WHO CARES?

Unless you have been living in a cave this week you have probably read something about  Jordan Worth, who last week became the first women in Britain to be convicted under the new ‘controlling or cohesive behaviour in an intimate relationship’ law introduced in 2015. She was sentenced to seven and half years in custody for this and other offences against her finance Alex Skeel and it has been the subject of much discussion on facebook and in the media.  There have been many references to her ‘petite’ size, charity work and the fact that the victim ‘Alex Skeel’ himself has hydrocephalus, a condition which makes him especially vulnerable to head injuries.  There is mention of his horrific injuries, I believe he had 118 when he left, and the many times his neighbours heard his cries for help and saw his black eyes. We have read about the fact that she scolded him with boiling water and did not allow him to sleep in the same bed as her. There is less mention though of the fact that he was denied contact with his own family for a long time and virtually nothing of the two children who were probably one of the main reasons he didn’t leave earlier.  Now I ask you ‘SO WHAT?’

I have read lots of comments from people praising his bravery for firstly leaving Jordan and repoting these crimes to the police, then secondly, for waiving his anonymity in an attempt to raise the profile of domestic abuse and particularly the plight of male victims.  I have read many comments, and even arguments, about whether men are treated fairly and how women only have to say they have been hit and police believe them.

I think throughout all of this many people are missing the point.  NOBODY should be subjected to abuse, anywhere, but definitely not within their home. This is the one place that they should feel safe. NOBODY should live in fear of upsetting their partner, feeling cut off from those who may offer support and salvation. NO CHILDREN should grow up in an environment where they can’t sleep because they are worried about what is going on in the next room , or live in the constant tension that exists in a home where domestic abuse is going on.  Although there are differences between male and female victims, to get caught up in the gender argument is, I believe, missing the most valuable lesson for the story. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?

Now don’t get me wrong, Jordan, as the perpetrator of the violence and abuse, is completely responsible for the pain and emotional harm she subjected her boyfriend and children, but who else?  What about Alex himself? Is he to blame for staying? Unfortunately in our society we often do blame victims for their own abuse, asking why did they stay? Needing the excuses of his vulnerabilities to explain how a ‘petite’ women could inflict harm on a man.  What about medical services who had seen him on previous occasions, and did not step in, I understand that support was offered but he denied any problem. His family then, why didn’t they step in? Would you allow a family member to suffer abuse without rescuing them? What about social services? Shouldn’t they have helped those poor children? Who else? The School? The Neighbours? The Police? What if the outcome hadn’t been as positive?

There were 454 Domestic Homicides recorded by the police in England and Wales between April 2013 and March 2016 (source Office for national statistics). This represents 31% of all homicides where the victim was aged 16 and over during this time period. Of these 70% (319) were female and 30% (135) male. These are surely shocking figures to anyone. Despite this we only talk about a small amount of these cases, the ones that stick out as different, but every one of them had family, friends, neighbours, and many had children.

So who cares? We all should! I believe that until we start breaking the silence and start talking about domestic abuse, things will not change. Responsibility sits with everyone to stop ignoring the signs, ask the questions, call the police, report concerns to social services but most of all to listen. Let’s be clear most victims don’t want to be rescued, they want to be heard and we need to start listening. We have come a long way in the last 20 years, but can you honestly say that you would call the police if you were worried about a neighbour, a friend or a family member, or would you think it’s not your place to get involved?  Alex’s neighbours have been publicly thanked by his mother and praised for helping to save him, would you do the same? Change is everyone’s responsibility so we ask you to join our campaign to ‘end the public camouflage of domestic abuse’

Training (Youth Team)

Our Youth team are available to provide training in many areas related to working with children, young people and families.

Children and young people do not need to see an abusive incident taking place for abuse to have an impact. They may overhear the incident or see the aftermath.

However they experience it, domestic abuse in the family home has a huge impact on the children.

Understanding the Effects of Domestic Abuse on Children and Young People

This course is available regularly (please see the Training Dates article within the newsletter) and includes the following

  • Improves understanding of the effects of domestic abuse on children and young people.
  • Considers the impact on children of various ages.
  • Examines the ways in which domestic abuse impacts on parenting characteristics.
  • Explores the roles and characteristics of children living with domestic abuse.
  • Looks at abusive teenage relationships.
  • Understanding Adolescent to Parent Abuse (APA).

Phoenix DAS Youth Team can also offer a range of bespoke packages to any group, organisation or service. We will work closely with you to design, develop and deliver workshops/training events tailored to your individual needs.

My Story of Discovery and Recovery

Hello. I’d like to tell you about my experience of domestic abuse. I still don’t think it’s properly understood and I’m sure there are lots of men and women going through similar experiences.

One thing I want to get across is that it can happen to anyone, age, education, career, religion, gender, rich or poor, domestic abuse has no boundaries.

