I often reflect on how far we have come in the UK in terms of speaking out about child to parent violence and abuse. It is too easy to live in a bubble and assume that the willingness to talk about the issue, and the development of a response is something that has happened world wide, but there are many places – even close to home – where stigma and fear prevent parents from speaking out, and where an absence of academic research leaves a hole in national awareness, and ultimately in support for families.
Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Hilde van Mieghem, who has directed a number of TV documentaries in Belgium about violence within families between partners, and from parent to child – and now wants to explore violence and abuse from children towards their parents, in conjunction with Borgerhoff & Lamberigts TV. Her work is unusual in that she is not particularly interested in hearing the “what” and “when”, or in sensationalising the story, but rather focusses on the effect the abuse has on the individual, and their search for help: what feelings were aroused, the psychological impact, how people responded, how easy (or hard) it was to find help. The previous series were well received within Belgium and prompted many individuals to come forward who had not previously thought about their experiences as abusive or who had been too ashamed or afraid to seek support. They sparked parliamentary discussion, led to the establishment of new training courses for social workers and care givers, and encouraged the development of peer groups and awareness and prevention campaigns.
Capa First Response, a support and advice organisation helping families and professionals impacted by child to parent abuse, has recently been in talks with a production company to produce a documentary about child to parent violence and abuse.
This project wants to hear from any families willing to share their stories around this issue, in particular any families where the behaviour is now historic and your relationship with your child has improved. We are also looking to speak with families where the behaviour is ongoing and you would be willing to talk about this. The project is not trying to recreate a fly on the wall documentary but look at why this behaviour happens, how it presents itself, the difficulties parents face when it comes to friends, families and authorities.
If you are interested please email Capa UK for more information.
You will be aware that there have been a number of television programmes in recent years which have centred on children’s violence towards their parents. Some of these have been more sympathetic than others, largely depending on the aims of the producers and the “story” they have chosen to tell. Understandably there is great reluctance to expose painful and very personal situations in this way, and to potentially create a document that is there to view for the rest of your and your child’s life. Sometimes it is possible to remain anonymous, for the producers to use actors or for faces to be pixellated out. Sometimes producers are keen to show “actual families” to make the story “more convincing” – but it also depends on what the story is. I have personally met with researchers who are very aware of the issues and want to make something that is not sensationalist. Sometimes these initial ideas come to nothing, Sometimes they move forward slowly!
I will always advise parents to think very carefully before committing to anything like this. To ensure they have considered all the implications and that they have proper support in place. Nevertheless, it must be an individual decision and so I continue to publicise requests when they land in my in-tray, particularly if they come from people I know and trust.
On Monday night the BBC aired Responsible Child, a drama, based on a true story, directed by Nick Holt. The programme had been heavily trailed, and so it is not offering too many spoilers to say that twelve year old Ray, the main character, is involved in the murder of his stepfather, and the story follows his trial in the adult court in the context of his early life. Children’s services and education do not come out of it particularly well. Rather the compassionate responses are those of the legal team and a particular member of staff at the secure unit where Ray finally ends up Continue reading
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I am continually encouraged by the openness and indeed willingness of the BBC and other media to tackle the issue of child to parent violence and abuse. When I am contacted there is a recognition that this is an important emerging topic; and there is an understanding of the prevailing myths and that a more nuanced explanation is called for than simply attributing it to poor parenting. More than this though, I frequently hear “we covered it a while ago and promised were would come back to it later”, and ” we need to raise awareness”. Continue reading
Once again the Victoria Derbyshire programme stepped up to the mark this week, with a segment devoted to the plight of families of children with autism, particularly Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). The programme is available for the next month only, but the film included, “I feel really bad when I hurt my mum”, from Noel Phillips, will be available for longer.
