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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Completed Projects

Policing Domestic Abuse Knowledge Transfer Project

A research project of the Department of Sociology.


The HMIC report (2014) ‘Everyone’s business’ highlighted that police forces across the UK were not responding satisfactorily to victims of domestic abuse, and have little understanding of coercion and control. The report suggested forces find more innovative ways of training officers to improve responses to domestic abuse victims. As a result, this Knowledge Transfer Project (KTP) was developed between Durham University, Durham Constabulary and an academic associate with the hope of combining academic knowledge alongside police resources to produce a successful training programme for police.


This project aims to research the current frontline police response to intimate partner violence (IPV) victims, identity areas to be improved within this response and build these into an innovative drama-based training package to be rolled out to police first responders at the end of 2015.

Aims will be met by:

  1. Understanding why the project is needed: (to reduce risk to lives of victims; provide standardised training for National Police forces, ensure victims are receiving the same, positive police response regardless of where they are situated geographically/their situation)
  2. Evaluating current response: How do police currently respond to victims? Consider process from call handlers to on-call officers who are first on scene
  3. Establish steering group: What do members of the steering group believe the strengths/problems are?
  4. Current barriers to response from Police staff: (lack of resources/training etc) Carry out interviews with police to gage an understanding of barriers they face when responding to victims of domestic abuse
  5. Speak to stakeholders/voluntary and statutory organisations who deal with domestic abuse - what do they believe are the problems?
  6. Victim satisfaction: How is this measured? Are victims happy with responses? Speak with victims of domestic abuse who have had contact with the police. Suggestions for improvement
  7. Based on all of above, begin to identity areas for improvement and build these into a training programme, working with local acting group. Integrate coercion and control within this.
  8. Pilot the programme within the company, check for feedback, make amendments where needed

Roll out programme further so as many staff as possible are trained.


Evaluation of a ‘snapshot’ week of domestic abuse, comprising of an evaluation of police data, and interviews with victims, police and support organisations.

Within the week used for the snapshot (end of Feb 2015) there were 134 were classed intimate partner domestic abuse cases, and after conducting safety protocol a sample size of 64 victims were contacted to take part in the research. From these, we gained a final sample of 24 completed interviews.

Database analysis This considered victim and perpetrators’ age, gender, location, whether children were present, types of abuse and police recording of coercion and control. From the sample we could see that there were 21 women and 3 men, the most common age group for victims and perpetrators was 36-45, 19 of the cases involved ex-partners, and 5 partners, and there were high rates of repeat victimisation.

Interviews with victims focused on how positive or negative victims’ experience of police response was. Areas considered were police empathy, practical support, recognition of coercion and control and perception of police helpfulness.

Interviews with police and partner organisations: 8 interviews were carried out with frontline police officers and 9 with professionals from support organisations. These interviewsexplored the process taken when police are responding to victims and what they feel is helpful/not helpful. Police were also asked about their understanding of coercive and controlling behaviours. Organisations were asked to comment on opinions around police response to domestic abuse, using their clients/service users’ experiences as a guide.

Working with theatre group ‘Open Clasp’ to produce a piece of forum theatre: The project will move on to focus on developing composite case studies based of victims’ real experiences of IPV, and working with Open Clasp to produce a training programme for Durham police, with a particular focus on coercion and control.


Most victims are broadly happy with the response they receive from Durham Police. Some reported negative experiences - particularly relating to a lack of follow-up from police officers. Police officers report lower understanding of coercion and control than of domestic abuse in general, and only recorded coercive and controlling behaviours in 3/24 of the incidents in the snapshot week. Victims we spoke to on the same week reported this on far more occasions. Organisations feel that police need more training on how to recognise and respond to these behaviours. We will update our findings as we get further through the project. 

External Staff

Helen Murphy, Durham Constabulary


From the Department of Sociology

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