The Home Office published its latest VAWG Strategy papers this week, with the Ending Violence Against Women and Girls 2016 – 2020 Strategy Refresh, and the Ending Violence against Women and Girls Action Plan 2016 – 2020 Progress Update. Once again, I was disappointed to see that there was no mention of children’s and adolescent’s violence and abuse towards their parents, though not entirely surprised since it is has not featured as a specific issue since 2014, and only one line mention in 2016. The irony is that, at a local level, many areas are now developing their own strategic response; but by omitting this aspect of violence and abuse from central government documents – and thinking – it remains invisible, unconsidered, and unimaginable for too many people.
You may have heard me argue that we should not necessarily be conceptualising CPVA or APVA as domestic violence anyway, so why am I so peeved? Well of course, the VAWG strategy is not exclusively concerned with what we typically think of as domestic abuse, including also issues such as FGM and honour based violence, sexual violence, and stalking, as well as teenage relationship abuse. There seem to be a lot of similarities in the way parents experience violence and abuse from partners – and from their children; and there are strong links to the experience of previous abuse in the home, and the later expression of violence by the young person. But we now hear from families where their experience is very different, and they seriously struggle with the notion – and labelling – of their children as DA perpetrators: where there are learning difficulties for instance, or where there has been past experience of severe trauma in the child’s life. The more we learn from families, the more we see that there is no one clear profile, no one distinct causal link, and we see that the response that each family requires must be tailored to their specific needs. Nevertheless, by omitting CPVA and APVA from the VAWG strategy, an opportunity is lost to remind commissioners, and practitioners, that this is ‘a thing’, that in some ways it can be understood as an aspect of DA, that the gendered nature of it adds to the abuse that women and girls experience in other ways, and that this remains an under-recognised and under-tackled problem for significant numbers of families.
Many of the Action Points could impact positively on the recognition and response to CPVA. Relationships education in schools, work with gangs, the supporting of whole family approaches to DA work, work within health and housing encouraging practitioners to ask and respond appropriately, partnership working across agencies, developing better data sets – these are all elements of work that are needed to underpin the recognition, response and resolution of violence and abuse from children to parents. But while Government continues to fail to name the problem, it is too easy for the issue to remain hidden, unrecognised, brushed over. You may feel that you want to take this up and lobby for it to be recognised at higher levels. I plan to publish some suggestions and guidance for this in the next month.