The programme explored problems parents have in obtaining a diagnosis of autism / PDA and then the appalling lack of support following a diagnosis. As a result of a lack of help for families, parents may be coping alone with extreme levels of violence on a daily basis, as children ‘meltdown’ when dealing with anxiety of stress. Children may be excluded from school because of their behaviour, further increasing their vulnerability. We are warned that without timely assistance, many young people are on a trajectory to prison. Continue reading
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Writing in the Metro last week, Soaps Editor, Duncan Lindsay revealed an interesting up-coming plot line in the soap, Hollyoaks.
Hollyoaks spoilers: Son and mother domestic abuse storyline revealed for Imran and Misbah Maalik. Duncan Lindsay for Metro.co.uk Wednesday 6 Dec 2017 Continue reading
Another great programme from the BBC this week, available until November 28th. Victoria Derbyshire looked at the violence experienced by families of severely autistic children, and the difficulties for parents in obtaining support. (You can also read some of the stories here)
As well as introductions, and emails and texts from parents throughout the programme, there are two main sections to the item: a film from Noel Phillips (from 16.40 – 33.40), and interviews and discussion with three families and an MP (from 1.20.10 to 1.31.30). The programme ends with further calls from three families affected at 1.50.24. Some commentary is offered from the National Autistic Society, and the Local Government Association. You can view the whole of Noel Phillips’ film here. Continue reading
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Watching the most recent series from Channel 5 about child to parent violence recently, Violent Child, Desperate Parents, I’ve been struck by the principle underlying the therapist, Mandy Saligari’s work: Be Curious.
Read or listen to the discussions around the programme, or follow particular communities on twitter, and you’ll be familiar with the common assumptions about what’s behind the abuse. Parents too soft, giving them everything they want, they just need boundaries, parents have given up, the parents don’t give a damn. Of course, they do give a damn which is why they are taking the almighty step of exposing their lives to general opprobrium via this popular medium, but that seems to be overlooked. Continue reading
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(Screenshot. See below for link to the interview).
This week saw huge progress in the drive to make child to parent violence less of a hidden problem, with a headline story on Monday’s Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC2, presented by Joanna Gosling.
A film, produced by West Midlands journalist Noel Phillips, led the story, and there was studio discussion from me, alongside Ann Ramsden of the Rosalie Ryrie Foundation and Seamus Oates, Executive Head Teacher of TBAP, representing the Youth Justice Board. The Family Lives helpline was offered for anyone seeking more support or information, and Anastasia de Waal chair of Family Lives answered questions throughout the day on local radio stations also picking up the story. If you listen to local radio you may also have heard stories from other families experiencing violence, and local practitioners discussing their work.
The film features interviews with a mother whose son was eventually removed from the home following violence to her, two young lads speaking candidly about past violence and abuse towards their mother, interviews with Cherryl Henry-Leach, leader of the Doncaster programme – Getting On, and Peter Jakob of Partnership Projects.
I have been asked about the figure of 4 million families being affected, offered by Noel Phillips early on in the film. This comes from the 2012 4Children report, The Enemy Within, based on a YouGov survey, which asked families about their experience of conflict and violence.
We are all very excited to have been involved in this, and look forward to further development of these stories being taken up in the same way in the future.
Islington Community Theatre invites viewers on an exhilarating journey through the lives, bedrooms and brains of teenagers. This BBC iPlayer exclusive is one of five 30-minute theatre shorts from Live From Television Centre.
Brainstorm reveals the science behind adolescent brain development, drawing upon life experiences of the cast and made in collaboration with leading cognitive neuroscientist Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore. Created by one of the UK’s leading theatre companies making work with young people, this is a thrilling exploration of the most frustrating, chaotic and exhilarating changes that every teenager faces.
I was told about this play only this week and wish I’d known about it earlier. Screened on the BBC on 15th November, it is available to watch on iPlayer till 15th December. Created by the young people themselves it asks parents for greater understanding – and reminds us so much of our own turbulent teenage years!
Watch it, be wowed – and be prepared to cry!
You can see more of Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore in this TED talk about the neuroscience of the adolescent brain.