Probation officer on how social services handle domestic violence

// 6 October 2009

A disturbing quote about how social services handle cases of domestic violence, in a piece by a probation officer over at CommentisFree today:

We regularly tell social services of children living in houses where we know there is domestic violence. Unless it’s a baby, they generally write to both parents pointing out that their behaviour may harm the child. It’s pathetic – not only does it blame the mother but the idea that a letter from a social worker will stop a domestically violent man is laughable.

This is a follow on from a longer piece in today’s G2 profiling the probation service in Bristol. The reporter Amelia Gentleman sat in on meetings between probation officers, police, doctors and social services as they discussed cases, and also observed meetings between probation officers and offenders.

Comments From You

Piscesmoon // Posted 6 October 2009 at 3:57 pm

After six years in an extremely abusive relationship, that included rape, pyhsical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse, my ex husband was sent to prison for strangling me, rendering me uncoscious in front of my son.

He was convicted of ABH (social services were involved but took a mother blaming stance) and the arrangements for his release were that he was to live with his mother, on his release from prison he came with his father to my house, they pretty much forced me to allow him to stay overnight as he “had nowhere”, just for one night. I was petrified and backed into a corner (literally)…. so said yes. One day turned into two which turned into weeks, the abuse continued. Social services came out and asked if I was ok with him being there. Of course I was ok, HE WAS IN THE ROOM while they asked me!!! As far as I know probation never checked on his whereabouts, and I was never asked if I was ok, needed support, wanted him to leave etc. I contacted the police who told me I could not have him forceably removed because I had allowed him willingly back in……. Are you kidding me? I had to apply to the courts for an injunction which he broke on numerous occassions… they did nothing!! Now he is using the family courts to gain access to the children, I work and am at uni therefore I do not qualify for legal aid… he doesn’t work or provide financially, therefore does. I have had to build a case on my own against his solicitor and barrister and have ow luckily managed to gain help from a probono barrister for my days in court… otherwise I would have to cross examine my abuser….. how is this right?!?!

The CPS, Legal services Commission, Social services, family courts……. The whole system is joke from beginning to end!!

When are the different agencies going to stop passing the buck between each other and start supporing victims of domestic abuse instead of setting them up for failure?!?!

Claire // Posted 6 October 2009 at 4:29 pm

Dear Piscesmoon

I am very sorry to hear about what happened to you. I had a similar experience, though my ex husband was never convicted so it was CAFCASS and Social Services I was dealing with mainly and not the probation services. There is a pretty damning OFsted report available about how CAFCASS fall short in domestic violence situations which would at least provide you with the comfort that you are not alone – though I am not so sure that knowing other people are suffering too is such a great thing.

There seem to be two separate communities co-existing in Britain – there is the one that recognises domestic violence, like WOmen’s Aid and even the Home Office, and then there are the local operators – the police, Social Services, CAFCASS, the family courts. There mother blaming is the norm. If you work you are a careerist man-eating vamp who can dish it out but not take it back. If you stay at home you are a sponge on your husband and society. If you have a new partner, you are a reckless tart carrying on in front of your children. If you don’t have a new partner, you are a frigid disfunctional liability. You say it’s a joke, and I do kind of agree, but when it gets women down so much that they become suicidal, self-harm, do drugs, become alcoholic (at whcih point everyone says – I told you so – we always knew she was unstable and her bully of a husband was in the right), then it’s not a joke. Everyone knows the statistics that 2 women a week die at the hands of their partner or former partner, but the even worse statistic is that 500 women a year commit suicide within 6 months of reporting domestic violence. That’s 500 lives of women and a huge number of motherless children. Think about how much money goes into public education on learning to swim – but 500 people a year don’t drown.

Piscesmoon // Posted 6 October 2009 at 6:59 pm

Let me guess…. he got contact right?!

As for the so called “expert” in the article who wanted to release a violent prisoner with no supervision… why is he/she still in a job? (This is not directed at you Claire) Too much emphaysis has been placed on the human rights of the perpetrators whilst those of their victims are ignored (a lot of them defenseless children).

