Writing a piece for PSW magazine over the holiday, and then watching the Archbishop of Canterbury’s new year’s day speech, has reminded me of the difficulties inherent in raising awareness of a serious issue – such as parent abuse – while avoiding demonising the various players. Much is made within the literature on child to parent violence, of taking care not to apportion blame, thereby increasing the shame parents already feel and making them less likely to seek help. Fundamental to the Respect agenda of the mid Labour years from 2006 was the notion of parental responsibility, and of holding parents to account for the behaviour of their children, credited with damaging further the precarious balance of power within some families.
But in avoiding laying the blame at their parents’ feet, we are still bound to say, “Look, some children are this violent, this out of control” if our story is to be heard and awareness to be raised; and we must equally avoid the danger of making this cohort of children so large in our minds and our stories that we lose credibility. In the aftermath of the August riots in Britain, the political mood quickly swung from hoody-hugging to feral-hating, in a nation that was already quite fearful of its youth as widely portrayed in the media, despite evidence that the vast majority of teens and young adults strive to be constructive members of society.
As we enter the new year, the task before us is to clearly and honestly set out the facts of parent abuse, without resorting to scare mongering and without blaming one side or another; and to do so in a way that politicians, policy makers, practitioners and public all come to recognise that abuse for what it is, and seek to support the whole family to turn their lives around.
A happy and successful 2012 to all those bringing peace and health to the families we work with!