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  • Author or Editor: Caroline Bradbury-Jones x
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Technology is an ever-increasing part of most people’s lives and it has been crucial for the delivery of support by domestic violence and abuse (DVA) services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Paradoxically, this same technology has provided perpetrators with new and growing opportunities to continue or escalate their abusive behaviours. This article draws on the experiences of a specialist DVA service for children and young people (CYP) in the United Kingdom reflecting on the use of technology in service delivery during the COVID-19 pandemic. We applied a safety systems approach – a failure modes and analysis (FMEA) to analyse the nature and impacts of service responses. The FMEA shed light on the risks within the environment in which children and young people engage with remote, digital-enabled support. Practitioners, for example, have been unable to determine potential ‘lurking’, whereby other people, including the abusive parent or partner, are present within the room, but out of sight. The FMEA generated 13 ‘corrective actions’ that will be helpful to specialist practitioners supporting children and young people experiencing DVA and to operational managers modifying current services and designing those for the future.

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In this article, we reflect on the framing of violence against women in mainstream media in the UK, and some policy documents and guidance, in the first four weeks of the COVID-19 induced lockdown. In so doing, we consider the implications associated with the frequent failure to acknowledge sexual violence as a unique, and discrete, element of violence against women. Amid a context of overshadowing and absence, we also raise for debate (and recognition) the likely challenges associated with moving specialist voluntary sector sexual violence organisations into workers’ homes, to enable service provision to continue. In developing our arguments, we draw on conversations with voluntary sector sexual violence practitioners in England and existing literature that highlights the importance of the boundary between home and the job, when working with the ‘taint’ of sexual offences. Such a boundary rapidly recedes when sexual violence services, and their functions, are moved into workers’ living spaces. We set out some of the likely impacts of this changed work context and argue that projections for the resources required to manage COVID-19 in the longer term, must not forget about the needs of frontline voluntary sector workers.

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Health and social care professionals are well placed to identify and respond to those affected by gender-based violence; yet students across a range of health disciplines describe a lack of knowledge, preparation and confidence in dealing with the issue. Our study aimed to explore health and social care students’ perceptions of their own knowledge and confidence on the subject of gender-based violence, recollections of gender-based violence learning opportunities through university and clinical placements, and opinions about the content of future e-learning curricula on the subject. We designed and implemented a multinational, cross-sectional survey across six universities from five countries: Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand and Scotland. Responses were obtained from 377 students across seven health and social care disciplines. Principally, the study found that students were underprepared in their professional programmes in terms of dealing with gender-based violence. Many students had witnessed or heard about cases of gender-based violence on clinical placement, but reported feeling generally unconfident in dealing with the issue. Regarding future e-learning, students indicated that content should be inclusive and relate directly to clinical practice. We argue that there is a universal need for health care education programmes to include the issue of gender-based violence in curricula.

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