Many a time I have been made to look like an hysterical, paranoid mother and why because I was lucky enough not to die?! I’m not dead therefore it wasn’t “that bad” which then somehow equates to him being a suitable father?!!? It’s the actions of these people in a place of authority who like to trust the perpetrators and give them the “benefit of doubt” that places victims in further danger….. is trust not something you earn… hello?!?!

If domestic violence perpetrators really want access to their children then why should they not be made to PROVE their suitability…. by being suitably supervised (probation following up on where they are after release would be a good start) completing perpetrator programs, gaining employment and training and proving they have truly learnt?! I often read articles where someone has abused an animal and been prevented from owning one again….. why does this not apply to our children?!?!

katieinthehat // Posted 6 October 2009 at 7:04 pm

I work for probation to and have had similarly frustrating experiences to be honest. Some social workers are absolutely top notch but there are others who just either don’t do anything or don’t tell you anything. This is the same with many services and professions I suppose, but few have anywhere near the potential impact on people’s lives.

Piscesmoon I am really sorry that you didn’t feel supported by probation. This is not the way I would have handled the case but I can not speak for all officers. We do not generally have direct contact with victims but on the occasions that I have done (and obviously some female clients have also been victims) I have gained a lot of insight and truly been able to manage the case with them in mind.

Claire – do you have a link or reference for the statistic about suicide relating to DV? I am chairing the speakers at Birmingham RTN and I feel that this is something that I should bring up during my speaking time.

Claire // Posted 6 October 2009 at 7:45 pm

Of course my ex got contact. On the stats, I got the 500 suicides a year stat off Women’s Aid. I am pretty sure it is on their website. If not then you could try contacting their very able national policy officer for children’s matters Fiona Dwyer – f.dwyer@womensaid.org.uk and she could point you to the relevant sources. There was an article in last month’s “Safe” magazine (the Women’s Aid publication) about court procedures and the role of CAFCASS. I felt the article lacked real case studies and it was much more at the policy level than the practice level (and in my experience policy isn’t reflected half as often as it ought to be in practice within CAFCASS), but still it was a good article reflecting the received thinking of what ought to happen. The other organisation you could try is the Survivors Trust, the CEO is Fay Maxted, fay.maxted@thesurvivorstrust.org and she again would be able to direct to lots of different sources of information. You might also get some good info off the Home Office website. Somehow the Home Office carries a validity with it for sceptics that even Women’s Aid can’t carry – although the government are a major funder. I think there was some good info in their consultation paper on DV earlier in the year. Incidentally the stats I used went on to say how many more times a woman is likely to abuse drugs, alcohol, be referred to mental health services etc if DV is a factor. And another source is the organisation End Violence Against Women and if you are more academically focussed there is the Centre for CHild and Woman Abuse studies at Metropolitan University.

I hope your talk goes well.

Lauren // Posted 6 October 2009 at 8:48 pm

Why can’t everybody talk about the problem of domestic violence for what it is – 99% of the time abusive, suffocating, intimidating men.

Why does it have to whitewashed into some ‘parental issue’? To be ‘patriarchy correct’ – the opposite of PC.

Lauren // Posted 6 October 2009 at 8:50 pm

Piscesmoon that’s sickening!

Jennifer Drew // Posted 6 October 2009 at 11:17 pm

The reason why terms such as ‘parental issue’ and parents’ rights are commonly used is because the powers that be – meaning the government deliberately use gender neutral language because these officials in their wisdom consider naming the gender they are really discussing promotes inequality.

Hence when government depts. or even policy papers when specifically referring to ‘mothers’ re-label them as ‘parents’ which not only invisibilises women as mothers but infers fathers too have as much responsibility for childcare as mothers. Patently untrue but gender neutral language hides a great many inequalities.

Or to put it another way – government of whatever ilk must never, ever make visibile male accountability because the only persons held accountable are always women!

I’m sure Piscesmoon you are fully aware of the reasons why abusive and/or violent fathers continue to be given access to the mother’s children even when the father’s violence is proven. It is because government policy and legislation states that children need access to both parents, even when one parent has committed violence against the other parent or parental guardian.

