The recent conference in Galway, hosted by the National University of Ireland in Galway, was an opportunity to hear about progress on the RCPV project and to meet the participants from around Europe, to learn more about NVR, and to meet practitioners from Ireland in particular who are already engaged in work with families experiencing violence from their children.
One of the most fascinating aspects for me was to hear about the different ways in which child to parent violence is understood and approached around Europe. For instance, the open-ness of Spanish culture can mean that parents are much more frank about what they are experiencing. While still experiencing a sense of shame, they nevertheless speak more readily and seek help accordingly. This is also aided by a weekly television programme “Hermano Mayor” which has been running for over three years, addressing issues of violence within the family. Research partners in Spain have taken on evaluation of the project, and also developed a Spanish Association of CPV Research.
Within Bulgaria, there is joint training and work between the police and the NGO supporting families. This raised quite a few eyebrows in the conference hall! We were told that because of the economic situation, many Bulgarian parents have gone abroad to seek work, leaving their children in the care of grandparents. In this situation, child to grand-parent violence becomes an issue in its own right.
Practitioners in Sweden have taken on the Break4Change model of intervention, and reported positive results after an initial evaluation.
Peter Jakob gave a key note speech about Non Violent Resistance, and also led a morning workshop. Much of the focus of the conference was on NVR, including the launch of the Non Violent Resistance Handbook for Practitioners, which has been developed by Declan Coogan and Eileen Lauster of the University. There were presentations from agencies within Ireland where this programme is in use, including Parentline Ireland, where training has been rolled out to all volunteers taking calls and offering one to one sessions with families. Currently around 10% of calls to the helpline concern violence from a child to a parent. The Young People’s Probation Service are also looking at adopting NVR, having successfully implemented Strengthening Families (different programme to the English version) throughout the country, as a response to court requirements.
Some clever and useful analogies were used to promote understanding and awareness of issues. Like a frog being put into cold water which is gradually brought to the boil, parents may not realise the full extent of what is happening to them, or start to react, until the situation becomes very serious. Eddie Gallagher presented a slide with an image of a cow’s head. The shapes created by markings have always been there, but may not be recognised straight away. Once we see the picture it becomes blindingly obvious!
With a range of presenters and workshops from within probation, health, housing, and substance use agencies, we were reminded that there are many influences on behaviour and many routes to CPV, and so one response may not fit all situations. It is important to understand each person as an individual, and to hear their voice in the situation.
Paula Wilcox has written a report of the conference for Brighton University which you can read here. The conference was videoed and the film will be used to promote the work as well as in future training activities. Many of the presentations are available on the conference website. On the RCPV website you can find details too of the next events to be held in September in Valencia (a regional symposium), in January 2015 in Brighton (end of project conference), and also in January at a round table event in Brussels.