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.