Responding to domestic violence : an exploration of the experiences of volunteers and paid staff at Victim Support : a thesis presented in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand

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Massey University
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Domestic Violence (DV) is a worldwide health and social problem and in Aotearoa New Zealand (Aotearoa NZ), DV prevalence is high. Women are often over-represented as victims of DV and this serves as a reminder that, like the global picture, DV in Aotearoa NZ is a gendered issue. Providing support for women following DV incidents is crucial to ensure the safety and well-being of those affected. Despite many governmental and non-governmental agencies providing DV services, little research has explored the experiences of those individuals at the frontline who hold invaluable information on responding to DV. The aim of this study was to explore and understand the experiences of front-line DV responders, to understand the challenges and opportunities of their work to inform the DV service sector. The study was conducted at Victim Support, a not-for-profit organisation that provides a DV service for victims. Qualitative interviews with volunteers, support workers and supervisors working in a region with high DV rates were conducted and analysed from a feminist standpoint, using a descriptive thematic approach. The analysis identified that providing DV responses is both personal and emotional. Personal experiences shaped the responders’ understanding of DV and providing responses involved victims sharing emotional and personal experiences. Participants felt that the integral components of providing effective DV responses included: building rapport, strengthening trust, listening, and offering consistent support. Other characteristics like practicing empathy, patience and non-judgement, alongside self-awareness and collegial accountability ensured victims’ needs were put first. In addition to personal challenges involved in providing DV responses, participants also experienced difficulties related to the environments in which they work. Relying on volunteers to provide responses, high caseloads, working with other agencies and providing responses within the police-led community DV response system were related to how DV responses were experienced. Participants used personal strategies to overcome the barriers in providing effective DV responses. Strategies in managing high caseloads and building stakeholder relationships highlighted the resourcefulness of the women providing the responses. The analysis provides insights into the challenges involved in providing DV responses and potential solutions. The study has highlighted the need for more focus on removing obstacles to effective DV responses being provided by service providers, particularly those at the frontline of DV service provision.
domestic violence, victim support, victim support services, service provision, victim