Making a film to train nurses on partner violence

What can a home visitor do when she suspects that a woman is experiencing domestic violence? How can she initiate discussion about partner violence and provide supportive responses? And what kind of training best prepares people to make these judgement calls?

On a year’s Marie Curie International Fellowship in the USA, Dr Loraine Bacchus of the Gender, Violence and Health Centre (GVHC) was seeking answers to these questions. Then she chanced to watch a performance of  The Forgetting River, directed by University of Virginia associate drama professor Marianne Kubik and performed by students. Dr Bacchus was struck by the play’s convincing realism and, as she describes in this interview, came to realise the teaching potential of the piece. She contacted the playwright and, with colleagues, they adapted the script and directed it for film.

All of the scenes in the film are based on the research data. Even some of the lines are variations on things that home visitors or women said.

Loraine Bacchus

The result – “Opening the Door: An Educational Film for Care Providers About Supporting Families Dealing with Intimate Partner Violence” – tells the story of Rose, a pregnant woman whose ex-husband and current boyfriend have both displayed violent or controlling tendencies, and Tina, a home visiting nurse assisting Rose and her two young children. It won a short film award and is proving a powerful training tool, in part because of its emotional impact.

We heard that it was very different from typical training videos, that it was emotionally compelling. People really felt the client was empowered at the end, the home visitor could help her, and the viewer was watching a story and communicating with real people.

Marianne Kubik

Dr Bacchus is enthusiastic about the potential of good film for training, pointing out that Opening the Door modelled appropriate behaviours for trainees to develop. “We didn’t want the film to be prescriptive,” she explains, “but a way to get home visitors talking about what they currently do or would do in those scenarios and share good practice.”

Read the full interview.

Watch the film.

Find out about the award.

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