CPV, starting to count at last!

On August 7th, The BBC published a story on their website – and also covered it on national and local radio – titled Domestic Violence: Child-parent abuse doubles in three years. The BBC piece is clear and succinct, with a straightforward laying out of the statistics, comments from Young Minds and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), a brief case study concerning a parent of an 11 year old girl and the help received from the Getting On Scheme in Doncaster, and a short video highlighting the work of Break4Change in Brighton. The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the police for the period 2015 – 2018, for records of adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA). Of 44 forces contacted, only 19 collect the data in a way that is able to separate out APVA specifically.

First of all, one of the most exciting things about this story for me was the number of people who got in touch to tell me they had seen it – word is getting out there about the issue! More important though was the analysis and commentary which followed across social media, showing a good understanding of the issues. So has it doubled?

Although the headline makes claims that APVA has doubled, the article itself includes commentary from the NPCC that makes it clear that this is a somewhat dubious claim. What has actually happened in these three years has been a change in recording practices as more and more police forces have recognised this as a separate issue demanding attention, and sought to capture incidents under a separate code. When Condry and Miles researched the phenomenon of adolescent to parent violence, as recorded by the Metropolitan Police 2009-2010, they had to count by hand, trawling through records to find the data they wanted. Some forces have been separating this out for a while now. As long ago as 2015 I blogged about the West Midlands response to CPV, and it’s good to see their figures among the 17 who were able to respond. Let us hope that the remaining forces take this on board soon.

A second change which will show in the figures is the growing levels of public awareness. With more attention in the news and other media, including soaps, parents are increasingly hearing and talking about the issue, whether experiencing it themselves or not, and consequently may feel more able to report it and seek help. In the second video featured, Jane Griffiths of Break4Change talks about a 10% rise in referrals to the service year on year. Even so, the stigma attached to the issue means that many families still don’t come forward for help, or only when the situation reaches an extreme level, and contacting the police in particular may indeed be a last resort, making us believe that the true figures will be significantly greater than those recorded by the police. I would not want to celebrate in any way figures that suggest an increase in pain and distress; and yet at some level this apparent increase is good news, representing increased awareness of, and attention paid to, an issue many of us have been banging on about for a long time.

The article reports correctly that there is no legal definition of APVA. Although it comments that APVA falls within the wider category of domestic abuse (DA), within Britain the DA legislation will only capture young people aged 16 and 17. The piece itself discusses adolescents, but draws on the experiences of the family of an eleven year old and it is not clear whether this situation would have been recorded within the FOI requests. Furthermore we are learning that children as young as 4 may demonstrate behaviour that is violent, frightening and persistent to the extent that it would fall within our concerns. Once again, we see that the figures reported here are likely to be a significant under-representation.

Finally, while the article quotes Tom Madders from Young Minds who says, “People are reaching out for support and not getting it and often having to resort to calling the police as the only line of support” it is also clear that there are a growing number of resources around the country which families are able to access. I know there aren’t nearly enough, but services often get a bad press and so I feel duty bound to remind us all that there are increasing numbers of people working hard to support families through their experience of violence and abuse, finding ways to restore healthy family relationships.*

We have often bemoaned the fact that, “if you can’t count it, it doesn’t count” – here we have proof that it is starting to count!**

 

* If you need help yourself, or for someone else, it is not easy to know where to go. There may be specific issues which will help direct you to a specialist agency. Otherwise you are welcome to look at my Directory page.

** I heard recently that the organisation Childline has now also introduced a separate code for recording child to parent violence, a very positive move.

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Shame added to shame: a less than compassionate response to the issue of #CPV

The tagline on the Premier webpage reads Stay informed and inform others with up to the minute news from a Christian perspective. 

