Even though almost all women experiencing domestic abuse come into contact with their general practitioner, and many of them with hospital or dental services as a result of their injuries, and/or with mental health services because of the emotional impact of the abuse, very few as yet receive the necessary practical safety advice, continued support or most appropriate support.
Studies indicate that often healthcare practitioners have not responded to abused women as well as they might (Williamson 2000:2-5). As recently as 1999, Harwin, Hague and Malos revealed that in many of the local domestic violence forums, health service representation was frequently non-existent. In some areas health visitors might take an active role, but in the main, doctors and other health personnel rarely took part. More recently, whilst the situation has improved in an increasing number of localities, there remain many healthcare areas where little, if anything, is done to support women abused by intimate partners.
Similar criticism continues to be levelled at social workers, social services, and the civil and criminal justice system, including the police service. Presently, all of these services are having varying degrees of success in their attempts to stem the tide of violence in the home. Mullender (1996) argues that historically social workers have avoided domestic abuse issues unless, or until, dealing with them became a statutory duty directly related to child abuse. Similarly, the police service has frequently been criticized for making minimal, and often ineffectual, responses to what were previously referred to as 'domestic incidents'. Through multi-agency, multi-professional domestic violence forums these individual groups are collectively endeavouring to redress the balance, supporting women and children, and when appropriate men, as they strive to establish a home that is free from violence and abuse.
In recent times, there has been a significant growth in the work undertaken in several healthcare sectors, with an increase in research related to domestic violence and health and a rising number of local and national practice initiatives. It is anticipated that the growth of professional literature, conferences, government initiatives, and publications should compel healthcare personnel across the UK to take an active part in recognizing