Exploring the experiences of practitioners working with victims of domestic abuse – what is the relevance of moral injury?

To understand the relevance of the concept of moral injury in domestic abuse to practitioners.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Paige Welch
Police region
South East
Level of research
Masters
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

Moral injury is a concept that was first identified in the military and has been widely researched. It has been defined as 'the strong cognitive and emotional response that can occur following events that violate a person's moral or ethical code' (Williamson, 2021, p. 453).

The concept was identified when exploring post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the military. The findings from the study have led to an understanding of what is termed as moral injury as being a separate, hidden, and delayed illness formed from PTSD. It was found that these symptoms have several negative life consequences such as causing an individual to withdraw or hide away from the world and problems with interpersonal skills. 

Recent research has started to explore moral injury within occupational settings such as nursing, social work and first responders, and has found it is present in these areas. This has led to new research exploring whether this is a concept civilians can experience, including looking at whether moral injury presents in victims of violence. There is limited research conducted on moral injury in victims of domestic violence. 

The purpose of this research is to explore and understand the experiences of practitioners who work with victims of domestic abuse. A primary aim will be to understand the relevance of the concept of moral injury through interviewing practitioners who work with this cohort. Due to the lack of research in this area the aim is to add more understanding to the issues that victims of domestic abuse face and how they are experienced. 

Research methodology

Eight participants will be recruited for this study. Eligible participants must be working in a domestic violence victim support service to participate in the study. Participants will need to be over the age of 18 and speak English. No gender specification is required for participants to be included in this study.

Practitioners who work with victims of domestic violence (delivering victim support services) will be recruited instead of victims themselves to ensure the victim's voice is still accessed, but to avoid potential re-traumatising effects. 

Semi-structured interviews will be conducted via the communication application (Zoom) in which participants and the researcher will be in their own homes in a private and quiet area for the duration of the interview. 

At the beginning of the interview the participants will be reminded of the purpose of the study and that any identifiable data will be anonymised. Participants will be reminded of the limits of confidentiality (that any information given about themselves or the clients they discuss that relates to risk of harm will be reported to the relevant agencies).

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