I have always welcomed guest posts on this blog, and so it was good to be able to invite Michelle John of PEGS to contribute to our mutual learning and understanding of the issues. Michelle is the Founding Director of PEGS, and has the rare combination of a background in domestic abuse advocacy, lived experience, and the willingness and ability to speak up for her fellow parents. Michelle and her team support hundreds of parents impacted by CPA, alongside delivering impactful training for organisations such as police forces and local authorities, campaigning nationally for policy change, undertaking speaking engagements and raising awareness of the issue.
When it comes to describing abuse directed towards a parent, carer or guardian, there are so many phrases in circulation. While to some extent, what we call the abuse is secondary to the action we are taking to reduce it and support those impacted by the issue, it is important that we use words which don’t lead to misconceptions.
When I set up PEGS, myself and my team made the decision to refer to CPA or Child to Parent Abuse. At the time, this was at odds with the definition of ‘Adolescent to Parent Violence or Abuse (APVA)’ used in Home Office guidance and other professional literature. But the crux of our decision was the potential of shunning the majority of parents if we promoted that our services were for those experiencing APVA. An adolescent is a person aged 13 to 18. By contrast, you are always your parents’ child – whether you are 1 or 51. Finding organisations set up to support them, and then taking the leap of actually asking for the help they need, is incredibly difficult for all parents impacted by CPA; with that in mind, we wanted to make sure our language was as inclusive as possible so we didn’t put off anyone whose child had either not yet entered their teen years or had already reached adulthood.
The results of our first parental survey – undertaken in November 2020 – back up the general consensus that many cases of CPA start well before the teen years. More than half of our families had started experiencing abusive or violent behaviour when their child was aged 12 or below – and a significant number had children who were just 5 when the CPA began. We’re currently mid-way through our second survey so the results haven’t yet been collated, but looking at the data from the responses we have so far supports the fact that CPA really is happening within all types of families.
We know that CPA is under-reported (and historically under-researched) so it’s really important for all of us involved in campaigning, supporting and/or researching collectively eradicate this perception that the problem is limited to a handful of teenage boys being physically abusive. Both research and anecdotal evidence are beginning to build up a picture of every single type of family being impacted by CPA.
Even if their child is not tall enough or strong enough to physically overpower them, CPA takes many forms and coercion, threats, stealing and many other types of abuse are not restricted by the size or force of the person displaying the behaviours (or the person on the receiving end).
That’s why at PEGS, we’ll continue to use the term Child to Parent Abuse and encourage others to do so, too.
Many thanks Michelle, for your insights and your support for families. We look forward to further posts from her in the future.
If you would like to contribute anything, whether from your work or experience, learning or practice, please do get in touch!