CPV: Standing together

I am breaking my silence.

I am breaking my silence for any person who is a stepparent, and they are living in a dangerous situation at the hands of their stepchildren.

I am breaking my silence because I know what it is like to scourer the internet trying to find someone or some resource to signal that I was not alone.

So begins a post from Dr Sam Kline. You can read the rest of the post here, and there is the promise of a follow up on her site in a week or so. You will recognise many of her comments:

  • The assumption that ‘step-parent abuse’ was abuse BY step-parents
  • The societal messages to girls and women not to make a fuss, to keep the peace, to look after the needs of the men
  • The shame and lack of expectation of help that stops people coming forward

She raises important messages to families in responding to abuse:

  • The importance of parents ‘being on the same page’
  • The importance of going through with plans, however hard to do
  • The importance of support from friends and of being believed

And she also talks about the way that parents keep loving, even when that means loving from a distance.

We have no certainty of how many families – of every hue – experience violence and abuse from their children, and we can probably never know exactly. While parents find it difficult to come forward for help, and for all of us to talk about this, there will continue to be people who believe that they are totally alone in their experience. Thankfully, the last couple of years have seen more people speaking out, more sympathetic coverage, and a more widespread response, but we still have a long way to go. In the meantime, I draw comfort from every post such as that from Kline, not that they have had to go through the abuse, but that they have found the courage to speak out, and by doing so will have helped someone else recognise that they are not alone.

I know what it is like to come across a story on the internet and feel comfort in knowing I was not alone.

We cannot change issues if everyone remains silent.

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CPV: Looking forward with hope

Well, it’s been an interesting year, culminating in a hectic last few weeks!

Thinking about what to write today I flicked back through old reports, including that written by Parentline Plus ten years ago, “You can’t say go and sit on the naughty step because they turn round and say make me”. In some ways it feels as if nothing has changed, the same stories from parents, the same understanding of background risk factors, the same difficulties in accessing help. But what does feel different is the volume of coverage, and the gradually changing tone.

There is a lot of interest in CPV with a growing number of PhD students looking at this around the country. We’ve seen more new research papers this year, including a really helpful overview of research from the last 60 years from Simmons, McEwan, Purcell and Ogloff. There’s been a long awaited book from Eddie Gallagher, giving us the benefit of his life’s work in one volume, so some interesting insights there. In parallel there has been increasing action from the adoption community as they try to untangle the conundrum that is trauma-driven abuse directed towards them by their children; and a growing voice from those experiencing violence and challenging behaviour from children with learning disabilities. Researchers in the domestic violence field, such as Hannah Bows, have started to make connections between elder abuse and child initiated abuse of parents, with a longitudinal approach to understanding this issue; and we have seen a widening of understanding to include abuse to adults in a caring role other than parents. In Australia there was much excitement with the release of money to fund services for families across Victoria.

Funding problems continue to affect services for families in this country, but it is exciting to see that many places have been able to sustain a service, and even develop it further where there is buy-in at a strategic level. We have seen a lot of media interest too, with some refreshingly thoughtful examinations of adolescent to parent abuse from the Guardian and Observer in particular, and further coverage on the BBC. There is increasing recognition that this is more than ‘a parenting issue’, and that it could happen to anyone. Oh, and did I mention my book? I am very excited to have finally completed the manuscript and sent it off to the publisher two weeks ago. Fingers crossed for news after the new year!

So what to look for in the year ahead?

  • More news on my book I hope
  • A long awaited volume from Condry and Miles
  • More published research about abuse affecting other family members
  • More published research from a longitudinal perspective
  • More published research about practitioner experiences of work with CPV
  • More great media coverage!

In the end though, more and more research doesn’t necessarily cut it for parents. What we need to see is research converted into action on the ground, with the development of sustainable, respectful, accessible services that meet the needs of families and help to prevent behaviours becoming entrenched, as well as providing support in times of crisis. This is what we hope for in 2019. This is what I wish for families.

I know that there is already much good work happening to enable families to live together peacefully. As I travel around the country I am encouraged by the people I meet and the conversations I have.Thank you for all you do already! I will continue to work towards this wherever and however I can. I invite you to join me in working for change for families, and in bringing hope for all for the new year.

