We have described in this book the complex picture which emerged from our research as to the stage reached by user involvement in the domestic violence arena. Looked at from a historical perspective, it was abused women themselves who developed this whole field, both of study and of policy and practice intervention. However, in recent years, most efforts towards change in the domestic violence field have concentrated to a large extent on top-down policy development, while an increased focus on the impact on children and the need to tackle perpetrators has tended to render women 'invisible in their own issue'.
There is a bit of a disjuncture here which this book has attempted to address. Our aim has been to raise survivor voices, and to put them centre stage. To underpin this, we have theorised about the way in which women are typically excluded from conceptualisations of new social movements and abused women service users are rarely seen as a service user group in their own right. Despite the activities of the activist women's movement and the enormous increase in services in recent years, abused women continue to be excluded and overlooked, reinforcing the stigmatisation and silencing that often blight the lives of survivors of violence.
It goes without saying that women's organisations serving the needs of abused women, continue to have the best record of any agencies in listening to service users and in giving them a voice in the wider inter-agency context (although we also identified ways in which they may have retreated to some extent from their previous commitment to the involvement of service users and ex-users in the running and management of services). Both statutory sector agencies and those organisations that have come more recently on to the scene, and for which domestic violence represents only one part of their work, have a substantially poorer record, while inter-agency domestic violence forums represent the meeting-point of both traditions and fall somewhere between the two. The findings of our study have shown that, while almost half of domestic violence inter-agency forums consult service users (as compared to 90 per cent of refuges), there is evidence that many such forums appear to claim that they have a better record at involving