We are proud to have a partnership with Nottingham Trent University, where we get involved with setting projects for their undergraduates and Masters in Criminology students each year. Current student, Megan Cadwallader, explored the what the impact of intimate partner homicide has on co-victims (someone who has lost a loved one) and has kindly summarised some of her findings from her dissertation.
As part of my dissertation for my postgraduate studies, I worked alongside the Hollie Gazzard Trust to explore the impact that intimate partner homicide has on co-victims, who are defined as anyone who has lost a loved one to homicide. Losing someone to intimate partner homicide can be an extremely upsetting, challenging and isolating time, and many people struggle with the immediate and on-going aftermath of losing a loved one in this way. After exploring this topic in more depth, it was discovered that there is an overall issue surrounding the support available for co-victims following an intimate partner homicide, which therefore formed the basis of my research.
I began interviewing people who had been directly affected by the death of their loved one by intimate partner homicide, and exploring their experiences of support. All people interviewed came from a range of diverse backgrounds and held different relations to their lost loved one. The findings of these interviews raised some important questions surrounding support.
It was found that therapeutic methods of support such as counselling, alongside talking to peers and those who shared similar experiences were the most beneficial forms of support for co-victims who had lost their loved one to intimate partner homicide. Additionally, getting actively involved in raising awareness of intimate partner homicide and helping others in similar situations appeared as another positive form of support. Both positive experiences of support helped co-victims personally connect to others whilst making sense of the intimate partner homicide. However, these beneficial forms of support largely emerged due to the many negative experiences of support received or offered to co-victims.
For example, professional support services are sporadic and are not specialised enough relevant to the trauma co-victims have experienced. The added nature of coercive control which led to the homicide, and the personal connection to the perpetrator are often not considered by current support services, which therefore amounts to co-victims receiving non-specialised support. Additionally, although many co-victims experience complex trauma responses following an intimate partner homicide, homicide support organisations fail to recognise this and therefore overlook their needs. Having under-qualified and inexperienced support staff also contributes towards negative experiences of support for co-victims. Furthermore, a key issue highlighted by co-victims interviewed was the total absence of easily accessible long-term support, despite all co-victims interviewed expressing their need for it. Overall, as co-victims of intimate partner homicide feel largely forgotten and neglected by support services, it is vital to have accurate, beneficial and feasible recommendations moving forwards. Therefore, the following recommendations that emerged from the research are outlined below:
- Peer support should be at the forefront of all forms of support. It is important for policy developers and stakeholders to recognise the necessity of providing and encouraging positive, social connections to aid co-victims in the aftermath. Raising awareness of the importance of social peer support in an organisational setting (for example peer support groups) may reduce negative outcomes for co-victims following the homicide involving their loved one.
- Long-term, continued, professional support should be more readily available for co-victims of intimate partner homicide. All forms of short-term professional support services currently available or offered to co-victims of intimate partner homicide should continue into the long-term, in the absence of time restraints, lack of resources and classifications as to who is considered a co-victim, which currently cause limitations and confusion when accessing support.
- A base or hub for co-victims of intimate partner homicide to access specialist, tailored professional support regarding any issue they may face following the intimate partner homicide was a key recommendation which emerged from the data. This base or hub of support would be run by specialist intimate partner homicide professionals, and would encompass all issues co-victims may face, such as assistance with wellbeing, financial and housing aid, information regarding the perpetrator’s release and detailed information surrounding their case, rights and involvement with the criminal justice system – available both in the short and long-term with freedom of access to all co-victims.
As there is currently little to no research that explores intimate partner homicide co-victimisation and support, this research holds high importance in raising awareness of the under-reported issue. I am therefore hopeful that these informed recommendations would truly benefit co-victims of intimate partner homicide, if implemented into policy and practise.