The research, carried out by the University of Bristol, evaluated the Freedom programme, a 12-week UK-wide course that provides women with a supportive group setting in which to learn about the reality of domestic abuse, how to recognise it and where to turn to for help.
The programme exists across the UK but has never been assessed across a number of groups within a specific area to evaluate its effectiveness. The study, by Dr Emma Williamson and Dr Hilary Abrahams of the University’s Centre for Gender and Violence Research at the School for Policy Studies, evaluated the Bristol-based programme and found that the programme was successful in empowering women to take control of their situation.
The programme in Bristol is unique in that it is provided through a network of practitioners in order to ensure that quality and standards are maintained across the city.
The study, funded by Barnardo’s locally and commissioned on behalf of the Bristol Freedom Network, assessed the responses from 27 volunteer participants to surveys completed at the beginning and end of the programme.
At the beginning of the programme, the majority of women said their main aim was to gain more confidence. By the end of the 12 weeks, they reported that they were making decisions more equally with their partners, over issues such as how to spend their leisure time and when to see other family members. A number of women also reported a marked improvement in relationships with their children.
Dr Williamson, who has been working in the area of gender-based violence for 15 years, said: “We were pleased to find that the programme has a positive impact on the lives of the women who participate, and as such, provides a service to assist women to move on from abusive relationships and to be aware of potential abuse within future relationships. This is a positive outcome.”
The report also credited the success of the Freedom programme to its links with a wider range of multi-agency responses to domestic abuse, concluding that in referring women to the programme, facilitators could help determine a better outcome by providing more information about women’s needs, their mental health, issues of poverty and low income. Facilitators could also discuss the existing support networks which may be available to women alongside the programme.
The report can be read in full here: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/sps/research/projects/completed/2010/rj4997/rj4997finalreport.pdf.
Please contact Aliya Mughal for further information.