Gender neutral language again – not forgetting the family court system which is carefully hidden away from the prying eyes of the public. Family courts operate with little or no accountability with regards to the decisions they make and the myth all children need a ‘male role model’ continues unabated.

What does this mean for the mother and her child/children who want to be able to live their lives without fear of the male partner/ex partner committing violence against them? Why the answer is supervised visitation rights and even then ‘supervised’ is not always put in practice.

Apologies Piscesmoon and Claire too, if what I’ve written you already know but I do know most individuals who haven’t had direct experience of the family court system are not aware of how legislation has ensured ‘male rights and fathers rights now supercede the mothers’ and children’s rights to live lives free of interpersonal male violence.

piscesmoon // Posted 6 October 2009 at 11:22 pm

Kaiteinthehat, why do you not have contact with the victims?!?! Is their safety not relevant? In the article it speak of the alcoholic who promises he isn’t drinking that much and that all probation can do is go on his word….. if you had contact with the family or victims would this not enable you to get a fuller picture of the prepetrators actions plus also the impact they have on the victims?! Sometimes I’ve seen as is the case with many rape cases society have a choice to believe the victim and in doing so hear their pain, trauma, put themselves in their shoes and in doing so face the inhumanity of humanity orrrrr……. believe the perpetrator… which is the easier option?!?! Why take their word for it? Why not place the victims in a place where they can safely disclose the actions of the perpetrator good or bad?!

As for the family courts… my ex HATES IT that I’ve moved on, I finished top of my class at college, got a good job and am getting good grades at uni and I’m respected…. I am doing everything that the head of the traditional “nuclear family” is doing and more. He told me he was going for the kids so he could “screw me over financially”, he doesn’t love them, it’s vengeance nothing more…. and if he loses… I dunno what he will do… what’s he got to lose?!?! Are they going to be keeping an eye on him?! Yh RIGHT!! My ex can be extremely convincing, tears in his eyes, he begins to shake…. “I promise I will change and be a better father/husband” and many people fall for it hook, line and sinker… once he gets his way… nothing changes. Unfortunately the majority of men gain access to their children and the statistics prove the majority are abused whilst in their care (I do not have the statistics in front of me). All I can do is teach my children protective behaviours and make contact as safe as I possibly can for them…. even if it means me being there and being a physical barrier, giving him what he wants. But, hey… you keep believing they will change and people like me will just sit here patiently and carry on being abused, harrassed, stalked, blamed, oppressed not only by the abusers but by the system…..

I have currently attended a forum run by the home office that allows women to give feedback on their experiences within the CPS surrounding rape and Baroness stern is also carrying out another piece of work, which I’m sure you are aware of. Why not suggest your colleuagues attend some of these forums and see things from the victims point of view?!

Harry // Posted 7 October 2009 at 7:14 am

@Katieinthehat

The source of the statistic is Sylvia Walby ‘The Cost of domestic violence’ (2004)

katieinthehat // Posted 7 October 2009 at 7:59 am

Sorry piscesmoon I wasn’t very clear about that – even though officers don’t often have direct contact with the victim, where another agency is involved, e.g. police or a DV support agency, officers should keep contact with them. Some victims do not want contact, but for every perpetrator who is on the group programme the service has a women’s safety worker that assists the victim if they want it. In the circumstances where I have had contact the couple were elderly and the concern was more for grandchildren. I had contact with the victim because the perpetrator made her look after him and she got the restraining order lifted so the only thing we could do was keep in touch with her because he would obviously lie – but of course he didn’t know about any of this contact!

As for other offence related behaviour in general e.g. drinking. It’s not really as straight forward as just asking how much they have drank and believing them. If alcohol is a direct factor in their offending then they will be engaged in structured one to one work and/or referred to specialist agencies (got one guy going into detox imminently). In addition most offenders that come in and lie about their alcohol intake smell of alcohol! It’s a matter of challenging, and building up the professional relationship to the point that they don’t feel the need to lie. Obviously with entrenched views like my older guy up there this is more difficult – he was honest about how much he drank but didn’t see it as a problem, when I went through the WHO regulations he refused to understand. The only thing we can do with entrenched people is keep trying. An officer worth their salt will not give up.

