When authors discuss the different ways in which child to parent violence and abuse presents, it is common to include sexual abuse in the list; and yet it is difficult to find anywhere in the literature where this discussion is expanded. I know from conversations with adoptive families that the issue is very much alive, and extremely painful to discuss. While many families fear that a request for help will result in the instigation of a child protection investigation, this is an area where alarm bells will certainly be ringing straight away. How to respond though, in a way that maintains the safety of all involved, while not further traumatising either the young person or the parents, is rarely interrogated. A recent conversation with a friend undertaking a PhD at Bournemouth University has encouraged me that more information and greater discussion may be on the way!
For many people, talking about sex and sexualised behaviours can be very challenging—let alone discussing inappropriate sexualised behaviours. When we then add sexually inappropriate behaviours from an adolescent who is also violent towards their parents, it becomes impossible for many to even think about, let alone talk about. The potential consequence of this silence can add to further isolation, fear and guilt for those experiencing adolescent-to-parent violence and abuse (APVA).
In 2015, The UK Home Office published an information guide on APVA. It mentions adolescents who present with heightened sexualised behaviours as a risk factor sometimes present when working with APVA. However, the notion that adolescents may present sexually inappropriate behaviours towards their parents or that they may intimidate their parents, remains under-discussed. The question then arises, is it under-discussed because of rarity, or is it under-discussed because of the difficulty of understanding how this might occur?
I hope to address this problem in my PhD research currently under way.
Louise Oliver, PhD Student in Bournemouth University