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A far from normal life – the impact of child to parent violence

My life now is radically different … But I still can’t sleep. Putting my child into care was searingly painful. I am often paralysed by recriminations, guilt and despair. 

The words of a parent, writing in the Observer this last weekend, in a long, tender and heartwrenching piece about her experience of abuse and violence from her teenage son. Tom’s violent behaviour was thought to come from his acute frustration, communication difficulties and problems regulating his emotions, due to a range of diagnoses. It included actual violence to his mother and siblings, damage to property, and controlling behaviours which took over the life of the family, making a normal existence well nigh impossible. The writer, Lesley Clough, describes calling the police on numerous occasions, and the good support of local DV services, but ultimately the impossibility of finding any solution other than her son’s move out of the home and into care.

While one of the key things that sets violence and abuse from children apart from that from adult perpetrators is the emotional wrench – as described by parents – of separating from their children, it is also important to bear in mind that there may be greater hope for restored relationships, with young minds more open to change, and behaviour patterns less fixed. As we continue to learn more about the numerous links with different vulnerabilities, we see too the possibility of putting in help earlier, to mitigate the effects of early experience and of various diagnoses.

Lesley’s story was taken up as well in the Guardian podcast, Today in Focus, broadcast on Monday December 10th. Speaking with Anushka Asthana, Lesley raises the importance for families of having a strong support network, and talks about what it means when your child is given a diagnosis to explain the violence and abuse. She describes the point at which she realised the family could no longer carry on as they were, and the steps she had to take to protect all her children.

It has been so exciting and encouraging this last year to see the way the issue of children’s violence and abuse within families has been taken up by journalists. We have to hope that the noise generated will help to contribute towards a move for greater funding and provision of services for families.

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Abandoned to cope on their own

Once again the Victoria Derbyshire programme stepped up to the mark this week, with a segment devoted to the plight of families of children with autism, particularly Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). The programme is available for the next month only, but the film included, “I feel really bad when I hurt my mum”, from Noel Phillips, will be available for longer.

 

The programme explored problems parents have in obtaining a diagnosis of autism / PDA and then the appalling lack of support following a diagnosis. As a result of a lack of help for families, parents may be coping alone with extreme levels of violence on a daily basis, as children ‘meltdown’ when dealing with anxiety of stress. Children may be excluded from school because of their behaviour, further increasing their vulnerability. We are warned that without timely assistance, many young people are on a trajectory to prison. Continue reading

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Confined Spaces, an interview with Sophie Cero

Do you like your art calming and reflective, or maybe you enjoy the challenge of something complex and abstract? For thousands of years, artists have used their work to comment on the human condition, and to explore ideas of power, truth, and reality. Nevertheless, you might be thinking, “but what can art tell us about child to parent violence?”

What I like about any new way of looking at things is that the questions are slightly different, the insights often trip us up and change the direction of our thoughts, and we can be left with new questions that we hadn’t even thought of before! So I was excited to come across artist, Sophie Cero on twitter and to hear about her work exploring child and adolescent violence towards parents. Sophie kindly agreed to be interviewed for Holes in the Wall. Continue reading

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Learning from a Serious Case Review

Over the weekend, I came across the Serious Case Review (SCR) into the death of a young person referred to as ‘Chris’, published recently by Newham LSCB.  I was drawn to it particularly as a social worker, and someone based in the area to which it refers. It is a profoundly moving document, highlighting real moments of good practice in work to support Chris and his family, while also indicating areas of work where people and agencies fell short in their roles and responsibilities. It is first and foremost an opportunity to learn about the lives of Chris and his family, to identify opportunities for learning from his tragic death, and to make recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar events happening again. Continue reading

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Your call, on speaking to the media about CPV

Back in 2013, I blogged about whether it was helpful to speak to the media, and how we could work within professional ethical guidelines with this. I find myself revisiting this theme now, partly because I am increasingly being contacted by investigative journalists interested in learning more about child to parent violence, and partly because I do believe the general tone and atmosphere around this is changing. With coverage in the mainstream media, and on flagship programmes it is in everyone’s interest to present as full a picture as possible, and to ensure accuracy of coverage whenever we are able to influence direction. Continue reading

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