I think the article is honest in how officers are stretched and sometimes feel helpless. Our experiences of knowing things have happened will never even touch the experiences of victims and we know that. We have guidelines on what to do with people but you have to apply your personal/professional experience/motivation/moxy to really work with someone. And I try, I really do.

Jess McCabe // Posted 7 October 2009 at 10:20 am

@Jennifer Drew – While I do appreciate the point about how gender-neutral language can be used to obfiscate the actual gendered imbalance, it’s also true that just referring blanketly to “mothers” not “parents and guardians” can feel like it’s excluding people.

Although it’s overwhelmingly the case that mothers take on most of the childcare responsibilities, I think there is value in recognising – and also validating – in our language choices that that’s not the case in every family.

maggie // Posted 7 October 2009 at 10:46 am

What I would like to know is whether violent women in a domestic situation (for whatever reason self defence or just plain bad), have statisically less chance of access to their children than domestically violent men.

I ask this because I’m watching Criminal Justice 2 and this issue is brought up as it is the woman who’s perceived to be violent and has been barred from a) parole b) seeing her child.

I know Criminal Justice is a fiction but I feel it has authentic echoes of real life. My belief is that women who are violent against their male partners are perceived to be an aberration and are more likely to be given harsher punishment and treatment within the system.

I think that gender neutralising disguises this.

Juliet // Posted 7 October 2009 at 11:07 am

Kateinthehat, Picesmoon didn’t FEEL unsupported by the social services etc. She WASN’T supported! Typical that you use this kind of language.

No wonder the abuse continues when so little, if anything, is done to just stop the abusers in their destructive tracks. That is what would help the victims. Stop the abusers!!!

You say you ‘try’.

It ain’t good enough.

Do have a lovely conference.

maggie // Posted 7 October 2009 at 11:32 am

Sorry I should have written bail instead of parole. I’ve no idea if she get’s parole or not.

Piscesmoon // Posted 7 October 2009 at 12:32 pm

I Wasn’t supported, I had a different social worker each time they visited. When they did, one in particular really laid into me complaining about the state of my house (my ex had control of all the money in the house, we didn’t have carpets, storage, hardly any furniture and he used to prevent me from eating because i was “getting fat” which left me incrediblt weak) plus he had just tried to kill me and I was in a state of shock. After six years of being raped (the police saying not enough evidence) and abused almost daily (the police again messing up on occassions) they expected me to trust and have faith in them when as soon as they met me they blamed me. I remember my daughter running straight to the fridge after nursery and me telling her she wasn’t to have anything til I’d cooked her dinner…. the social worker said “did you only say that because I was here?” she was incredibly patronising. He was never approached by social services or held accountable for his actions by them, if I allowed him back in the house and he was violent then I would be held accountable for “failing to protect”. where was my protection when he was released?!?!?! I only wish i could see her again and show her all I have achieved and the “state” of my house now that I am financially independant. I was not offered counselling, pointed in the direction of legal help or informed what my rights were. I was given the wrong advice on many occasions.

As for the courts, pffftt!! They don’t have to see my little girl crying saying “just let him see me mum coz he’s going to kill you if you don’t, I don’t want you to be dead!” the courts need to be held accountable for their actions. I read a report recently into the deaths of 19 children whilst on contact with their abusive fathers, which the courts ordered….. the conclusion of the investigator… ultimately the family courts cannot be held accountable for the actions of the prepetrator… WHAT??!

pisecesmoon // Posted 7 October 2009 at 1:28 pm

P.S…. If the government really want to stamp down on domestic violence and put an end to it then they need to start where it begins…. IN THE HOME and prevent children from learning abusive behaviours from their abusive parents. Two thirds… TWO THIRDS become abusers or vistims…. that’s ONE THIRD on here complaining of the injustices within the system in 20 or 30 years time and ONE THIRD abusing others………

Harry // Posted 7 October 2009 at 2:37 pm

@Piscesmoon – do you have a reference for your claim that two thirds of children exposed to domestic violence grow up to be abusers? Research I have seen puts the figure much much lower – even when just studying convicted abusers who surely have a vested interest in being able to blame their childhoods for their adult behaviour?