I work for Gwent Police. Ironic, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think that someone who works for the police would fall prey to domestic abuse, but that’s just it. It can happen to anyone. And for people in professional occupations it can be easy to mask the reality.

I knew early on that my other half was a bully, but by then it was already too late, I was caught in the circle of abuse. And because of having a job and a mortgage and so on, I didn’t think I would be entitled to any housing or whatever to help me leave. Working for the police didn’t help either. I was being subjected to emotional and psychological abuse – no physical violence, no injuries to show anyone. And I knew my partner only equated physical abuse as domestic abuse, there was no understanding of the emotional, controlling manipulation as being abusive. When we were (rarely) in company, he put on a very good show that we had a loving, perfect relationship. So who was going to believe me that I felt trapped and no control in my life? I did speak to certain supervisors, I was given counselling, I was put on anti-depressants by my GP. When I told my partner I had been prescribed anti-depressants, the response was “I don’t want you on tablets. You can manage without them”.

I put up with it for years. Then I hit my personal rock bottom. I needed to get that low to realise I needed help. And although I had acknowledged that I was a victim of domestic abuse to myself, I had never uttered those words to another person, because I knew once they were said they couldn’t be taken back. It wouldn’t be my secret any more. Realistically, my colleagues had known what was going on, but didn’t signpost me to anyone to get support. So, at my rock bottom, I was talking to a professional. I was describing what my life was like, and I heard myself say “It’s domestic abuse. I know it is.” That person did the best thing they could ever have done. They told me about Phoenix DAS, but there was no pressure to do anything. There was no reflex reaction to get me out of the situation. What sold it to me was how they said I could go to Phoenix DAS and get some support, whether it was to help me cope with the current situation or if I wanted to make any changes. I agreed for them for make a referral and within a very short space of time I was talking to my support worker. Again, there was no pressure to do anything, we had a conversation, I was asked lots of questions, which ultimately led me to the conclusion that I needed to get out.

I told my work colleagues and supervisors what was going on, that I was planning on moving out and things might get messy. I couldn’t have asked for better support at this point. I was also told about the new legislation that had come into effect, controlling and coercive behaviour. Legislation that was perfect to deal with what I had been putting up with for years. I chose not to make a complaint under the legislation, partly because of my job, but mostly because I thought it would make a bad situation even worse. However, the legislation is effective and if you recognise that you are being controlled and manipulated, I would urge you to speak to someone you trust and report it to the police. In terms of Gwent Police, when I needed the help and support, it was there, and still is. The organisation is getting better at dealing with domestic abuse in all its forms.

Phoenix DAS helped me through the process. I joined the Dignity program. I stayed with the program until I was strong enough to manage on my own. I have “graduated” now. It has been hard and there are many challenges still ahead, but I know I can deal with them. On my own. With Phoenix as a safety net if I have a wobble. Despite it being the worst time of my life, it has turned out to be the best. I am far happier, without a doubt I made the right decision.

Meet Sam

 

Sam joined the service in 2016 as a part time Programme Officer and originally co-facilitated programmes to adult victims of domestic abuse on a weekly basis. The role was developed as part of a research project aiming to test the impact of a co – gendered facilitation team on outcomes from victims.  Sam quickly became a key member of the team and his role was expanded to full time with the additional role of Youth Respect Officer being added. This role involves working with young people (11-18) who are displaying abusive and controlling behaviours towards their parents and/or intimate partners. Sessions are usually conducted on a 1-1 basis but Sam also co-facilitates a Youth Respect Group for some of the young people. Prior to joining the service Sam has gained experience in both facilitation and youth work from various roles. Sam is currently a member of the Gwent (Ask and Act) Regional Training Consortia and has a Degree in Youth and Community Work.

I BLAME THE PARENTS!

