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Domestic abuse and migrant communities

4 Nov 2019 11:00AM

The University of Suffolk is taking part in this year’s Economic and Social Research Council’s Festival of Social Science by hosting an event on domestic abuse and migrant communities.

The event, entitled Safety Nets Re-imagined, is the third event for the Domestic Abuse Research Network, which launched in June this year. The Network aims to provide a community to share good practice.

Safety Nets Re-imagined will address questions such as what does a ‘safety net’ mean? What role do language and culture play in support and how might we create culturally responsive services to meet the needs of migrant victims? Using different art forms and co-produced with migrant women, the Network will present migrant women’s journeys to safety based on accounts from victims/ survivors and professionals.

Dr Olumide Adisa, Research Fellow and Interim Head of Centre for Abuse Research at the University of Suffolk said, “As part of the ESRC Festival of Social Science, this co-produced event aims to educate, inform and foster conversations. The event brings together available academic evidence, experiential evidence, and survivors’ artistic expressions to raise awareness of domestic abuse in migrant communities. It draws attention to the reality that the experiences of migrant victims/survivors are qualitatively different. For instance, previous research by organisations such as the Step Up Migrant Women Coalition showed that an insecure legal status is often a tool of control used by abusers and to threaten them with deportation.” 

“Additionally, when migrant women ask for help at crisis point, and are assessed by statutory agencies as likely to be ‘no recourse to public funds (NRPF)’ and at a high risk of domestic abuse, they are often not able to access mainstream refuge immediately because specialist advice may be required to establish their rights to reside in the UK. While men can also be victims of domestic abuse, women and children are the most impacted by domestic abuse.”

“As part of the commissioned evaluation of a local response to this gap in provision, called Project Safety Net+ (PSN+), my research included gathering accounts of survivor’s experiences. Findings from 10 interviews with migrant women suggest that migrant victims are in a vulnerable and isolated position. They fear asking for help, and in some cases, they are unable to ask for help due to language barriers and having no access to money.”

“Sadly, this area of work remains under-researched as demonstrated by findings from the literature review evidence brief published this week on the effectiveness of interventions for migrant victims by the Centre for Abuse Research at the Suffolk Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University.”

Speakers for the panel event will include representatives from Step Up Migrant Women Coalition, Latin American Women’s Right Service, Leeway, People from Abroad Team (Norfolk County Council), Norfolk Community Law Service, Southall Black Sisters, and GYROS.

Janaya Walker from Southall Black Sisters said, “We are looking forward to participating in the panel discussion on migrant women and domestic abuse. In the context of sweeping cuts to legal aid, welfare and specialist services and the hostile immigration climate, we are concerned that migrant women will be further excluded from protection and justice.”

Jane Basham, CEO of Norfolk Community Law Service, said, “Having no recourse to public funds means women and children are trapped in a cycle of violence and destitution. For many their right to live in the UK is tied to their abusive spouse. The early and urgent specialist free legal advice we are able provide is quite literally a safety net. Providing women with options, including securing the right to remain in the UK, means they and their children are able to access housing and other forms of support. It enables them to escape violence and gives them the breathing space they need to plan a future free from abuse.” 

Inese Brencane from GYROS added, ‘’GYROS are proud to be involved in this showcase and panel event working in partnership with the University of Suffolk to raise awareness of this key issue of support and safety for women who are victims of domestic abuse who cannot access refuge due to ‘no recourse to public funds’ status- safety should not be something that is linked to immigration status’’.

The evening, which has been supported by the organisation Language Acts and Worldmaking, will include artwork by local artist Lois Cordelia who has created artwork and a video based on the concept of "Safety nets".  Lois said, "I wanted to create a piece that was visually beautiful and eye-catching, despite the challenging themes that inspired it. My hope is that it will play some part in helping to raise awareness of domestic abuse in migrant communities, as part of this pioneering project of the Domestic Abuse Research Network hosted by the University of Suffolk."

Contributions will also come from women working with GYROS in Great Yarmouth and Leeway in Norfolk and Suffolk.


University of Suffolk Press Office
T: 01473 338476