PS I love your somewhat ironic call to stamp down on dv… ;)

Lara // Posted 7 October 2009 at 3:59 pm

I think one reason for the negative attitude is that a lot of children feel their mother ‘chose’ the abusive partner over them. They feel that the mother should have left the abusive partner taking them with them rather than staying in the household because they are too scared / weak / in love with the partner or think they will change. Yes I am speaking from personal experience.

Claire // Posted 7 October 2009 at 5:39 pm

Dear Piscesmoon

I am so sorry to hear about the awful time you’ve. The parallels with my own case are very clear.

When you are in an abusive relationship and read the Women’s Aid blurb, the doctor’s surgery leaflets and the BBC website (that’s where you can get info about DV), all these agencies promise you support just as soon as you can contact them. I thought I was going to feel like Terry Waite and John McCarthy bravely and heroically coming out of my hostageship into the sunshine and the arms of all these lovely supportive agencies. What bloody sunshine! What bloody support! It was more like waking up in teh middle of the night after a nightmare, going back to sleep, having a worse nightmare and still no one to understand that I am not mad to metaphorically still have to sleep with the light on. Right from the start, despite plenty of guidance to the contrary in all the practice manuals, I was treated with suspicion and hostility. There was no Rape Crisis within 40 miles of my home. Women’s Aid kept telling me that I wasn’t eligible for all the help they normally offer because I hadn’t been through one of their hostels (i’d stood on my own two feet, temporarily rented and then bought my own place). I had to go through psychiatric reviews to disprove my husband’s assertion that I was psychotic. And still now Social Services refer to my mental health issues – because i had a psychiatric review to prove that I DIDN’T have mental health issues. I have finally got a written apology out of CAFCASS, though it took me 18 months to obtain. I am still working on the apology from Social Services and have had to refer the whole thing to the ombudsman.

I asked Women’s Aid to set up a blog for women survivors. They haven’t done it. I asked to be put in touch with other women survivors and they won’t do it. Then the penny dropped. they put us through the Freedom Programme to make us responsible for not choosing the wrong sort of man in future, but they won’t address injustices. That’s because the government are their major funder. My God! Just imagine the anarchy if all the battered wives in Britain really swapped stories about how awful their social workers/CAFCASS officers/victim support people were. Baby P was not an isolated incident. Every case of DV I ever hear about consists of a spiral of buck passing negligence by every agency involved. Dear Piscesmoon, complain. Get your facts together, follow the process and complain.

Three times as many women endure DV than suffer breast cancer, but where is the awareness campaign and the support.

All you bloggers who may not have gone through it: if you ever hear of a case that sounds so incredible that it can’t really have happened, please believe that it really did. These cases really do happen, every day, in every community.

As to the issue of gender neutrality, I’m with Jess on this. Making it gender neutral makes DV a social issue rather than a women’s issue. This leads to better funding. It also stops men from whingeing on that men suffer DV too, which is a sidelining tactic frequently used.

Piscesmoon, you sound really grounded and that you have made a big success of yourself following not only the awful experience of a violent partner but also the awful experience of being let down by these agencies who seem to spend more on their PR than on decent training for their operatives. I hope it doesn’t sound patronising to say well done. It’s great to hear that you are doing so much better.

I’m glad I have my freedom too, even if it comes at a price and after some truly terrible let downs on the way.

If anyone knows of a good DV blog, it’d be good to know about.

katieinthehat // Posted 7 October 2009 at 8:37 pm

Juliet, I don’t think it’s fair for you to say that it is typical for me to use a certain kind of language, and I said that I was sorry she didn’t feel supported by probation not social services (they haven’t been the same agency for many many years). I am in no way trying to excuse the shit that people go through at the hands of social services, police AND probation. I am constantly shocked and appalled to the point that I wonder if it is the job for me because the bureaucracy and hypocrisy in relation to child and victim contact is too much.