Who is to blame when teenagers are violent and abusive? Society? School? The media? Hormones? Are they ‘born evil’? Or are their parents to blame? Even then, what about the nature versus nurture argument? I bet you have an opinion about it, I know that it’s something regularly discussed in our office. It’s a massively emotive subject and one that cannot easily be answered without someone saying ‘ ah but, what about…’. It’s complicated even further for those of us with children with a difficulty separating our own feelings of responsibility for our children’s behaviour from the horror stories that we hear about children committing horrendous acts of violence and abuse towards others. The other week I was watching a TV programme about the horrific torture and murder of James Bulger 25 years ago, and couldn’t help but hold the parents mostly responsible for the action of their sons, in fact I felt incensed to seen the fully grown men making threats directly towards the boys and throwing themselves at the vans they were transported in, can we really hold a ten year old fully responsible? It’s all too easy, I think, to sit in judgement of others and search for all the things that separate us from those terrible parents who obviously just don’t care where their children are, or what they are doing.
So what about when this abusive behaviour is directed at their parents? One of our projects deals directly with this issue, providing interventions and support to those families experiencing adolescent to parent abuse. For those of you that think that we are working with young people who are ‘acting out’ in a way most teenagers do, please believe me this is not the case. Some of these young people use all the tactics of adult perpetrators of domestic abuse to control their families. We see significant incidents of physical, emotional, financial and even sexual abuse, that often go entirely unreported to anyone. One of the things that shocks me the most is that, after reading a referral filled with stories of a mother feeling afraid to do anything for risk of physical reprimand and younger siblings being terrorised and controlled, we are greeted at the door by an angelic looking twelve year old, who looks more like they should be writing a letter to Santa than facing removal from their family home as a protective measure for others.
So who is to blame? I am afraid there isn’t an easy answer to that although there are patterns that we see too often for it to be mere coincidence. The families that we see have, more often than not, experienced significant trauma in the past. This trauma can vary and includes incidence of parental substance misuse, mental health issues, serious illness of a parent and bereavement. However, the most common cause, by far, is domestic abuse between parents. From this, we think, things can develop in two different ways.
The first, which we have seen in male and female young people, is when a young person ‘steps up’ into a parenting role themselves. This can be seen as really helpful at first with them taking on responsibility for caring for siblings, cleaning, cooking and often becoming the emotional support for the parent who is stuck in the aftershocks of the trauma itself. This can go on for some time with the young person feeling more and more powerful and simultaneously losing confidence in the parent’s ability to protect and provide. This will generally come to a head when the parent manages to make improvements and tries to regain the position of ‘head of the house’ resulting in resistance and a battle for control.
The second group we see is predominately, if not exclusively, male and seems to arise mostly when they have been witness to domestic abuse directed from their father towards their mother. In these cases the relationship has ended, sometimes dramatically, with criminal action, imprisonment or no contact with their father, where there is contact is often very acrimonious with on-going harassment and intimidation. It seems, in many of these cases, the boys have learnt that, as a male, they have the right to be dominant in the home and women should be obeyed in the home.
For parents in either of these situations it can be really hard to admit what is going on in the home, they are often wracked with guilt about the things their children have been exposed to, disempowered as parents and have little or no confidence in their ability to protect. They feel frightened that asking for help will cause people, and service, to judge them. Yes they may be guilty of over indulging their children, or having weak boundaries and little in the way of consequences being enforced, but let’s make sure we consider the path they have taken to arrive there. We’ve seen mothers who have worked hard, with support, to end violent relationships and prove to social services that they can protect their children, only to return to us years later in desperate need for support as their teens behaviour can no longer be hidden and has become dangerous to others and themselves.
So who is to blame? The answer, as I said, isn’t an easy one, but I think it is something that we all need to be more aware of, as those little comments we make when giving our opinions in the office or with friends, can make an already isolated, disempowered mother, even less likely to seek support.

Focus Groups

On Wednesday 7th March 2018 we invited current and past service users to focus groups at Phoenix House to obtain feedback on our services. Service users also discussed gaps in services which could potentially help to shape the future direction of our work here at Phoenix DAS.

We would like to thank everyone that took the time to contribute to these focus groups. If you would like to get involved in providing feedback on our services please do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Meet Charlotte

Charlotte joined the service in August 2016 and has taken the role of Youth Respect Officer. Charlotte works with young people (11-18) who are displaying abusive and controlling behaviours towards their parents and/or intimate partners. Sessions are usually conducted on a 1-1 basis but Charlotte also co-facilitates a Youth Respect Group for some of the young people. Prior to joining the service Charlotte has gained experience from various roles including domestic abuse youth worker, detached youth worker and working with homelessness and mental health. Charlotte has gained experience of creating and delivering programmes for young people that have been victims of domestic abuse and dealing with Trauma. Charlotte is currently a trustee and youth lead for a newly established charity “Bags of Hope” which aim to provide support for young people experiencing the care system. Charlotte is also a qualified youth worker.

 

LGBT History Month

This month is LGBT History month and staff from Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services will be attending an event to recognise and celebrate the LGBT History. The event will take place at Coleg Gwent on Monday the 26th February between 11.00am and 2.00pm.

Here at Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services we recognise that domestic abuse can affect anyone regardless of gender or sexuality and we are proud to support people from all types of relationships.

Meet Linzi

Linzi joined the service in 2009 and took the role of Youth Support Officer supporting young people who had witnessed domestic abuse. For the last two years Linzi has been in the role of Youth Intervention Manager. This role has involved the development and management of the Youth Team which comprises of the innovative Youth Respect Project that provides early intervention where young people are displaying abusive behaviours as well as the Youth IDVA.

Linzi provides the Youth IDVA support which directly supports young victims (11-18 years) of domestic abuse and aims to reduce current and future risk. This role allows young people the time, space and expertise to explore their understanding of abusive behaviours and guidance to consider healthy choices.

Before joining the service Linzi worked for 3 years in the youth justice system and is a qualified youth worker, IDVA, ISVA and Youth IDVA.  Linzi has also completed the gender based violence service managers qualification provided by ‘Safe Lives’.