Spotting the signs of domestic abuse

New video to help professionals tackle ‘hidden crime’.

A powerful film showing how professionals such as GPs, dentists, hairdressers and emergency workers, can help to spot the signs of domestic abuse has been unveiled.

Routine or private appointments – like a haircut, dental check-up or a home safety visit – can often provide an opportunity for domestic abuse victims to be given advice on how to get help.

The Ask, Support and Care (ASC) programme, set up under the pioneering Medics Against Violence project and the Violence Reduction Unit, has so far trained more than 2,300 professionals.

The new film – entitled ‘Harder’ – shows how the signs of domestic abuse can sometimes be visible, though not necessarily in bruises or injury, and includes advice about how to broach this sensitive subject with someone who may be the victim of abuse.

As well as being used in training sessions, the video is being made publicly available to further raise awareness of how many more people can spot the signs of domestic abuse.

Community Safety Minister Annabelle Ewing launched the new film on a visit to Kirkcaldy to see firefighters taking part in ASC training.

Ms Ewing said:

“Domestic abuse can often be a hidden crime, inflicting long term damage on victims who are too afraid to speak out. Training professionals to spot the signs and have the confidence and information to broach the subject is an important way of making a difference.

“Thousands of professionals have already been trained under the ASC and I am glad that work is continuing and being bolstered by the new and powerful film.

“Tackling domestic abuse is a priority for this Government and this year we will be being introducing to Parliament new legislation to create a specific offence of domestic abuse. We are also investing record levels of funding to put in place better support for victims and taking action to tackle the underlying attitudes and improve understanding of these crimes to reinforce a zero tolerance approach to domestic abuse.”

Christine Goodall, founder of Medics Against Violence, said:

“We firmly believe that this is everyone’s issue and we can all help on some level even if just to offer contact details for one of the specialist domestic abuse organisations. Those affected are our patients, our clients, our colleagues and our friends and as professionals we have a duty of care towards them, for too long domestic abuse has been the elephant in the room and we hope to change that. 

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue service sit at the heart of every community, both urban and rural, and so are very well placed to provide support to residents in the area, particularly through their home fire safety visits when they have time to speak to residents who may then confide in them. Fire can sometimes be used to intimidate those experiencing abuse and while deliberate fire raising is not a common occurrence the consequences can be devastating.”

Assistant Chief Officer David McGown, Director of Prevention and Protection, said:

“The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service has identified a need to train officers about domestic abuse as there is a clear link with fire raising. Firefighters operate in all sections of every community which means our crews are in a position where they may be able to notice abuse and help someone access the support that’s available.

“Domestic abuse affects people of every background and victims are often very reluctant to seek help.  By identifying this ensures that those who are vulnerable receive the correct support.

“Medics Against Violence already train other professionals who work with the public and training firefighters how to identify and act on domestic abuse can make a real difference and help protect our communities.”


You can watch the short version of the Harder video by going to:

The ASC programme (previously AVDR – Ask, Validate, Document and Refer) has been running since 2010. Since 2010, the number of professionals who have undergone ASC training are:

  • Dentists – 825
  • Vets – 60
  • Hairdressers – 40
  • Doctors – 200
  • Medical/dental students – 1,100 (plus 80 more dental students and 100 pharmacy students yesterday)
  • SFRS officers – 100

The programme was developed by Dr Christine Goodall, a senior lecturer and consultant in Oral Surgery at the University of Glasgow and founder of Medics Against Violence. She worked on the project after years of studying the link between facial and dental injuries and violence.

Medics Against Violence expanded ASC to include vets after a clear link was identified between animal cruelty and domestic abuse, with abuse to animals being used to coerce or punish the victim. Research found 66% of female domestic abuse victims had threats of violence or abuse of their pets from the abuser, and 38% reported actual abuse.

Since then ASC training has been extended to other professional groups, including hairdressers and firefighters. Next week a diverse group of professionals including GPs, pharmacists, dentists, surgeons, nurses, ministers (Church of Scotland), those working in student support and prison officers will attend the first multi-professional ASC course at Tuliallan Police College.

In March 2015, the First Minister announced an additional £20 million would be invested over three years in a range of measures to tackle all forms of violence against women. The Justice Secretary announced that £115,000 of that funding will be given to expand the Medics Against Violence work across Scotland. This is in addition to the annual grant of £956,000 already awarded to the Violence Reduction Unit.

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