How can you refer to a Reclaim The Night rally following a unifying march across a no-go area a ‘conference’. I feel that you have attacked me when I am trying to say that I am sorry that people don’t get the service that they deserve and that in doing my own job I do my best to make sure that people get a better service and that I am not the only one but we can not change the whole service and criminal justice system. The government are the ones that need to be attacked for cutting our funding and more so for cutting the funding to charitable support agencies i.e. rape crisis centres.

In my work with DV perpetrators it is ALL victim focused and I NEVER let the perpetrators I supervise off with minimisation or lack of understanding. If they don’t get how their offences have had a long term impact on people other than them I keep going until they do.

I would appreciate it if no further comments are directed at me, because what started off as me trying to be supportive has become me being targeted for not doing my job properly, when you don’t even know me or how I work. Apologies if I didn’t word things correctly, I didn’t realise that this would descend into a literary critique.

Hannah // Posted 7 October 2009 at 10:14 pm

Juliet, I invite you to come along to Birmingham Reclaim the Night to find out more about what it is. It’s not a conference, it’s a time for women to unite and shout and march against the violence meted against them. A chance to join those with aims common to yours rather than railing against them because they are in a particular profession ie probation officer in Katieinthehat’s case. There are many people *trying* to do the right thing from within a defective system. It’s very tiring fighting on your own. Let’s ‘Stop the abusers’ by focusing our attentions on them and not each other.

Piscesmoon // Posted 8 October 2009 at 7:37 pm

Hi Harry I said 33% become abusers and 33% victims, not 66%. The statistics I took from a book called “Mothering through Domestic violence” by Lorraine Radford and Marianne Hester. The findings come from six primary research studies and existing research, I have had a quick skim of the book but need to go do some uni work…. will have a look later on.

Many children in an attempt to survive will side with the father, over time adopting their identity, and sharing the views of the perpetrator i.e. “mummy makes him hit her” or through anger at her for not protecting them. Katieinthehat? This is a good chance why your older guy is so entrenched… seeing the world through the eyes of an abuser during childhood. Monkey see monkey do.

Katieinthehat also your use of the word “feel” as opposed to “wasn’t” may seem of small significance to you but to someone who has been victimised for many years and had the perpetrators views of reality forced upon them having prfessionals who have been placed in a position of authority referring to their experience in this context reinforces the views that their relaity and “feelings” are nothing more than an over resction to something that wasn’t “that bad” or that they have imagined them all together. My husband called me “insane” after raping me he would force it upon me for hours, keeping me awake throughout the night until I repeated the words “I’m insane”… it didn’t explain the anal bleeing though. If you do want to learn then you will take this on board that such wording however insignicant to you can have a major impact upon someone physically and emotionally downtrodden. You are right we do not know you and how you work and whilst it is not nice to be attacked or criticised you may have provoked anger into someone who may have experienced or seen the minimisation extended by “professional” agencies. Maybe just breathe and proof read next time and look at what you have written through the eyes of a victim? I’m so sorry Claire that this seems to have happened to you. I’ve hit the point where I personally don’t care whether people think I’m a loon or not, it’s my pain and my trauma and if someone is not close to my heart than I don’t care anymore.

I still standby the fact that I feel or think or whatever word you would choose to use the probation service should have checked out where my ex husband was released to as in not my home when he had previously nearly taken my life. I’ve found my voice now and aint nobody gonna shut me up.

Claire? Do you know their is a range of information on the internet for men aiding them to become LIP’s in court but none for women “Families need Fathers”. It took me hours to find templates for Scott Schedules/statements of evidence etc. I see no reason why us women cannot join together and create a similar site (although I do not have these expertise) and support each other. I’m sure their are many of us with a wide range of experiences and knowledge that could contribute. I am currently saving such documents as I go along just incase someone I know needs them in the future, just to make their life easier. You’ve done really well also.

