Force uses drama-based training in new approach to domestic abuse

Innovative new approach to help officers understand the complexities of coercive control.

As the police service's response to domestic abuse comes under increased scrutiny, one force is using an innovative new technique to help its officers understand the complexities behind coercive control. Get in touch if your force is doing something interesting you'd like to see featured here –

Durham Constabulary has embarked on a two-year project with Durham University to develop drama-based training to fill the gaps in officers' knowledge of coercive control.

Durham University commissioned Open Clasp Theatre Company to implement the training over three months in late 2015, with the aim of offering it to every frontline officer.

Researchers from the university then interviewed victims of coercive control to explore how their experiences had shaped their view of the police. While most were happy with the police response, with 75 per cent confirming they would call police again if in a similar situation, many agreed police did not seem to have a solid understanding of coercive control.

Writer and Artistic Director of Open Clasp, Catrina McHugh, used these interviews, along with existing research and knowledge, to build a 40-minute performance for 398 frontline Durham officers and staff, followed by a workshop exploring the tactics used by a perpetrator and the impact they had on the victims.

Officers played the roles of victims, perpetrators, children and police officers to use their newly-acquired skills to identify whether coercive control was taking place and respond appropriately. Feedback from the officers was excellent, with 98 per cent indicating their knowledge of coercive control had improved as a result.

Kate Butterworth, KTP Associate, said: "We repeated the research this year to see how effective the training has been and this time the percentage of victims who would call the police again was 91 per cent, which suggests an increase in victim satisfaction.

"To improve further, officers need to maintain an awareness of coercive control and how it affects the everyday lives of victims. Recognising the pervasive nature of coercive control and providing a tailored response, in addition to recording accurately on police systems, means that victims have a higher chance of receiving the support they deserve."

The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP), designed to ensure the evidence base is used to inform policing tactics, is funded by the Durham and Darlington Police and Crime Commissioner and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. To read more about the programme, visit POLKA.

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