Hosting a DVA research workshop online – what did we learn?

Dr Rhiannon Evans, Dr Kelly Buckley and Bethan Pell presented a virtual workshop at this year’s Health and Care Research Wales conference discussing the future of research into domestic violence and abuse. Here, Bethan shares her thoughts on the workshop

Earlier this year, Health and Care Research Wales advertised their annual conference, requesting abstract submissions from those interested in facilitating a workshop. This year’s theme was: Making a Difference: The Impact of Health and Social Care Research. 

The new ‘Healthy Social Relationships’ interdisciplinary research programme within DECIPHer has a particular emphasis on domestic violence and abuse (DVA). The centre is already conducting research into this area, but stakeholder engagement meant we could further progress its future research priorities. 

Rhiannon, Kelly and I therefore decided to write and submit an abstract with the idea of facilitating a workshop on establishing a future research agenda in Wales. After a Health and Care Research Wales review, The Future of Domestic Violence and Abuse Research in Wales: Setting an Agenda for Public Health was chosen to be one of the facilitated conference workshops. 

What is DVA? 

Domestic violence and abuse is defined as ‘any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass but is not limited to the following types of abuse: psychological, physical, sexual, financial and/or emotional’.  

DVA is a global public health issue that can be experienced by anyone. It is highly prevalent, with an estimated 2.4 million adults aged 16-74 experiencing DVA across England and Wales. However, the legal definitions of DVA mean that only those over aged 16 can be prosecuted, leading to the misconception that DVA is only experienced in adult relationships. However, emerging evidence indicates that DVA can also be experienced by children and young people (CYPs) (e.g. Young et al, 2019).  Research shows the detrimental physical and psychological health effects of experiencing DVA, highlighting the need for high quality research in this area.  

All in the prep 

We wanted to facilitate an interesting and engaging workshop for our delegates. Of course, due to COVID-19, the conference and subsequent workshop would take place virtually. We still wanted to ensure that the workshop could be as interactive as possible and spent time adapting our activities and discussions, familiarising ourselves with the Crowdcast platform and participating in technical runs, all to ensure smooth running on the day! 

We planned to present the DECIPHer research currently being undertaken to address DVA in three different settings: The JACK Trial (secondary schools), FReDA (third sector organisations) and Health Pathfinder Evaluation (SafeLives) (healthcare), informing attendees of the current evidence. This would provide the background needed to help the group focus on a common goal throughout the workshop: addressing domestic abuse. We hoped to engage the delegates in smaller group discussions to reflect on this evidence, with the aim of prioritising and agreeing future research priorities in Wales.  

Here we go…

We facilitated the workshop in the afternoon session of the conference, which took place on 28th October. At the start, we spent a few minutes introducing ourselves to the delegates, outlining the structure of the workshop and informing them of housekeeping and ground rules.  

L-R: Kelly, Rhiannon and Bethan

We provided our understanding of DVA, which included the current Government definition, as well as our broader understanding from recent DECIPHer research, that informs us of the prevalence of DVA in those under 16. We felt it was important to provide this context, to form the basis of discussions throughout the workshop.

We asked the delegates to note on Mentimeter and the chat function what they already considered important in DVA research. This formed the first interactive activity of the workshop and worked really well, as delegates were provided a with voice whilst remaining anonymous. 

Following this, we presented delegates with The JACK Trial, Health Pathfinder Evaluation and FreDA. We then split into breakout rooms for the main activity, where we asked delegates to discuss and consider research priorities, reflecting on current evidence and Welsh context. Specifically, they were asked to think about under-researched populations; gaps in research; questions being missed; barriers and facilitators to explore and challenges and issues to consider. 

Of course, this being a virtual workshop, there were a few technical hitches. However, we made the best of it and all delegates who were present in the breakout room had the opportunity to contribute to the discussion. 

What were the outcomes?

Below is an outline of the research priorities and areas of interest that were raised during the first activity and the breakout session.  

  • Exploring the impact of COVID-19 upon the provision of DVA services. 
  • Preventing children being removed from mothers who have experienced domestic violence. 
  • Children who perpetrate DVA towards parents, grandparents, siblings. 
  • Supporting 16-17 year olds who may go on to be perpetrators/victims.  
  • Collaborative working between the NHS and DVA third sector services. 
  • Honour-based violence and associated issues. 
  • Gaps associated with different protected characteristics/under-researched population groups/provision (specifically mentioned Traveller community; Honor-Based Violence). 
  • Targeted support/intervention for 13-18 year olds to address DVA and the impact of COVID-19. 
  • Involving young people in the priority-setting decision process. 

Reflections 

We are all familiarising ourselves with different ways of working, and this opportunity certainly provided an experience to reflect upon and learn from – especially the key skill of soldiering on when technology does not want to play ball! 

The workshop ultimately provided an opportunity to engage with public stakeholders and establish some key research priorities. This is just the beginning of our journey in setting the agenda for future DVA research in Wales and we thank Health and Care Research Wales for the opportunity.  

You can watch the virtual workshop via the HCRW website here: bit.ly/3lqn49d.

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