Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Victim and Survivor Forum

The Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership (KBSP) has made a strong commitment to ensure all of its approach to domestic abuse is informed comprehensively by people with lived experience.

The partnership’s Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence Survivor (DASV) Forum has been established to hear and respond to the experiences and needs of women who have lived through domestic abuse and sexual violence.

The Forum meets fortnightly with leading professionals from Avon and Somerset Police, Bristol City Council’s Public Health Team and other statutory services to explain to professionals the real impact of domestic abuse on individuals and families. The Forum, made up of a diverse group of incredibly courageous women educates, improves and challenges systems, services and responses to domestic abuse and sexual violence in Bristol.

The Forum informs commissioning, strategies and polices across the Multi-Agency Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence partnership board and more broadly throughout the KBSP’s work. The women in the group represent a variety of experiences and are able to speak to the true complexity of domestic abuse and sexual violence. They highlight the barriers that still exist to accessing appropriate support and positive outcomes in order to improve services.

Some of the work the Forum has achieved and contributed to includes hosting the Speaking Out: Survivor Conference 2022, which brought to light the real experiences of the Forum members and asked professionals how they will create system and cultural change.

In addition, the Forum has been involved in creating the KBSP Domestic Abuse training package, using their voices and experiences to ensure the correct language is used, and that it reflects their experience to ensure practitioners who receive the training are aware of the impact of domestic abuse on victims and survivors.

The Forum is currently working on two videos: one video is to raise awareness in the community of domestic abuse and sexual violence, and the other video is for professionals, which will become part of the KBSP training package.

The Forum has also met with the domestic abuse lead for Avon and Somerset Police, influencing their training for staff and a questionnaire for victims and survivors who have contacted the force.

The Domestic Abuse Commissioner for England and Wales recently had the honour of meeting with members of the Forum and their facilitator and co-ordinator, Jennifer Wills, in Bristol. The Forum members were very open and honest about their experiences of services and had a particular focus on the failings in the Family Court arena, a priority focus area for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office.

The Forum is a safe place for candid and transparent communication, discussion, and challenge about failing systems, inadequate service response and gaps and barriers in provision. It is a space in which members highlight to professionals and people in positions of power where improvements need to be made and hold said professionals to account in an ongoing process of scrutiny and collaboration. The Forum is trauma-informed in its delivery and supports all members to maintain a safe environment and process.

The need for strategic objectives, service design and development to be informed by people with lived experience is said to be understood, but rarely do we see it being implemented and facilitated in such a fantastic example of co-production and inclusion.

The Forum is innovative, bold and an example to all areas that true co-production is possible and very necessary.

“It is a shame about the tragic circumstances that myself and other women have faced in order for us to be part of the DASV Forum group, but it is an absolute honour to be in this position of personal power and to be able to create positive change,” a quote from one of the Forum members.