CPV: Challenging (my) assumptions

In early research it was reported (Charles) that child to parent violence (CPV) was an issue more likely to be found in white families, as black or Hispanic parenting practice was considered to offer greater protection through a more rigid and traditional style. And yet, in Britain, we see Afro-Caribbean young people over-represented in the police statistics when the figures are broken down. For many years now, children and young people’s violence and abuse towards their parents has been documented right around the world, whether through research or via media reporting. When I was studying the issue in 2005, I came across stories from Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore, Malta, and Nepal. Amanda Holt references work from both north and south America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Iran, India, and Sri Lanka; and of course we have research too from New Zealand, Japan and Egypt. Simmons et al suggest that this is a phenomenon of industrialised nations wherever they are. But how do we interpret this sort of information, and what conclusions do we draw? What do assertions and data such as these really tell us about what is going on? What assumptions underlie the work we do?

Recent news coverage of the R Kelly trial, of the apparent differential response to black and Asian women experiencing violence and abuse, and the petition by Sistah Space calling for mandatory specialist training for all police and government agencies supporting black women and girls affected by domestic abuse; as well as attending webinars organised by Hope Training, have encouraged me to ask myself questions about assumptions I make on a day to day basis, and to look again at the narrative around child to parent violence and abuse and the responses we offer.

When I reread this through I realised there was a danger that it gives the wrong impression – that I am questioning the existence of child to parent violence and abuse. Not at all! Please bear with me to the end. This is series of questions I am asking. Each of us needs to ask our own. This is important work to do.

What assumptions do I make about ‘normal’ family life, what this might look like and how it is expressed, about who looks after children and the context for this? How are these assumptions linked to my own upbringing, my own culture, my own practice? What do I think I understand about family life in other cultures or communities, and about how this might impact attachment, behaviour expectations or discipline? Which communities do I automatically assume are like my own and which different? Can I assume people understand what I mean when I use language and terminology particular to my experience?

What stereotypes do I hold about young men or young women in other communities – about their vulnerability or criminality, the power they have to make decisions about their own lives? How does a community’s experience as a whole of violence or discrimination play out in day to day life, in the normalisation of violence or in help-seeking behaviour?

When I review data – and indeed when it is recorded – how is it broken down? Are minoritised people grouped together? Are some groups invisible? Do I properly interrogate the reasons why some groups of people are represented in the way they are?

When support programmes are developed which questions are asked? Who is asking the questions? Who is answering them? How flexible is the service? Who is leading it? How can the needs of individuals be properly addressed within a wider group?

There are, of course, many other questions to address, and I hope that I will continue to think these things through. It is encouraging that others are too. But importantly we need those in minorities groups to be leading the conversation. I am excited that I am increasingly seeing researchers asking questions about the experiences of minorities communities, whether regarding the prevalence of CPV, the avenues for help or the responses of authorities. We need to see more of this, and to start to explore what is happening behind closed doors even in communities where there is less access. If we accept that CPV is a widespread issue, but that it can and will be experienced differently by different people, we need to acknowledge that there is much still to learn – and above all that a standard response will not be sufficient across the field.

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Practitioners’ Networks

It’s always encouraging to be able to share with peers, to hear of new developments and learning, swap tips and good practice, and offer advice and ideas when things get tricky. In a relatively new area such as Child to Parent Violence and Abuse we are all learning, and so opportunities to hear from others involved in similar work, whether through formal learning or through less formal sharing and discussion are much appreciated and sought after!

There are 2 such opportunities coming up:

Family Based Solutions instituted a professionals’ network during lockdown, and their next session is on October 18th. More details here.

If you work in Sussex and can’t wait that long there is a newly established Sussex Child to Parent Abuse Network, a shared venture between The Rita Project and Capa First Response, which has its inaugural meeting on December 9th*, supporting professionals working with families across the county. More information and booking here.

Please do make use of these opportunities, and also check out the Directory to see if there are other agencies near where you are based, to promote further opportunities to learn and grow together. I am always happy to post announcements such as these, so let me know if there are other similar networks out there!

*Please note change of date from that originally posted.

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Raising awareness #FASD

You may have noticed on social media that today (September 9th) is International FASD awareness day – and in fact the whole of September is FASD awareness month! FASD (which stands for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) is now recognised as affecting more people than autism or ADHD. FASD is a group of lifelong conditions affecting people in different ways physically, emotionally and behaviourally, and because not everyone will be affected in the same way it is not always diagnosed early on. As a developmental condition there is no cure, but early diagnosis is important in order to be able to put support systems in place to help families cope and thrive.

Because some of the effects of alcohol on the developing foetus relate to later difficulties in processing information or in regulating emotions (for instance) some children with FASD will show patterns of difficult and challenging behaviour, sometimes using violence in the home and towards their parents and carers. Understanding more about FASD can help with understanding what is going on behind child to parent violence, and can be an important start in putting in place the networks and systems that are so vital for families in this situation.

