Somewhat delayed because of family circumstances, but I thought it would be helpful to have a look at the Government’s recently published Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, and offer some thoughts.
Before I get started, a couple of caveats. First, the debate continues as to whether it is appropriate to consider child to parent violence and abuse under this umbrella. There are those who feel very strongly that it should be, because of the harm caused and the frequent links to the experience of intimate partner violence and abuse. (Academics such as Wilcox (2012) have made this case. PEGS literature is another case in point.) Others find the terminology and conceptualisation problematic, and shy away, preferring to focus on the age, the trauma and vulnerability of the children and young people themselves (for instance, many within the adoption community would feel this way). My sense from listening to people is that both views have merit, but that the circumstances around the harmful behaviour and family situation need to be taken into account in order to properly reflect each family’s situation.
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. Continue reading
If you’ve not come across child to parent violence before; if you don’t know anyone affected; it’s easy to misread the signs. Sadly, we have come to accept that adults can experience intimate partner violence. Folk may not all fully understand what is going on and why, but they get that it happens. So when you hear shouting and screaming noises through the wall from the neighbours, or when you see bruises, it would be natural to draw that conclusion.
As I was reminded recently while reading a report about the use of residential care for adolescents on the edge of care, we have a rather different model of residential provision in Britain to that in other European countries, where a placement in a therapeutic establishment with highly trained and qualified staff may be the norm rather than the exception for a young person unable to stay at home. Lesser professional qualifications required, residential care as last resort – the sector in Britain has suffered from a period of neglect itself, despite the fact that some of the most troubled young people will be placed in such homes, whether for lack of alternative or as a positive choice. It is sadly to be expected that staff in residential homes will experience levels of abuse and violence from children and teenagers struggling to come to terms with trauma in similar ways to families coping in the community, perhaps to an even greater extent, yet this receives less coverage still. Continue reading
If you are engaged in work that is looking vulnerable to belt tightening and budget cuts it may not seem as if the situation on the ground is improving as we embark on a new year. Indeed, the notion of a “new year” can seem pretty artificial if your timescales are built around tax years or funding applications. Nevertheless, for me at least, the end of one year and the start of the new meant parties and that proved an interesting experience in a way I never would have predicted in the past.
With the rich mix of a relationship storyline in The Archers that has been looking like coercive control since day one, and a storyline about child to parent violence in Coronation Street, it is suddenly OK to talk about domestic violence at parties! So I had the rather surreal experience of sitting with glass in hand talking about Helen’s relationship with Rob as if it was real (which of course it is if you’re an Archers fan), followed by listening to two groups of friends discussing their own experiences of abuse from pre-teen children and steps they were taking to address the issue. Perhaps it’s the parties I go to, and I’ll grant you it doesn’t sound very exciting! You have to picture the decorations, the food, imagine the music; these were conversations in little huddles competing with the noise. But the fact that they were happening was a moving experience and one that must be in part due to the immense media coverage over the last year that has brought these two issues to greater public consciousness.
So I look forward to 2016 with brave new hopes and expectations: that the public consciousness of child to parent violence will continue to grow, that our understanding of the issues involved will be refined, and of course that the development of services to support families will continue to grow – and also, that it will become more and more OK to talk about it at parties.
I was privileged to be asked to speak at the DVCN conference, organised by Standing Together, this Tuesday in London, opening up the issue of child to parent violence to an audience very familiar with the issue itself, but not necessarily aware of the range of circumstances in which children and young people might exhibit abusive behaviour, or the types of help available. It felt particularly apt to be talking about the Mapping Project, when an analysis of the findings so far has shown that domestic abuse agencies are the most likely to be offering support programmes to families. Indeed a number of the conference delegates were from agencies offering specialist work, or from parts of the country where work is already established. This represents quite a movement from a previous focus on adult perpetrators, which had the effect of making the issue of violence from children even more invisible. Continue reading
Readers of this blog will be familiar with my dream of mapping specialist services around the country for those experiencing child to parent violence (here). With a small amount of funding secured this undertaking finally began for real in May of this year, working half a day a week. What is being found is telling in a number of ways.
- As expected there is little specialist provision over all.
- Discovering services that are new to me has been difficult. How much more difficult must it be for parents?
- Working out who to approach. In some areas a service is run by a domestic violence organisation, in others through youth offending and some are independent. A single point of contact for referrals / requests is thus absolutely essential.
- Sometimes services are not open to all families. For example, some are only for young people already engaged with the youth offending team.
- Practitioners in local services may not always be familiar with services other organisations are running.
- There is a lot of adaptation of tried and tested programmes to fit local situations (or perhaps the skill set or inclination of the practitioners?)
- Funding issues – there is sometimes a degree of uncertainty as to how long the programme will continue.
Two recent things of interest from Amanda Holt:
A journal article looking at similarities and differences between adolescent to parent and intimate partner violence; and a seminar addressing this issue at Oxford Brookes University last month. You can hear Amanda and see the slides from this presentation here.
News in Britain this week of the appointment of Seema Malhotra as shadow minister to tackle violence against women and girls, is presented as demonstrating a growing commitment in this country to combatting both domestic violence and related issues. At the same time, we have seen the launch of the No More Deaths campaign to put family violence at the top of the state election agenda in Victoria, Australia, where it is recognised that women and families have been failed over and over again by prevailing attitudes and culture, themselves embedded in official responses. (also here) Continue reading