With a 60% increase in listeners over the year 2017-18, Premier Radio is one of the few winners reported by Radio Today as total radio listening drops; though the total figure of 227,000 still falls well short of the top London station, Capital, with 1.866 million listeners. Nevertheless, there are many whose day-to-day Christian faith includes listening to a radio station which offers music, discussion and news from a particular perspective. I have regularly visited homes, schools and offices where it has been playing as a background track to the business of the day. The website itself boasts 4019 followers, and the Facebook page apparently has 37K ‘Likes’. These things bring responsibility surely.

How disappointing then, that the go-to person for a response to an apparently increasing phenomenon of adolescent to parent violence, should be a ‘Christian author’ who says she THINKS “this is a result of years and years of ‘academic’ child care advice” and BELIEVES “that a child’s behaviour is dependent on the parenting they receive and argues that discipline is a reflection of your love for the child.” Lynette Burrows is someone not unfamiliar with controversy, having spoken out against adoption by gay couples; and who describes herself as a Family Values Campaigner.

Child to parent violence and abuse (and in this we include all those in a parenting role) is not a new phenomenon, but it is one which has only being recognised and discussed more widely in the last ten or fifteen years. In that time an important body of research has built up, and new understandings about neuro-developmental conditions have also brought enlightenment to an issue which remains shrouded in secrecy because of the shame attached to it and the paucity of response from services. We still have no clear figures or sense of prevalence because that shame means that parents often do not come forward for help, or only when the situation has become very extreme. One of the key features is that it is different and separate to ‘naughty children’ or to adolescents testing the boundaries. The term is used to describe a pattern of behaviour often building up over time and which controls or causes fear in parents such that they may feel bound to change their behaviour. There is no one cause, but we see that families with children who have been exposed to domestic abuse, who have experienced early trauma, or who have developmental disorders (amongst a myriad of other situations) often with overlapping experiences, are particularly vulnerable.

As it attracts growing attention, through research, campaigning and media coverage, more and more parents have come forward to share their own stories, including the difficulties they have had in finding a compassionate and practical response. Traditional expectations about parenting have been found not to work and even to be counter productive, and a blanket insistence on adopting inappropriate practices adds to the sense of failure experienced by parents already condemned by wider society for being unable to ‘control’ their children. Indeed, parents have spoken of the harm done to their mental health through not being believed or understood. Around the country, and across the world, there are a growing number of responses being developed. No way near enough, and for some people too difficult to access, but it is important for parents – and others offering a parenting role – to know that these exist and not to be simply berated for being too soft or inconsistent, or for generally not parenting hard enough. In the meantime, the least people should hope for would surely be to not be condemned and ostracised by the church or other religious organisations, but to be offered a welcome and a listening ear.

It is good to see that the Premier website has since been updated with comments from an experienced voice and an accepted authority in this field, Al Coates. It is a shame that an organisation purporting to represent a faith based on loving your neighbour, and compassion for those in need, could not have been more loving and compassionate, with a properly researched response, in the first place.

The original BBC article, to which Premier refers, can be found here. There is a much more interesting story to tell around this. I will rustle something up in the next week or so!

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CPV: when it’s too shameful to speak the words …

Joining a growing library of leaflets and booklets designed to help parents understand and obtain help around child to parent violence, is a publication from South Tyneside Adults and Children Safeguarding Boards. Ranging from a simple one page leaflet, to more comprehensive booklets, these publications typically give information to parents and carers to help identify whether they might be experiencing abuse, explanations of why abuse might be taking place as well as steps they can take to minimise it, and local or national contact details.

 

An unusual feature of this particular booklet, is that page 15 was specifically designed to be torn out. Parents working in partnership on its creation, wanted to be able to give something to friends and family that they could read, when the shame and stigma around this issue made it too difficult to find the words to speak. It begins with a paragraph about how and why parents and carers might feel reluctant to admit to what is happening in their family; and includes suggestions of Do’s and Don’ts in supporting them.

This is a difficult subject for all of us to get out heads round, and those experiencing it are no different, and so it can be vital to have something simple to take away to read and digest at a slow pace. While general leaflets are of course helpful, there is added value in having the names and contact details for local organisations who can provide advice and support when someone is ready to seek help.

