current debates in the field of domestic violence. It was written by Kerry Sullivan from Nottinghamshire Domestic Violence Forum.

After that, you'll find 3 questions to follow up, so that you can start to do your own research into domestic violence.

Below that you'll find a PDF in which Kerry explains how she would respond to the 3 questions you have been exploring.

Compare your views and findings with hers. Have you found a different way to look at the issues raised?

This section develops your understanding of domestic violence and helps you read critically, hone your research skills and develop arguments supported by research.

It might also give you ideas for dissertations...

An academic overview of domestic violence and an introduction to key current debates in the field...

What you'll find in this section:

*An overview of a high-profile project on domestic violence

* A key Government definition of domestic violence

* Quotes from domestic violence survivors

* An explanation of a key term - 'coercive control' (Stark, 2007)

* A discussion of perpetrator excuses and their effects

* An analysis of power and control

* An indication of how society needs to move forwards...

Arguably one of the most significant events in UK domestic violence research this decade took place on the 28th September 2000. It was 'The Day to Count'.

'The Day to Count', led by Elizabeth Stanko - a highly-respected professor who has written extensively in the field of violence - involved a range of agencies, including the Police, Relate, Women's Aid and Victim Support. They all collected the numbers of people who asked for their support about domestic violence on the 28th September, to provide a snapshot of domestic violence in UK society.

A particularly widely-quoted, shocking statistic from 'The Day to Count' is that someone called the Police about domestic violence every minute of the day. The majority of these callers were women attacked by men.

Photo: a woman victim of domestic violence sitting in her living room in despair

For more details of the project, have a look at Stanko (2000) or browse the Internet for press interest in September 2000.

Even now, 'The Day to Count' data remains a powerful indication of the prevalence of domestic violence in the UK. Its findings have been confirmed since (e.g. Council of Europe, 2002; Povey, 2004). Right now, in Nottinghamshire, our 24-hour helpline receives on average 16,000 calls a year.

Earlier in this mini-website, we started to look at what counts as domestic violence. On the NHS Bad Health Website, the Government's definition is quoted. Domestic violence is said to be: 'any incident of threatening behaviour, violence or abuse (psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional) between adults who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality. This includes issues of concern to black and minority ethnic (BME) communities such as so called "honour based violence", female genital mutilation (FGM) and forced marriage.'

This definition provides a comprehensive overview of the types of violence that might occur within an abusive relationship, but it does not reflect the experience of living with abuse, and nor does it adequately convey the way in which types of abuse interact to foster an atmosphere in which a person is controlled and dominated.

This experience is best portrayed in the words of domestic violence survivors. Here we hear from a woman, and an 8 year old girl...

'From the beginning, the violence and the power - you're just ruled by fear. Or I was, just by fear. And what he would do to you if you ever left. And I always believed that and you do believe that. But all the way through you ask for help but you don't actually stand there and say will you help me, my husband beats me up. .... And for 39 years I got on with it.' (Scott et al, 2004).

'He used to say, "I am going to kill you at night-time when you are asleep"... I used to get very frightened' (Mona, 8 years old)' (Mullender et al 2003).

These are just a couple of quotes from an extensive literature. They highlight the manipulative and controlling actions that exist alongside physical and sexual abuse, which enable the perpetrator to maintain control over the victim. The use of threats, isolation, making constant trivial demands, degradation and other forms of emotional abuse contribute to a climate in which the woman and children are not free to do as they please and are at the behest of the perpetrator.

Photo: man pointing in a threatening way

A key term is what Stark (2007) refers to as 'coercive control'. This is a model through which an emphasis is placed on the effect of violations of liberty, rather than the physical and psychological trauma of specific incidents. Violation of liberty and constant trivial demands, such as insisting on picture texts that show where a survivor is, and not allowing any input into decisions in the household may be almost imperceptible to those outside of the relationship. Here's a quote in which a woman reports this sort of experience...

'He'd do things like take the car keys away, couldn't have any money for shopping, had to have receipts, you couldn't watch what you wanted on telly, had to go to bed when you were told, you couldn't do this, you weren't allowed to use the telephone.' (McGee 2000:31).

This type of controlling behaviour weaves around the other elements of abusive behaviour and permeates through it. It is the combination of these behaviours that subjugates and dissolves the survivor's ability to leave the abusive relationship.

(McGee 2000:35) says: 'Women described their experiences using words like cruelty and torture and emphasised how the emotional and psychological abuse was a systematic way of wearing down their self-confidence and self-esteem: "I think in my experience that's how they work, they grind you down mentally, they make you feel totally useless and inept and unable and incapable, and then its easy for them to just intimidate you without...just the threat of physical violence is enough, you know, without the actual going through with it."'

It is usual that much agency engagement with survivors/victims of domestic violence takes place at points during which the survivor has been compelled to engage. This might be after a particularly nasty incident, after the police have been called to attend by a neighbour or by a child, after the victim has attended A & E, after the children have been injured or physically involved. One of the outcomes of this pattern of engagement is that agencies can be led to believe that the abuse is physical and fail to identify the other aspects.

McGee (2000:31) describes how this can impact on the approach taken by agencies: 'A failure to recognise the extreme nature of this controlling behaviour or not putting isolated incidents in the context of control exerted by the man means that the perception of the violence will be minimised'.