Saz // Posted 13 October 2009 at 7:49 pm

I am in a relationship with a man that was abusive to me in the past. I have 2 children (they r not his) and social services got involved. They say i can not b with this man or my children will get taken off me. He is great with the kids and is great with me now he has sorted himself out. I dont know what my rights r how do i prove the kids r not at risk? The social services keep callin round to do spot checks to make sure he is not in the house. Can they do this i feel like i cant have a life. We r all happy and there has been no violance in over a year but r relationship is strained by the fact they r making him out to b a bad man. He aint a bad man he just lost it when his mother passed away. Does anyone have any advice ? PLEASE many thanks for takin the time to read this xx

Claire // Posted 14 October 2009 at 10:40 am

Dear Saz

I have been in a violent relationship and had dealings with Social Services. My experience is completely different – I wanted their help and they wouldn’t believe my ex was violent so they wouldn’t intervene properly. But we have something in common – we both know Social Services see what they want to see and interpret the situation how they want without reference to any contrary evidence. This was also highlighted to be the case in the Baby P enquiry. The head of the enquiry there recommended that Social Workers should ask themselves (frequently), “What if I am wrong? Is there a chance I could be wrong?” So one piece of advice I would give you is to ask them (and write to them to ask) when did they last ask themselves if they might be wrong. Social Services Departments are overstretched and sooner or later they will lose interest, through professional judgement or incompetence.

THe other thing is to get your man to go to Respect classes. The logic being: Soc Services recommend these as a way of staying together. If he goes of his own free will, that suggests he is aware that there was a problem and that he is keen never to let it happen again. You never know – it might be of real benefit to him anyway if he is grappling with bereavement issues that left him feeling angry. Also, put yourself in touch with Women’s Aid and do their Freedom Programme. You might say you don’t need it, but again demonstrating to Social Services that you have done it and are aware of the issues will help your case. Again, you might find it more helpful than you’d think.

There will have been an impact on the children even though the last violence was a year ago and Women’s Aid should be able to guide you through how to best help them recover from this.

Plan B – move. Social Services departments in my experience are hopeless at handing over files between departments/counties.

Plan C – similar to Social Services asking themselves if they could be wrong, give yourself an unpressurised opportunity to ask yourself if you might be wrong. Rectifying violent behaviour is not easy even with help and counselling and your man’s behaviour could recur. Do not put yourself in a position where you are covering up for it to keep the kids. Sorry if that is too negative for you to take at the moment. It is not easy. Best of luck.

piscesmoon // Posted 14 October 2009 at 6:29 pm

Dear Saz

I know Claire does not want to sound too negative and it may not be easy to hear at this moment in time but what if you are wrong? I know that it can be very difficult for someone who takes back a violent man to then prove that they are capable of measuring the risks to their children plus if you go

behind their backs there will be a breakdown in trust (yes, it’s not equal), if you need help at a later date they may be reluctant to give it to you. I know you must feel deeply for this man but if you move away like Claire suggests what if you are wrong?!?! You could possibly move into isolation, away from your support network, friends, family where if he did become violent again it would be harder to get the support you need. (I’m assuming you have support where you are)He hasn’t got his foot in the door YET!

Could he possibly be on good behaviour to worm his way back in (my ex did this and I TOTALLY fell for it)? Does he show any other signs of controlling behaviour such as asking you to account for your time? Name call? Putting you down? Withold funds or take money from you? Prevent you from seeing friends? Try and build a barrier between you and your children? On the otherhand, does he support you emotionally, financially? Encourage to follow your dreams? Spend time with loved ones? Have a night out with the girls (or something that is totally you?) Basically is there equality and respect

in your relationship. Abuse generally isn’t about anger, it’s about boundaries and a lack of respect for other peoples.

I personally believe it is best to work with them and get him to prove to them he has changed (ask social what proof they need maybe?). In doing this it may further confirm to you that he is a changed man. We all go through rough times, I have had more than my fair share, and whereas we are all different we have different coping mechanisms

it is not ok to abuse others, regardless of our life circumstances. what if we all did this through times of crisis?! It would be like one ripple effect of abouse after another…. we still have choices.

