Cancer made me weaker to Domestic Abuse…

…and Domestic Abuse made me weaker to cancer.

This is a headline from a report out now from Macmillan Cancer Support and Standing Together Against Domestic Abuse.

Most victim-survivors reported that the abuser stopped them from resting and ridiculed their treatment choices and appearance post-treatment or surgery.

The consultation involved surveys and interviews with professionals who see patients diagnosed with cancer, or their partners or family members in England and Wales, and England-based victim-survivors of domestic abuse affected by cancer.

The below was all taken directly from the report, which you can find here.

Twenty victim-survivors of domestic abuse, nineteen of whom had cancer and one of whom experienced domestic abuse from a partner with cancer, responded to the consultation.

They found: 

  • Domestic abuse did not stop and often worsened after a cancer diagnosis. Non-physical coercive control, psychological, and financial abuse were most common and left victim-survivors feeling unsafe and fearful.
  • Abuse affected cancer treatment, surgery, and recovery in ways that led to pain and suffering. Most victim-survivors reported that the abuser stopped them from resting and ridiculed their treatment choices and appearance post-treatment or surgery.
  • Most cancer professionals agreed that they have a responsibility to identify and respond to domestic abuse. Fifty percent had encountered domestic abuse in the past three years, and other professionals said they had likely missed cases.
  • Of the victim-survivors, just 9/20 reported that they had disclosed domestic abuse to cancer professionals. The two biggest barriers were not thinking it was relevant to the professionals’ role and not being asked the right, or any, questions.
  • Professionals reported referring victim-survivors to a range of appropriate agencies and services, including domestic abuse services. Victim-survivors also reported such referrals: the cancer setting led them to get domestic abuse support for the first time.
  • Professionals and victim-survivors felt that the cancer setting provided a unique opportunity for domestic abuse to be identified and responded to due to the frequency of contact, length of appointments, continuity of care, and discussion of holistic needs.
  • But lack of confidence and knowledge was a barrier to a good response. Between a third and half of professionals lacked confidence in recognising the signs of domestic abuse and just under half lacked confidence in knowing what to say if someone discloses abuse.
  • To improve the cancer workforce response to domestic abuse, victim-survivors wanted professionals to make the setting a clear safe space for disclosure, to recognise the signs—particularly of non-physical abuse, to enquire safely and provide first-line support, and to refer them to specialist support options.
  • Professionals were eager to improve their response to domestic abuse. As such, they said they want specialist training, education, awareness, and a culture shift wherein all cancer professionals, from surgeons to nurses, see identifying and

The report is the outcome of the first phase of a two-phase project with the overarching aim of improving the cancer workforce’s response to patients and their partners and family members who are experiencing domestic abuse.

Macmillan and Standing Together say: “We want to ensure that the cancer setting offers a safe space and time for victim-survivors of domestic abuse to get the support they need, from skilled and confident healthcare workers and other professionals who work in cancer.”

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