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Improving Frontline Responses to High Impact Domestic Violence

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - IMPRODOVA (Improving Frontline Responses to High Impact Domestic Violence)

Reporting period: 2018-05-01 to 2019-10-31

In general terms, European countries are built on societal values of safety, peace and welfare, and legal frameworks, which are respected as they work to uphold such ideals. Within this vision, the private and domestic spaces of families and intimate partnerships might be supposed as the safest of places. Yet all too often it seems the contrary is true, and such relations instead prove dangerous, life-threatening and even life-ending in some scenarios. The traditionally thought of private sphere in which such modes of violence are perpetrated, coupled with the often physical, psychological and coercive nature of the violence, mark out just some of the ways in which victims and survivors may struggle to make their ordeal visible within a public arena. At the same time, domestic violence (DV) comes at a tremendously high cost to the public purse (not least funding for law enforcement, health and social care), as well as a much more pervasive set of social and opportunity costs to those affected by DV, leaving no doubt that DV is of public and social concern. Increasingly, joint action by frontline responders – especially between police, health care and social workers – is seen as a positive response to the harms that domestic violence victims, survivors and their children face. Such inter-agency modes of cooperation, however, appear far from consistent across EU member countries, hindered by various influences including human factors. IMPRODOVA attends to this gap by researching and enhancing inter-agency cooperation in order to mitigate high impact domestic violence.
IMPRODOVA research has used a variety of methods to explore and investigate factors influencing inter-agency cooperation as it might work to respond to, mitigate and prevent DV harms and risks. First, a comprehensive document analysis was performed on regulatory frameworks, systematic capturing of DV-related data, risk assessment, case documentation, and frontline responder trainings in all eight IMPRODOVA countries. This provided an overview of the idealised picture on DV-targeted action by frontline responders. The analysis revealed both differences and similarities to regulatory frameworks between IMPRODOVA countries. Significantly, whilst most IMPRODOVA partner countries follow the Istanbul Convention, domestic violence is not officially defined in all IMPRODOVA countries’ legislations, and it is not part of the Penal Code.
Second, interviews and observations with frontline responders in law enforcement, health and social work, amongst others, provided an expansive overview of current practices, including the ways in which frontline responders perceive their own DV-related expertise and training. This comparative field study took place in all eight IMPRODOVA countries (Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Portugal, Scotland, and Slovenia) in at least two case study locations per country. Findings were organizational in nature and reveal that more positive outcomes might be achieved where victims interact with professionals who work within specialized units, embedded in partnerships with professionals from other sectors.
Third, these research findings form the foundation for recommendations regarding DV policy implementation, data collection, and risk assessment, as well the development of training tools to foster frontline responder cooperation across professions. Parallel to these research efforts, dissemination activities will continue to address frontline responders and the general public by various means: regular newsletters to the IMPRODOVA community; downloadable material on the IMPRODOVA-website; presence of IMPRODOVA in the media (printed, online, and TV); exchange with members of the related scientific community during conferences and stakeholder meetings as well as via publications on a national and international level; information to policy makers by presentations at respective congregations, round tables, and conferences. Plans are in place for an edited monograph on the topic of domestic violence and frontline responders. So far the IMPRODOVA project has reached its first three Milestones and an Advisory Board has been set up.
Research and output by the IMPRODOVA project will improve the cooperation and performance of frontline responder ecosystems as they relate to high impact domestic violence (HIDV) by considering existing heterogeneities across different settings. To this end, IMPRODOVA will map the regulatory frameworks, guidelines, risk assessment formats and training materials that shape the possible institutional responses to HIDV in Europe and identify gaps, shortcomings and incompatibilities. Moreover, the ways in which present regulatory frameworks shape the work and co-operation of frontline responders will be identified, as well as the roles that human factors may play in such arrangements. Across all tasks, best practices will be identified and considered. In concrete terms, IMPRODOVA will impact the domains of HIDV-related policy making, data collection, risk assessment, case documentation, training and inter-agency cooperation by means of recommendations and trainings of affected stakeholders.