Guest Blog: The Innovation Challenge – London Metropolitan University and the Child & Women's Abuse Studies Unit

04 Nov 2014

Research at London Met aims to make a demonstrable contribution to society. Staff at London Met engage in innovative, topical and policy relevant research that has an impact on real lives.

A significant example of London Met research which both underpins policy development and makes a positive impact on people’s lives is undertaken in the Child and Woman Abuse Centre (CWASU).

Since 2000, CWASU has produced a substantial body of research that has had substantial impact for victim-survivors of violence against women at the levels of both policy and practice.

CWASU has evaluated new and emerging forms of support provision (Sexual Assault Referral Centres, Independent Domestic Violence Advisors); tracked attrition in criminal justice responses to rape in England, Wales and Europe; mapped the ‘postcode lottery’ of specialist services across Great Britain; and developed minimum standards for specialist services across Europe.

CWASU’s innovative methodologies, rigorous evaluation studies, and carefully considered recommendations have led to transformative changes in three interlinked areas: integration of practices that victim-survivors identify as most valuable into support services; more equitable distribution of specialist support services in the statutory and NGO sectors; and enhanced criminal justice responses to victim-survivors of rape.

As a direct outcome of CWASU’s studies on attrition the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) now tracks the progress of rape cases through their own data systems. This has led to a variety of policy measures including training, guidance for prosecutors, and enhanced monitoring of outcomes in rape cases.

CWASU’s evaluations of Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARCs) prompted the largest expansion of statutory services for victim-survivors of rape in contemporary history, with the SARC model being rolled out nationally. This represents an investment by central government of more than £10 million. Recommendations were integrated into national standards issued by the Department of Health in 2005 and 2009 including, preferences among female and male victim-survivors for female forensic examiners, a model of practice which begins from a ‘culture of belief’ and respect, and pro-active advocacy.

The findings from CWASU’s Map of Gaps research were used by the EHRC to review the ways in which local authorities were meeting obligations in respect of violence against women. Each local authority identified as having no specialised services was asked to provide details of any existing or planned provision. Those who were assessed as non-compliant with legal obligations were asked to explain why. The Rape Crisis Network England and Wales also used the reports in their influencing work, and as a result the current government has invested £11million to secure existing centres and open 15 new ones.

The work of CWASU highlights the commitment of London Met’s staff to applied research which can improve the lives of people.

Find out more about the impact of London Met’s research here.

Catherine Lee, Head of Research and Postgraduate Office at London Metropolitan University