Black and minority ethnic survivors of domestic violence have reported feeling judged by local caseworkers who “shrugged” or “raised an eyebrow” when the survivors told their story, according to research carried out by Croydon support groups.
Five focus groups held by the Bromley & Croydon Women’s Aid (BCWA) and Croydon BME Forum found that some women will not return to centres providing support as a result of such experiences, and have left feeling stigmatised.
The results were presented at the Croydon BME Forum Centre last month.
Presenting their findings, BCWA programme officer Ebado Ibrahim said women felt visible when accessing support services: “Someone from the community may see them entering the building (where services are provided) and within the hour others in their community will find out.”
Ibrahim said she felt “uneasy” about the feedback, as it could mean that “support is not working for black and ethnic minority women”.
According to the Croydon Council website victims of domestic abuse in the borough can seek support from the council-run Family Justice Centre and various national abuse hotlines.
Other feedback included hearing that women accessing support services were unsure whether their stories would be kept confidential. Ibrahim said: “[Women] are unsure whether what they say in the room will stay in the room.”
Women also felt compromised by having to rely on family members to translate for them, due to wanting to keep their stories confidential. Some were afraid to seek out help because they felt insecure over their immigration status.
Recommendations from respondents included better training in communication for service providers, especially in non-verbal interaction.
Respondents fed back that they would be more likely to access support if they can speak to “someone like them, who speaks like them, who will understand them”.
Focus groups proposed advertising services in women’s only areas, like women’s prayer rooms in mosques, and in as many languages as possible.
“There is no one-size fits all and personalisation is the key,” Ibrahim said. “In the end it is for us to get to these women in every way possible.”
34 per cent of those who seeking council support in domestic violence cases this year are Black, Asian or minority ethnicity, council data shows.
When contacted, the council said it recognised that some individuals faced additional barriers to accessing support services and was working to ensure those needs are met.
A spokesperson for the council told ELL: “Our data reflects a positive picture of individuals accessing services from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicity backgrounds, but given the nature of underreporting with domestic abuse, there is always more to do.”