Jess has worked with NDADA for over six years and as an independent domestic violence adviser (IDVA) at North Devon District Hospital for the past three years. From September, she is taking on a new role as our Community IDVA. We caught up with her to find out more about the post and how she’ll be supporting people across North Devon experiencing domestic abuse.
Hi Jess, lovely to meet you. Can you tell us a bit more about what IDVAs do at NDADA?
‘We’ve got various different IDVAs in the organisation who link with different areas, such as health, mental health, court and other areas. We act as specialist advocates in domestic abuse who can provide support – be that emotional support or liaising with other professionals at advocacy.
‘A big part of our role is around risk assessing and safety planning as well – supporting a survivor in their decision making in a situation. Do they want to stay with the person? Do they want to leave? How can we get them out safely? And working with all other agencies to do that.’
How can someone get support from an IDVA?
‘It really depends on the service that they’re involved in. Working as a Health IDVA, I’d support patients and staff members at the hospital. For example, if someone goes to A&E, the staff will ask the patient if they feel safe at home, safe in their relationship and if there’s anything they’re worried about. If they say yes, then they’d be offered a referral to the IDVA. If they consent to that then their details are passed to us, and we can then make contact with them and offer support.
‘We know that disclosure of domestic abuse can happen at community groups and events, but quite often the people facilitating those groups don’t know what to do with that information or what support is out there. They don’t know where to signpost people and it can get a bit lost. The idea of the Community IDVA role is that I will get out there and reach as many community groups and events as I possibly can to offer support.
‘I can upskill group and event facilitators in spotting the signs of domestic abuse, in referral routes and procedures and helping them to signpost. If they were worried about somebody that was coming to their group, I could go along to that group and just introduce myself and provide any support.
‘The Community IDVA role initially won’t be involved in individual case management, but it will be providing support. So, if we identify someone in a group that does need ongoing help, I can refer them into the most appropriate agency – whether that be ourselves or somewhere else.’
Which community groups will you be supporting?
‘Every type of group you can think of – from mum and baby groups to knit and natter in the local library. I’ve had conversations with Age Concern and the National Autistic Society and arranged to go along to their groups. We want to reach lots of diverse groups as well, LGBTQ+ groups and things like that, just to offer support where it’s not currently. We want to reach as many people as possible and let them know our service exists.
‘What I think might come out of attending the groups is that I might identify signs of abuse. Someone might say “Oooh, I’d love to go to that but my partner doesn’t like it if I’m out of the house for too long.” Things like that might creep into conversation that aren’t necessarily being identified as abuse but are a bit concerning. I can then start conversations around what different types of domestic abuse can look like.’
How will you support individuals who you identify as potentially being victims of domestic abuse?
‘NDADA is a community service and we want to make people aware that we’re not just here for people when abuse happens; we’re here from the beginning.
‘We have services within the organisation that support people from the very beginning of when things can start to change in their relationship to when they’re out the other end and are safe and free from abuse. We see survivors through the whole process.
‘I think the Community IDVA role is very much going to be part of the early stages – identifying abuse and getting people into support as soon as possible. I’m really passionate about preventative working and helping people to spot the early signs of domestic abuse before they get stuck in something that’s difficult to get out of and becoming more and more dangerous.’
If you run a community group in North Devon and are interested in speaking to Jess about how NDADA can support your members, drop her an email at email@example.com. She’d love to hear from you.