This partcular leaflet is available from South Tyneside Safeguarding Board for anyone interested in reading it, or in creating their own. You will find links to other leaflets and information for parents and carers on the Resources pages.

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Therapeutically Parenting Teens, book review time

Julie Selwyn’s groundbreaking report into adoption breakdown  found that around one third of adoptions pass smoothly, around a third of families were mostly getting on OK but with ups and downs, and the other third were having significant difficulties. If you’ve found it as far as my website then I’m assuming you’re probably not in the first third, and if that’s the case you may well be interested in what Sally Donovan has to say in her latest book: The Unofficial Guide to Therapeutic Parenting, The Teen Years.

Picking up where the earlier guide left off, Sally’s children are now very definitely teenagers, and she shares the wisdom and advice that she has accumulated and tested in the safety of her home. (Yes – there is an emphasis on ensuring that home is a safe place for all.) The material is distinctly heavy at times, but the tone is light in a way that does not minimize the issues but makes it possible to read without running away in horror. There is a focus particularly on the continuing and damaging impact of trauma, which is amplified by the teenage brain’s rewiring exercise; and also on the realities of the internet and social media – a foreign country for most parents even now. Separate chapters cover siblings, education, self-care, and practical tips for family and professionals. The really scary stuff, which you hope will not affect most families, has its own chapter, for those who want or need to know about the grooming of vulnerable young people, and exploitation within the drugs world; as does the realities of supporting a young person when they have to move out into independent living.

There are images and ideas that will stick with me for a long time, and teasers too. I will never look at a North Face jacket in the same way again, and I will drink herbal tea in future with a little more irony!

Sally is keen that there should be hope shining through and I believe she has achieved this; but for hope to survive, there needs to be understanding from friends, family and professionals, walking alongside. If more people read books such as this, then this hope can live.

Sally and I met recently at the Jessica Kingsley Publishers headquarters, to record a podcast for subscribers to the JKP newsletter. You can listen to our discussions here.

 

The Unofficial Guide to Therapeutic Parenting, The Teen Years

Sally Donovan

Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2019

ISBN:1785921746

£14.99

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Research Fellow/Officer sought, University of Leeds

An exciting opportunity exists to be part of a team working on a research project funded by the N8 Policing Research Partnership led by Dr Sam Lewis with Dr Jose Pina-Sanchez, investigating the incidence of and police responses to violence by children aged 10 – 17 towards their parents and carers.

Further details can be found on the University of Leeds website, jobs pages.

This is a fixed term contract, till April 2020. Closing date: August 4th.

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ACEs: Not a winning hand after all?

When the concept of ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) broke onto the scene, with the dissemination and discussion of the CDC-Kaiser ACE study, this seemingly common-sense understanding of the link between painful experiences in childhood and poor outcomes later on in life was embraced by many as the new Holy Grail.

This American study had apparently found evidence across a large sample group of the impact of ten specific childhood experiences on adult health functioning; and the greater the number of adverse experiences, the worse the outcome. And it made perfect sense that someone taking an interest in you and your welfare early on might enable you to have a more secure sense of self and improve your life chances. The concentration on ACEs was timely, linking in with a focus on trauma-informed work, and the growing understanding of the the changes in the brain and the later outworking of developmental trauma by young children and even adults. Continue reading

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Safety Work

My son is now 15 and is going to live with his dad. I should have done it a long time ago. (Marley Carroll, November 2018)

At this point I am simply counting the days until she is 18. (Witsend, March 2019)

There are plenty of other similar comments on the Silent Suffering blogsite, and many other places where parents meet up to vent their pain and frustration, and to seek advice and help. An understandable response from a parent,  if the problem is one of regular and increasing violence and abuse over a protracted period of time; rather shocking that it has come to this point where parents feel they can no longer carry on; but ultimately not the preferred outcome if what we are aiming for from the start is greater safety all round. Continue reading

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