The existence and prevalence of the use of domestic violence poses questions about how and why this is the case. Commonly, blame for domestic violence is laid at the door of the survivor or outside factors. Victim-blaming behaviour such as: 'Why doesn't she leave? She must enjoy it. She must be as bad as him,' is a method of transferring responsibility away from the perpetrator and absolving others of the need to intervene. This strategy will be used by a perpetrator to disempower the victim and create uncertainty.

Where the victims themselves aren't held responsible there can be a tendency to look for external pressure that might 'cause' the abuse. As we started to see in the quiz material, myths commonly cited include drugs and alcohol, the inability to control anger, mental health conditions or having lived with abuse as a child.

Photo: a page of points about domestic violence

Research that has been undertaken into the behaviour of perpetrators evidences that these excuses are not the cause of violence, but are frequently used by the perpetrators to obfuscate the issue and abdicate responsibility. They may have an impact upon the relationship, but they are not the reason that the man is abusive. Professionals colluding with these excuses can create extra barriers to a woman leaving a relationship and compound the impact of the abusive behaviour.

Bancroft (2002:22) describes this process: 'Above all, the abusive man wants to avoid having you zero in on his abusiveness itself. So he tries to fill your head up with excuses and distortions .... And unfortunately, much of society tends to follow unsuspectingly along behind him, helping him to close your eyes, and his own, to his problem'.

Once these excuses have been stripped away, what remains is the concept of power and control, which is the theoretical perspective on domestic violence worked to by most domestic violence agencies in the UK.

In heterosexual relationships, power and control exists in a paradigm of patriarchal assumption of rights. Historically, men have had the right to use violence in relationships and this right has been backed by legislation. As we saw in the quiz, between 1767 and 1891 men in Britain had a legal right to 'beat their wives' with a stick no thicker than their thumb. It is only recently that the word 'obey' was deigned optional within the Christian wedding ceremony. Rape has only been illegal in marriage since 1995 in England and Wales.

Over time many of these rights have been physically stripped away but psychological echoes remain within the dynamic relations of some heterosexual relationships.

Outside influences such as media, the internet and culture re-enforce these dynamics. Research undertaken into perpetrators' own descriptions of their abuse demonstrated clearly that perpetrators wanted to maintain power and control in a relationship and felt that they should maintain control within the relationship as the man.

Hearn (1998:144), writing about male perpetrators' own narratives of their abuse identified that, the 'men's accounts of violence are themselves usually both within and examples of patriarchal domination and male domination'

Photo: a group of students learning about domestic violence

A question in the section below will ask you to look further at the belief, intent and action section of the Nottinghamshire Domestic Violence Forum website.

It is through the identification of power dynamics as being at the core of domestic violence perpetration that we can identify the importance of preventative work in schools and with young people.


In order to create a society which really is free from fear the foundations need to be laid through nurturing attitudes that reject the perpetuation of oppressive paradigms. This is a key aspect of current work in the field of domestic violence.


Bancroft, L. (2002) Why Does He Do That? New York: Berkley

Council of Europe (2002) Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on the Protection of Women against Violence. Adopted on 30 April 2002; and Explanatory Memorandum. Strasbourg, France. Council of Europe

Hearn, J. (1998) The Violences of Men London: Sage

McGee, C. (2000) Childhood Experiences of Domestic Violence London: Jessica Kingsley

Mullender, A. et al (2003) Children's Perspectives on Domestic Violence. London: Sage.

Povey D. (ed) (2004) Crime in England and Wales 2002/3: Supplementary Volume 1 - Homicide and gun crime London; Home Office (See also: Povey, D. (ed.) (2005) Crime in England and Wales 2003/2004:Supplementary Volume 1: Homicide and Gun Crime. Home Office Statistical Bulletin No. 02/05 London: Home Office.)

Scott M, L McKie, S Morton, E Seddon and F Wasoff (2004) Older women and domestic violence in Scotland Edinburgh: Centre for Research on Families and Relationships and Health Scotland

(See also: Scott M (2008) Updating older women and domestic violence in Scotland. Edinburgh: Centre for Research on Families and Relationships and Health Scotland.)

Stanko, E. (2000) The Day to Count: A snapshot of the Impact of Domestic Violence in the UK Criminal Justice 1:2

Stark. E. (2007) Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life USA: Oxford University Press

Other useful reading

Hester, M. and Westmarland, N. (2006) Service Provision

for Perpetrators of Domestic Violence Bristol: University of Bristol

Walby, Sylvia and Allen, Jonathan (2004) Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking: Findings from the British Crime Survey London: Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate

And now, here's your opportunity to do some research...

Photo: books on a bookshelf

1. How does domestic violence impact upon mental health and what are key considerations for practitioners?

To start to answer this:

Have a look at:

& in particular look at their good practice guidance on mental health and domestic violence.

2. How might access to domestic violence services be affected by sexuality?

To start to answer this:

Have a look at:

3. Give some examples of how a perpetrator might minimise or deny their behaviour or blame the victim/survivor.

To start to answer this:

Read the Belief, Intent, Action information on the following website:

Read Kerry's responses here (PDF document)

The next two sections look at volunteering you might do as an undergraduate student in the field of domestic violence...

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