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PREGNANT IN FEAR; DOMESTIC VIOLENCE Awareness Week Mums-to-be targeted by their bullying partners.

Byline: ANDREW HIRST

In the latest on a series on domestic violence, crime reporter ANDREW HIRST discovers that pregnant women are more likely to be attacked by their partner and how midwives can be a vital link to help for the victims.

WOMEN in abusive relationships are more at risk of domestic violence when they are pregnant.

Statistics show that domestic violence increases by about 25% in pregnancy - and can also be a trigger for domestic violence to start in homes where it has not previously been a problem.

Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust is one of the first in the country to appoint a midwifery specialist in preventing domestic violence.

TheDomestic Violence Forum- set up by Kirklees Safer Stronger Communities Service - is running a campaign this week to encourage more people to report the domestic violence and seek support.

Organisations on the forum include Kirklees Council, West Yorkshire Police and PennineDomesticViolence Group - and one of the forum members is Nancy Cartwright, midwifery specialist on domestic violence and a community midwife with Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust since 2000.

Only part of her job involves dealing with domestic violence cases.

But last year Nancy received 108 referrals for domestic violence cases from different agencies - including the police.

Nancy said: "Domestic violence is reported by up to one in four women in Britain and represents a serious public health issue. The risks of domestic violence are particularly acute in pregnancy where the health and safety of two potential victims are in jeopardy.

"It's associated with increased rates of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight, injury and - in the most extreme cases - even death of the baby.

"Women may need protection from violence and intimidation by their partners or family members and it is important there are provisions to accommodate this need."

Nancy's role is to provide extra practical support for the women and their named midwife.

She listens to women's concerns, makes them aware of the effects of domestic violence and provides information about the law, reporting matters to the police, going to court, home security advice and improvements along with access to refuges and counselling services.

Nancy also works in partnership with Kirklees Safer Stronger Communities Service's Domestic Violence Team to train all midwives and other healthcare staff about domestic violence.

Health professionals work with other agencies to provide support for the victims of domestic violence. High risk cases are referred to the Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference where the council, police and other agencies work closely to tackle the most severe domestic violence cases and offenders. Pregnancy is one of the high risk factors taken into consideration.

At MARAC meetings agencies identify and share information with other professionals about who needs intensive support. A safety plan is drawn up to protect victims and their children while taking action against the offender.

Nancy added: "The work I am doing may not have an immediate outcome, but raises awareness for these women by sowing seeds for the future.

"I still receive calls from women who had babies years ago. They want to know what services are out there because they have finally decided enough is enough and they are ready to leave a violent partner."

A Huddersfield law firm has taken on a specialist to deal with the ever-rising number of domestic violence cases.

Ramsdens has recruited Rebecca Hoult whose role will be to ensure that victims of abuse are protected and given the best advice possible - and can arrange for court orders to quickly keep the perpetrator away from the home.

Helen Thewlis, head of Ramsdens Family Law department, said: "As experienced family law practitioners we recognise an essential requirement for victims of domestic abuse is to provide legal support, advice and protection when they need it.

"Rebecca is an invaluable addition and is already making a difference by ensuring we are able to deal with domestic violence cases quickly and sensitively."

CAPTION(S):

BULLYING: Violence is more likely when a woman is pregnant (Posed photograph Courtesy: GUERNSEY PRESS)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Sep 12, 2008
Words:671
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