Tackling Islington’s domestic violence problem

Nigel Chappelle devotes his life to helping domestic violence victims - 16 years after his own brother was killed by a gay partner

SIXTEEN years ago, Nigel Chappelle’s brother was killed by his gay partner.

The tragedy devastated the family – and left Nigel wondering whether there were any signs that he could have spotted.

Now Nigel, 45, who works at The Whittington Hospital in Magdala Avenue, Archway, is working to prevent other people from falling victim to abusive partners.

And as clinical nurse advisor to the two-year Victims of Violence Project, he is confident that he and his team have saved lives.

Nigel said: “In retrospect, I missed cries for help from my brother. There were probably things said that now, with my professional experience, would have prompted me to ask more searching questions.

“What happened was one of the major factors that made me re-evaluate my life. I was a nurse at the time, but I wasn’t a specialist in domestic violence.”

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The project at The Whittington’s A&E department aims to identify those women – and men – who are being abused at home in order to keep track of how many people are falling victim and to help those victims get specialist advice.

Nigel said: “We have decided to focus on victims of domestic violence because of all violent crime, domestic violence is where we see most repeat victimisation.

“On average, a woman will be assaulted 30 to 35 times because she reports it to the police.

“We know that we are only scratching the surface and in the past year, we have had around 20 of the most serious cases – so serious that the victim is at risk of being murdered – and two deaths.

“And often by the time a victim is being physically assaulted, there have been many other types of control inflicted on them. They have been cut off from their friends and family and their children may have been turned against them. One victim said to me that by the time she was hit, it was a relief because she had been expecting it.

“A third of domestic violence also starts in pregnancy – perpetrators recognise a woman’s vulnerability and abuse it.”

So far, the project has seen injuries ranging from dislocated fingers to broken legs and spines to attempted strangulations. There have even been cases of victims having bones broken – and then being imprisoned in the house for days.

Nigel said: “The highest risk time for a woman to be murdered is after she has left her partner, so just pressurising women to leave home when they are not ready is not helpful.

“My role is to develop a co-ordinated response. I am training staff, monitoring numbers and referring the women for expert help. Even if a patient is not able to confess to what’s happening when they come in, a seed has been planted and when they are ready, they will know where to go.

“I have absolutely no doubt that we have saved lives.”


* If you are being affected by domestic violence, call the free 24-hour National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247.