Something positive has come out of our sadness, out of our experiences, and others can learn from this.
(Survivors from the Phoenix Group, City of Westminster)
Out of sadness, can come change. The women in the group quoted above are currently participating actively in the policy process, and their pain and experience are indeed leading to positive developments for other women in similar situations. They are clear that the best way to prevent domestic violence is to consult survivors of the violence. This statement was made to us several times in our research by a variety of different workers, agencies and abuse survivors. Who better to give meaningful information and to suggest possible solutions and effective responses to such violence than those who have had direct experience of it, working in tandem with policymakers, practitioners and activists? However, this does not happen nearly as often as it should.
In Part 2, the frequent lack of consultation and participation strategies to involve survivors of abuse in the work of inter-agency forums and agencies was discussed. In order to correct this situation we need to ask what has to happen for abused women to be able to raise their own voices effectively and for these voices to be properly heard by policy-makers and service providers. In Part 3 then, we move on to discuss the 'how to' of user involvement in the domestic violence field. We address how, for example, to engage in survivor consultation and participation in a way that takes on the complexities involved, and which is meaningful, rather than merely cosmetic. We also discuss the practical methods that are currently being tried out, together with the positives and drawbacks of each. In doing this, we draw, as throughout this book, on the findings of our study and on the insights and lessons of the activist movement to empower women experiencing domestic violence. Thus, this is less an academic analysis than a practically oriented discussion to provide ideas, nuance and guidance for practitioners, activists and abused women themselves.