In early research it was reported (Charles) that child to parent violence (CPV) was an issue more likely to be found in white families, as black or Hispanic parenting practice was considered to offer greater protection through a more rigid and traditional style. And yet, in Britain, we see Afro-Caribbean young people over-represented in the police statistics when the figures are broken down. For many years now, children and young people’s violence and abuse towards their parents has been documented right around the world, whether through research or via media reporting. When I was studying the issue in 2005, I came across stories from Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore, Malta, and Nepal. Amanda Holt references work from both north and south America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Iran, India, and Sri Lanka; and of course we have research too from New Zealand, Japan and Egypt. Simmons et al suggest that this is a phenomenon of industrialised nations wherever they are. But how do we interpret this sort of information, and what conclusions do we draw? What do assertions and data such as these really tell us about what is going on? What assumptions underlie the work we do?
Recent news coverage of the R Kelly trial, of the apparent differential response to black and Asian women experiencing violence and abuse, and the petition by Sistah Space calling for mandatory specialist training for all police and government agencies supporting black women and girls affected by domestic abuse; as well as attending webinars organised by Hope Training, have encouraged me to ask myself questions about assumptions I make on a day to day basis, and to look again at the narrative around child to parent violence and abuse and the responses we offer.
When I reread this through I realised there was a danger that it gives the wrong impression – that I am questioning the existence of child to parent violence and abuse. Not at all! Please bear with me to the end. This is series of questions I am asking. Each of us needs to ask our own. This is important work to do.
What assumptions do I make about ‘normal’ family life, what this might look like and how it is expressed, about who looks after children and the context for this? How are these assumptions linked to my own upbringing, my own culture, my own practice? What do I think I understand about family life in other cultures or communities, and about how this might impact attachment, behaviour expectations or discipline? Which communities do I automatically assume are like my own and which different? Can I assume people understand what I mean when I use language and terminology particular to my experience?
What stereotypes do I hold about young men or young women in other communities – about their vulnerability or criminality, the power they have to make decisions about their own lives? How does a community’s experience as a whole of violence or discrimination play out in day to day life, in the normalisation of violence or in help-seeking behaviour?
When I review data – and indeed when it is recorded – how is it broken down? Are minoritised people grouped together? Are some groups invisible? Do I properly interrogate the reasons why some groups of people are represented in the way they are?
When support programmes are developed which questions are asked? Who is asking the questions? Who is answering them? How flexible is the service? Who is leading it? How can the needs of individuals be properly addressed within a wider group?
There are, of course, many other questions to address, and I hope that I will continue to think these things through. It is encouraging that others are too. But importantly we need those in minorities groups to be leading the conversation. I am excited that I am increasingly seeing researchers asking questions about the experiences of minorities communities, whether regarding the prevalence of CPV, the avenues for help or the responses of authorities. We need to see more of this, and to start to explore what is happening behind closed doors even in communities where there is less access. If we accept that CPV is a widespread issue, but that it can and will be experienced differently by different people, we need to acknowledge that there is much still to learn – and above all that a standard response will not be sufficient across the field.