The recent Respect National Practitioners Seminar, held in London, featured a keynote speech from Professor David Gadd, of the Centre for Criminology and Criminal Justice at Manchester University. David reported on the findings of the three-year ESRC From Boys to Men project, in his speech: The Making and Unmaking of Domestic Abuse Perpetrators.
Essentially, the research has been examining why some young men go on to become domestic abuse perpetrators and others not; and then what can be done about it. Work such as this is incredibly important in a field such as parent abuse, where a significant amount is known about correlation, but less about causation.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, researchers found that those who had witnessed domestic violence had higher acceptance of it, there was a sense that violence was normalized for many children, and trust and betrayal were fundamental to explaining and justifying abuse. Some participants had experienced tragic home lives and described feelings of powerlessness, insecurity and helplessness, sometimes accompanied by vengeful feelings towards a mother for failing to protect them earlier. Some gender differences were found in the likelihood of noticing/witnessing emotional and physical abuse in adult carers’ relationships, with girls being more nuanced in what they saw and understood.
More positively, there was a significant attitudinal change over a 6-week programme encouraging young people to think and talk about domestic abuse, prevention can work!
Recommendations so far include preventative education, social marketing (with follow up), work with perpetrators, and family intervention. In the light of research such as this, the failure of the UK parliament to make relationship education a compulsory part of the school curriculum in a recent vote on an amendment to the Children and Families Bill is all the more disappointing.
Key findings can be found on the project website.
In other workshops during the day, there were opportunities to hear from Sandra Ashley (Director, Hertfordshire PPP) with a workshop entitled Lifting the Lid on Child to Parent Violence; Xenia Solomou (CIRO, Tower Hamlets) on the Child Sexual Exploitation Inquiry Interim Report (2012); Julia Worms (YPS Interim Manager, Respect) on the Challenges of Working With Older Teens in Relationship Abuse; Fiona Barakat (YUVA) on Making Sense of ADHD Diagnosis (see addendum to previous post); Natalie Collins (Day Programme) in an interactive session looking at lessons to be learned from the way young people make use of popular culture in the fields of domestic abuse and rape; Peter Joseph (Co-ordinator DV Perpetrator Programme, Positive Change) on work with young parents in relation to domestic abuse; Rachel Young (Safer London Foundation) on work with young men involved in gangs; Jo Sharpen (AVA) on her research into the use of online spaces by young people to disclose abuse; and finally Kate Iwi (Respect YPS) speaking about the learning so far from the Respect Young People’s Programme.
Slides from relevant presentations should shortly be available from the Respect website.
You can see a twitter storify of the day here.