The National Organisation for FASD is a good place to start (in the UK) if you want to develop your own awareness and understanding. There is a very helpful Preferred UK Language Guide on their website. Sandra Butcher, their CEO has been busy tweeting all day and you will find a lot of links to other resources from her, and news of anticipated policy changes.

If you’re on social media and you want to keep in touch with the latest research findings, policy and training, these are some people that I have found helpful to follow:

There are many more, I’m sure you’ll find the people who you can connect to best!

FASD is just one of the many different issues which can lead to families experiencing CPV. Its good to see that this condition is closer to getting the attention it deserves.

See the Government website for Guidance published September 9th on health needs assessment of families affected by Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

To download factsheets about FASD produced by FASD Hub Scotland click here.

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In July, the Government published the draft statutory guidance on Domestic Abuse with a consultation period ending on 14th September 2021.

The key objectives of the guidance are to:

  • provide clear information on what domestic abuse is in order to assist with its identification
  • provide guidance and support to frontline professionals, who have responsibilities for safeguarding and supporting victims of domestic abuse, for example through outlining relevant strategic and operational frameworks
  • improve the institutional response to domestic abuse by conveying best practice and standards for commissioning responses

The guidance extends to England and to Wales insofar as it relates to reserved or non-devolved matters in Wales. 

You will find links to various versions of the draft guidance and information on how to submit a response. 

Child/adolescent to parent violence is specifically mentioned on pages 20 – 23, including an illustrative case study; and there is discussion about age on page 36, the impact on a child of living with domestic abuse from page 59; and chapter 5 deals with multi-agency cooperation. However, there is real value in reading the whole document, with a recognition of the many different vulnerabilities experienced by families, and multiple points of discrimination and stigma. 

Whether or not CPV should be considered as a form of DA remains a contentious issue, but, nevertheless, it is contained within the Act and strong arguments have been made regarding the connections with DA. So regardless of whether you feel this is the right place for a response to be sited, please do take the time to read the draft guidance and consider whether there are comments you can usefully make to improve the document – and policy and practice – as it stands. 

Thank you!

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Do you know about the Forensic CAMHS service?

I must confess I hadn’t heard of Community Forensic CAMHS services, so it was interesting to sit down (virtually) with Dr. Andrew Newman from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to hear all about the work they do. The service is quite new, established nationally around 3 years ago, although already operating in some areas prior to that. Currently it covers all of England, divided into 13 regions. As a highly specialist service, the regions are large and Andy works within the South West (North) Community CAMHS service, covering Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Wiltshire, Swindon, Bath and North East Somerset.

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Familial IDVAs

IDVAs (Independent domestic violence advisors) are front line practitioners with specialist training in delivering practical and emotional support to victims of domestic abuse, and their children. While the vast majority of clients will have experienced violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner, a small percentage of the work involves what is termed “familial violence”, and I was pleased to be able to speak with 2 Familial IDVAs recently to hear more about what they are able to offer.

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Research into child to parent violence and abuse in London

I have been asked by Amanda Holt to post this request for practitioners based in London to consider taking part in an important research project. The surge in interest in child to parent violence and abuse over the last year has been truly impressive, and this research, commissioned by the London Violence Reduction Unit, seeks to move beyond interest to understanding, and then hopefully on to provision.

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School based support for #CPV

I feel very strongly that school-based family workers are ideally placed to offer parents support, where there is child to parent violence (CPV). Let me tell you why.

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Raising awareness in Belgium

I often reflect on how far we have come in the UK in terms of speaking out about child to parent violence and abuse. It is too easy to live in a bubble and assume that the willingness to talk about the issue, and the development of a response is something that has happened world wide, but there are many places – even close to home – where stigma and fear prevent parents from speaking out, and where an absence of academic research leaves a hole in national awareness, and ultimately in support for families.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Hilde van Mieghem, who has directed a number of TV documentaries in Belgium about violence within families between partners, and from parent to child – and now wants to explore violence and abuse from children towards their parents, in conjunction with Borgerhoff & Lamberigts TV. Her work is unusual in that she is not particularly interested in hearing the “what” and “when”, or in sensationalising the story, but rather focusses on the effect the abuse has on the individual, and their search for help: what feelings were aroused, the psychological impact, how people responded, how easy (or hard) it was to find help. The previous series were well received within Belgium and prompted many individuals to come forward who had not previously thought about their experiences as abusive or who had been too ashamed or afraid to seek support. They sparked parliamentary discussion, led to the establishment of new training courses for social workers and care givers, and encouraged the development of peer groups and awareness and prevention campaigns.

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CPA by any other name…

I have always welcomed guest posts on this blog, and so it was good to be able to invite Michelle John of PEGS to contribute to our mutual learning and understanding of the issues. Michelle is the Founding Director of PEGS, and has the rare combination of a background in domestic abuse advocacy, lived experience, and the willingness and ability to speak up for her fellow parents. Michelle and her team support hundreds of parents impacted by CPA, alongside delivering impactful training for organisations such as police forces and local authorities, campaigning nationally for policy change, undertaking speaking engagements and raising awareness of the issue.

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