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Greater Insight into Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse Needed to Prevent Their Behaviour, says Academic

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A domestic abuse specialist says greater knowledge of perpetrators could enable earlier intervention to prevent their behaviour from developing.

Professor of Psychology Liz Gilchrist, Head of the University of Worcester’s National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse, says that, while research has revealed a lot about common behaviour that happens alongside domestic abuse, there is still much more to be explored.

She says the more we understand about the attitude and background of the abuser, the better we can develop intervention strategies to prevent children from growing up to be abusers.

Professor Gilchrist will be exploring issues surrounding domestic abuse and how our thinking about it and responses to it has changed as part of her inaugural professorial lecture on Wednesday, February 22.

She said: “It is important that we understand this area in greater depth; more critically and with greater theoretical awareness so that we can respond better to known abusers.

“This should allow us to also develop better early interventions to reduce the likelihood of youngsters becoming abusers and improve safety planning for victims, increasing safety and wellbeing in families.”

Professor Gilchrist will look at various aspects of intimate partner abuse, and not only physical violence, but also, control and the use of other abuses.

This could include the restriction of activity and the use of emotional abuse for example, threats, humiliation, and isolation, and psychological abuse.

She will outline positive developments in theory and practice, but also identify some areas where issues remain unresolved.

She said: “Our thinking about domestic abuse has changed, and our responses have changed, but whilst we know a lot about behaviours that commonly occur alongside domestic abuse, there is still a great deal to explore theoretically and empirically.

“For example, what do we know about whether those who commit domestic abuse differ from those who do not, for example in their way of seeing the world, their interpretation of the world, their values, and if so, how? Are there different types of domestic abuser?”

In her talk, Professor Gilchrist will also look at innovative ways of helping abusers to change and the impact of other “problem behaviours” such as substance misuse.

A leader in the field of forensic psychology and criminology, Professor Gilchrist served eight years on the Parole Board for England and Wales and six years on the Parole Board for Scotland. She works as a consultant forensic psychologist in a facility in Scotland, and has published extensively on the assessment, planning and evaluation of rehabilitative interventions focussing particularly on domestic abuse.

She has worked in various roles internationally as an advisor on the implementation and review of offending behaviour programmes and interventions in Europe, the USA and New Zealand. Professor Gilchrist is the current Chair of the Scottish Advisory Panel for Offender Rehabilitation.

Her lecture, entitled Developing a Critically Informed, Scientific Psychology of Relationship Abuses, Theories and Responses, will take place at the University’s Riverside building on Wednesday, February 22 at 5.30pm and the public are welcome to attend.

Email rsvp@worc.ac.uk.