In the previous chapters in Part 1, we developed arguments about the frequent exclusion of women and of gender issues from theorising on service user movements, and about the contributions these movements make, together with the barriers they face in becoming effective. We also discussed the way in which women who have experienced violence are rarely seen as forming a service user group in their own right and so miss out on the possible benefits and strengths which could result.
In the following chapters, we build on these debates to put forward arguments about the frequent exclusion of abused women in practical terms from decision-making within domestic violence policy and about concrete ways of challenging and improving the current situation. Many of the sensitive issues, contradictions and complexities which have been drawn out theoretically in the preceding section will be developed in the ensuing chapters in practical ways and in specific relation to current domestic violence policy and practice in the UK. In this section (Part 2) of the book, we will discuss what women survivors of violence think of the services they receive and how much their voices are heard. We will also look at why the involvement of domestic violence service users is essential to the policy process. The final section (Part 3) contains chapters on how to go about it, on the practical difficulties and positives involved and on examples of good and innovatory practice in regard to service user participation and accountability to abuse survivors.
Throughout, we will draw extensively on the findings and insights of the study on raising abused women's voices to which we referred in the Introduction, and which was one of the studies within the recent Economic and Social Research Council's Violence Research Programme (see Hague et al., 2001, 2002). Conducted by the present authors, it examined how much the voices of abused women are heard in service and policy development. This chapter also draws on the Briefing Notes for the Home Office (prepared by two of the present authors) on women survivors of abuse and their views of the services they have received (Mullender and Hague, 2000), and on the wider review of these issues on which the Home Office