In this #NOMORE blog, I’ll be discussing how domestic abuse is reported in the media, how government, local agencies and organisations across the UK are failing victims of abuse and enabling perpetrators to continue abusing and exploiting children and vulnerable adults.
Last month I was invited for interview and to give comment on BBC Radio Leicester, (20/09/14), regarding the newly published Domestic Homicide Review on Mary’s Death. Mary lived in Leicestershire and was murdered by her abusive partner. All the usual risk elements were evident to professionals and family. My interview was played just after 7.10am, later in the show they also interviewed Womens Aid, the Police and FreeVA. Its interesting but not surprising – more frustrating – that the other agencies asked for comment after my interview on the show that day, were in agreement with what I said about practice. Which leaves me wondering, “how does that work?” The obvious answer is that all of those agencies and many more up and down the Country have had their services – statutory or voluntary – hacked to little more than headed paper and an office, effectively. Funding cuts are significant, but that isn’t the only reason, which is why so many in our society live with fear and abuse every day, unless, like Mary and many others, end up being murdered.
It is time and again, that I read or am invited to comment on Serious Case Reviews where a child has been murdered or like Mary’s case, a Domestic Homicide Review. The common theme time and again are the lists of ‘missed opportunities’, ‘lessons to be learnt’, this must never happen again’. I find it inhumane, frustrating and patronising that we repeatedly continue to log, review, write it down etc. If only as a civil and professional society we could pay as much attention to detail and resource on fact finding of victims disclosures, or even professional ‘gut feelings’. These ‘disclosures’ aren’t even always formalised, those of us with appropriate training like the Freedom Programme, can make a fare assumption on whats going on for an individual by the behaviour that is manifested. This is the case for both adults and children, victims and perpetrators.
The media runs abuse headlines, like its excited to report the levels of atrocities. The fact of the matter is that the ‘nation’ already knows, because the perpetrators’ and the victims are part of that nation, the victims and the perpetrators are also part of our workforces.
How so? If you had any of the above detail proposed for dealing with domestic abuse, it would be laughable. A ridiculous proposal, so we have a brand with little more than an office address, we have no funds for supporting, advising, training, awareness raising or staff support and this fictitious service would be staffed by a good portion of victims and perpetrators, and therefore, by definition would hold skewed beliefs systems. The proposal would be laughed out of town. Yet here we are, time and again, in that very same absurd position. Collectively this is a clear demonstration of cognitive dissonance; something we talk about frequently in the Freedom Programme, where an individual holds 2 conflicting views on 1 topic. Just to add to the challenge, often we’re unaware we have conflicting views until the point of being directly asked. A common example I use is, its more than 100 years ago that we declared in the UK we were going to eradicate child poverty. So why haven’t we? It cant be down to government and leadership, as we’ve had examples of all the main parties through that time. It cant be legislation, because we have amended time and again over the last century, with a keen focus on upholding children and vulnerable adults rights – those whom are deamed disadvantaged as well as those who clearly are. I cannot even begin to start to add up how many people, over how many years, how many hours, how many meetings, documents, proposals, guidance etc etc that has been needed to achieve the changes on paper at least, although often as we can see, not in practice.
We can look at every crevice of life through the years, exploitation and abuse are a steady course of activity, on a global scale. In the UK we look at practices exposed in other countries and we judge those Countries for their lack of protection or prosecution. But until Joe and Joanna Public acknowledge that ‘they’ are part of ‘us’, little will change. Without even having to do a massive research piece the list just goes on….
Children like Victoria Climbe and Baby Peter died in vein, because we haven’t addressed our collective cognitive dissonance. Which is evidenced time and again with the Yew Tree Report, Rochdale, Didcot, many more and now Rotherham; an estimated 1400 children were abused and raped repeatedly whilst also being trafficked around the north over a 6yr period. That level of sustained abuse, can only go unnoticed because people choose to ignore or assume. The Home Affairs Committee just this week echoed that statement, Im not being spurious, its fact, especially when we look at the enormity of the issue when these cases are finally exposed. Like people assumed that Jimmy Saville, Rolf Harris, Gary Glitter, Stuart Hall, Max Clifford, Cyril Smith…would only do the ‘right and proper thing’. The fact of the matter is, as humans our intelligence has taught us, what a trustworthy person looks like, what they would do, what type of job/position they would hold and how they would react in a given situation.
Additionally a false accusation gives no comfort, so best keep shtum unless you know for sure. Or unless you can do anything about it, which is the position of the victims – they do know about it, but they are in the least able position to do anything about it. It is common knowledge that perpetrators in whichever arena will threaten their victim and or their family and friends. When you look at it in the cold light of day, its preposterous, that its better to leave the victims to be abused rather than potentially making someone wrongly feel bad about themselves. Again, in this weeks news we hear from a mother who’s daughter was trafficked, she knew, the police knew, there were even identities, car registrations known, yet the polices’ response was unless the girls say its happening, they can’t investigate. Those practices alone, answer the repeated cries of, “how can this happen?” Those practices demonstrate to victims that they are ‘surplus/no value/no worth/no one will believe you’.
Even bringing these activities down to a local level, Frank Beck in Leicestershire during the 1970’s & 1980’s, used his position as Children’s Home manager to physically, emotionally and sexually abuse children and staff over many years. 1986 Beck resigned which halted any uncovering of his multiple abuses to the extent, that further employee references were only gently suggesting the employer may want to ask Beck why he had resigned. 1991 Beck was imprisoned, Leicestershire County Council were accused of poor use of intelligence and lack of investigatory action. In today’s practices you would think that would no longer occur. But reality states differently, we have the evidence in Mary’s Death.
The beliefs of a victim and the beliefs of a perpetrator are the same in whichever context we look at them, be that domestic abuse, child abuse, sexploitation, trafficking, imprisonment, paedophilia, rape domestic or in conflict etc etc It would be fair to say that in these different contexts there are scales of depravity. When we talk about victims and why they don’t speak up, halt the abuse, leave, report…we can see a back catalogue as to why in this one blog here alone. All those victims over all those years. All those perpetrators in all their varying positions of power getting away with it. What is there there to give a victim hope. I do truely hope that there is a change in practice with the abilities in law to prosecute, but for now, at least, there is little light at the end of the tunnel.
The practices and decisions discussed here is why CWC continues to campaign and is saying #NOMORE. I have worked with the Freedom Programme since 2003 and I know when delivered effectively with the relevant emotional, practical and therapeutic support around it – it is the most cost effective, empowering, sustainable model we have, in understanding domestic abuse. Whether we’re a victim, a perpetrator, adult, child, commissioner, therapist, Refuge worker…the list goes on, the Freedom Programme gives us the tools to identify it, work with it effectively and enable lives to be saved and/or changed.
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