I abhor violence of any sort.

I have, ever since my late teens, protested even against celebration of violence in wars, whilst supporting remembrance ceremonies for all those who lost their lives.

I am retired but for many years have worked with children, sometimes directly but often indirectly in areas involving domestic violence. Everyone has the right to be safe in their own homes. And surely this especially applies to children. They should be safe and not even witness violence to others, let alone cope with it in their home. Home should be a place of refuge.

But when I refer to violence I mean physical violence which seems to be perpetrated very much more by men. I think this is perhaps because of their extra strength and the acceptance of strength as a solution to many things and admired in the community in many ways.

Control issues are somewhat different but can, of course, coexist with physical violence. They need to be dealt with differently and they are more evenly spread across genders. Here I talk only about physical violence.

I am writing this with children my primary concern as it the children who have decisions made for them and who cannot make them on their own.

Here I must say that I strongly support those working in the community who ask for more assets to set up safe houses, safe for whole families except the perpetrators,and ones which include teenage boys. We need more penalties for those who reveal the location of these places to perpetrators, and more public support for the police. We need more help for social and psychological services for children. Some of these, for adolescents, should be well supervised but without the need for parental involvement or permission.

We must also set up some safe centres which provide professionally supervised contact for children with a parent. Specialist contact supervisors should be well trained. The idea of making another family member a supervisor went out the door for me many, many years ago when a mother killed herself and her three children in her car on a contact visit with her. The appointed supervisor, the children’s maternal grandmother, had made a personal assessment that there was no longer danger to the children and had not followed court orders.

I have met distressed and frustrated members of the police force trying hard to keep the public safe who are dismayed when the victims refuse to give evidence in court. More than once was I told that, when called to an incident, the police sometimes tried to incite the perpetrator of violence to turn the aggression on to them so that they have evidence with which to help the victim when they take the matter to the court. We must be a society which keeps people physically safe, especially children. The police try very hard in my experience and do not need criticism. There are (or at least were when I was working) police officers especially trained in this area.

However there are more subtle but important issues involved with children which we must also keep in mind. Physical safety is primary but unless we attend to some of the other issues, then children may still be at risk, particularly from choices they make. Also we do need to help to prevent violence becoming inter generational

In a domestically violent situation the violent person is one (or occasionally both) of the children’s parents. This link cannot be forgotten, even if the solution has to be no contact at all between a child and a violent parent.

We know that children internalise some of the behaviours of their parents. Some copy parents they admire, some copy unintentionally, some try to make excuses for parental behaviour, particularly when it does or does not accord strongly with their own feelings. Some come to view themselves as being partly evil when they emulate or feel understanding of parental flaws.

But most of all children are aware as they grow older that they are genetically half of each parent and that many parental genes and behaviours can be found in them. They also try to work out the reasons their parents were close enough to have them and now detest one another. They usually are well aware of their resident parents feelings, often a very understandable dislike of their violent parent. This can lead them both to be very tough on themselves, to try and emulate some of the things their parents do and do not do. They may think, especially when they are the same gender as the violent partner, that this is something they will inevitably be. Or, if they are of the other gender, that their role should be a submissive one.

When they are angry at the parent they are living with, as often happens as children self actualise this way as teenagers, they side with their imagined views of the missing parent.

While they are small children these feelings are very much simpler but, as teenagers, most children are coming to terms with the fact that their parents have feet of clay and the parent with whom they are residing seems to be specifically preventing them from doing what they dearly wish to do and all the time! The number of teenagers I have seen, especially in a school setting, who have left their primary parent’s care, without permission, to live with the virtually unknown parent who was last known to be violent, was big enough to be really worrying.

Once I was talking to a violent father whose twelve year old child wanted to live with him. He acknowledged his past violence but wanted to impress on me that this did not extend to his child and was a thing of his past. He said “ I would never hurt a hair on her head.” I am sure this was his firm belief. I asked him what he would do if, when she was 15 , he came home and found her having sex with her 15 year old boyfriend?” He gave himself away when he said, “I’d kill HIM.”

These are the sort of problems that can arise if any child is prevented from seeing and getting to know a parent (in a safe environment). If she had been more aware of his attitudes she may not have thought he was a sensible option to live with.

The worst is when a child gives up and decide he or she must either be evil, like the missing parent, or a complete jerk, as they view the one remaining parent at the time. They do not view their choices as open as do children who can quietly look at what parts of parents views and ethics they will or will not accept. They have got to have an either/or situation in front of them.

If at all possible children need enough exposure to both parent to internalise the view that each parent has at least something to offer them and each has areas they should not emulate, particularly with regard to violence.

But even more importantly children need to be brought up to regard affection, understanding and tolerance to be the important facts in life. That winning is not always a good goal and violence is anathema to sensible people.

~ by Anne Powles on February 29, 2020.

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