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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What do we mean by ‘Intent’, in the context of Child to Parent Violence?

The issue of intent, and what exactly is meant by this in understanding child or adolescent to parent violence and abuse, is a complicated one that has generated significant discussion over the last year particularly. It has been suggested (Thorley and Coates) that we are better served by an overarching understanding of young people’s family violence, with a division between those who act aggressively with intent, and those we would struggle to understand doing so. Others disagree, and this has sparked thoughts that perhaps we are misusing the word, and that we should go back to basics in our understanding of how we use this terminology in the wider field of domestic abuse.

I was musing along this line with Kate Iwi, and persuaded her to write something for us! 

 

In the adult domestic violence (DV) field it’s often noted that even in the heat of the moment when a perpetrator says he ‘lost it’ and ‘saw red’ he is still accountable for his behaviour.  In part this is because they clearly still retained some control, in the sense that they are setting limits to the level of abuse they are prepared to use.  After all, if you are stronger than the other person and/or there are potential weapons around, and you’ve not killed them yet, then you must be setting limits.  It’s also noted that victims of DV learn to tread on eggshells – they avoid doing the things that seem to trigger the violence. The aggressor gets their way. Its often concluded that for adult perpetrators, ‘violence is intentional’. Continue reading

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CPV Conference Season!

I do love a good coincidence! It seems we are in CPV conference season at the moment, just as the political parties get going on theirs, but more impressively, the themes that are emerging for me resonate from one event to the next.

I attended the Break4Change Annual Network Event in Brighton in September, and one of the key themes of the day was the need for collaboration across services in the delivery of support for families experiencing child to parent violence. Ideally, this was seen as taking place in a multi-disciplinary project, such as B4C Brighton where Children’s Services, the Youth Offending Service, Rise (domestic abuse) and AudioActive (an arts and media charity) not only work together on a day-to-day basis but are all represented on the Steering Group. More particularly to this project, it was considered that it should be embedded in the local authority in order to be delivered effectively. Continue reading

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