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Alison Gregory PhD

Brief Outline: Dr Alison Gregory is a Senior Research Associate at Bristol University.
Background: Her PhD explored the radiating impacts of domestic violence and abuse, and how it affects the health and wellbeing of informal supporters (friends, family members, neighbours, colleagues). She was awarded an Elizabeth Blackwell Institute Fellowship to explore avenues to assist informal supporters in helping survivors. She also co-lead the VOICES study which investigated the impact of domestic violence and abuse on children.

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Dr Gregory talks about how family members and friends may be able to help a woman who is experiencing domestic violence or abuse.

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Hello I’m Alison Gregory and I work at the University of Bristol and there I research domestic violence but in particular I look at the way that friends and family members interact with women who’ve experienced domestic violence. And part of the reason that I research this is because we know that women might tell friends, family members and within that group I include perhaps their neighbours and also their colleagues, people who are around people that are experiencing abuse... and if even if women don’t go to professional services they may well speak to the people around them or those people may notice that something’s going on. And often friends and family members say they’re not quite sure what’s happening but they realise that the relationship perhaps isn’t a healthy one or they see some behaviours from the partner towards the woman and think ‘I’m not quite sure about that, I’m not quite sure what’s happening’ ... 

And those people can be a really valuable resource if the friends and family members do understand what’s going on then communicating with the woman and encouraging her to think about the options that she may have, and providing practical solutions or offering to support her if she’s like to seek help from one of the professional organisations like the National Domestic Violence Helpline or the local agencies in the area where the woman lives, those can be valuable things to sort of encourage a woman to do to seek help.

But we know that friends and family members don’t respond well. If you listen to some of the talks on ‘Healthtalk’ you’ll hear that actually sometimes friends and family members were confused, they didn’t know what it was they could do to help or they gave lots of advice or they suggested the woman leave when perhaps she wasn’t at the stage where she was able to leave. And we know from what women say that actually those kind of things are quite un-helpful. Women want to be believed, they want to know that they’re going to be supported in the decisions they’re making – and they are quite complex decisions to make about whether to leave, when to leave, how to go about doing that, how to stay in touch with the person who’s been abusive, particularly if they’ve got children, that’s something that has to happen. They want to be able to continue to communicate with their friends and family members but perhaps not to be obviously asked about what’s going on and to be reminded of the situation. They just want to kind of have that support in a very normal and natural way from that group of people, to not be shunned by them because they don’t know what to do but actually to continue interacting, that’s the really important thing to keep the lines of communication open.
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