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We know that friends and relatives have the potential to play a really valuable role in the lives of domestic violence survivors; research has shown that positive informal support can buffer against negative impacts on survivors' health, well-being and quality of life and can even be protective against future abuse.

This informal support, particularly in light of the devastating cuts to domestic violence services as part of the austerity measures, really does have the potential to improve outcomes for survivors and save lives. However, unlike in other areas such as cancer, dementia and palliative care, for domestic violence we have been slow to recognise the invaluable role of informal carers and, crucially, we have ignored that fact that there might be impacts for these people themselves.

Having recently completed her PhD in the area at the University of Bristol, Alison Gregory explains that her work has "highlighted the great variety of impacts experienced and indicates that for some supporters the toll of being alongside a survivor has been huge." She produced a video (above) about the primary care consequences and effects of domestic violence on the friends and family who support the victims, and has since written a blog Responding to domestic violence – victims, workplace and friends & family for the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

During her post-doctoral SPCR fellowship, Alison will be working on provisional knowledge mobilisation and the dissemination of her research findings. She also hopes to secure funding to conduct a pilot study of proactive support for the social network of domestic violence survivors."If we better support those who informally support survivors, it's likely to be a win-win situation. Research with carers in the fields previously mentioned has shown that interventions targeting carers are not only of benefit to them, but also that those they care for gain. If this were the case for domestic violence, there is a very real possibility of a more community-based model working, rather than the model that is currently commissioned. As part of the launching fellowship I'll be working with Women's Aid to look at integrating some of my PhD findings into their training for professionals, but I'll also be looking to gain funding to develop and test a support intervention for the friends and relatives of domestic violence survivors."




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