Please try and be 110% certain before rushing into things.

Claire // Posted 15 October 2009 at 11:19 pm

Dear Piscesmoon

Notwithstanding my first post back to Saz, I don’t disagree with what you’ve said and I think you are absolutely right to suggest caution to Saz. My point was essentially that if there genuinely are rare cases of a man turning over a new leaf and getting over abusive behaviour then what I said was a way to overcome the system.

Dear Saz

There is a widely observed cycle of abuse which can be said to begin with a “honeymoon period”. In this period which can last for well over a year, the man is charming, sociable and non-physically violent. He might still make denigrating remarks and present one face in public and another at home – but he is basically someone that most of us could live with. It is highly controlled and controlling behaviour though. One raised eye brow and you know he could lose his temper. You are atune to the moods and keep the peace. There are secret signs that only you understand. You are his keeper and responsible for his moods. This is his time for extravagent public gestures – the engagement ring/expensive presents/care-taking/controlling masquerading as care-taking such as saying you can give up work (this is the prisoner at work, not wanting you to have your freedom or financial independence), wanting to share bank accounts, wanting you to take his name, ditch the friends to be with him etc. Sounds lovely. But it isn’t. Because abuse is a bit like an addiction. Once he’s got his fix of this level, he will move onto the next level in teh cycle – increased jealousy and control, “you don’t want to go out with your friends rather than be with me do you”, “We agreed to share everything from now on”, “you can’t really refuse me sex if you love me – I NEED to do it, that’s what men are like”, “must you talk on the phone all the time”, “who was that I saw you talking to?”. Before you know it you feel guilty that despite the ostensible kindness, you DO want to go out, you do want the right to refuse sex. But you are scared, or guilty at your own ingratitude, or ashamed of your own inability to recognise love and affection when it hits you in teh face (double-meaning intended). This stage intensifies. You placate him. And you also believe that you are an ungrateful and unworthy woman who doesn’t deserve anyone as lovely as him. Next thing you have to deal with is his outburst. Maybe he’ll do it towards something inanimate to begin with – kick a chair, or punch his fist on teh wall. What that tells you is that he is physically capable of violence, but you are responsible for placating him and not letting it happen. The next stage is the physical and sexual violence itself, before the flowers, the tears and the “we mustn’t let this situation happen again where my only outlet is to hit you”. You end up mentally shattered, physically bruised, drinking too much, losing friends and support and he can point the finger and say – look at her, she’s a mess, she’s so moody, she’s mad.

But there must be exceptions. There must be men who do turn the corner by themselves, without help. Just not that many.

Saz, good luck. If it turns out your man is on the mend genuinely, you won’t need any of this advice. But if it turns out you were wrong, Women’s Aid and Social Services have seen this triumph of hope over experience a thousand times before. WOmen’s Aid will still help you and SOcial Services will be their own incompetent bungling selves. Even if you cover up for him 1000 times, there are women who’ve covered up more> Abusers abusive thrive on teh shame of their victim and on their victims’ unwillingness to get support.

Piscesmoon, good idea about the resources. Having a centralised place for know-how not only on law but on how to handle CAFCASS, Soc Services, probation, police etc and what guidance they are meant to be following would be great. I’d be on for helping set it up.

Piscesmoon // Posted 19 October 2009 at 10:07 pm

Hi claire

I have spoke with a work colleague who said he will show me how to set up a blog site and some other people who would be interested in getting involved. I think we would have to get all the resources together first and really map out how we plan to do it and what will be included. I’m not sure how you would get involved outside of here?

Dee // Posted 20 October 2009 at 7:06 pm

I am currently fighting my abusive ex partner and am now in serious debt due to spending every last penny on legal fees. CAFCASS were introduced to our case a few months ago having already been through the courts for the past two years – they are next to useless, making recommendations that my ex must promise to ‘tell the truth’! Ridiculous! I am told my difficulty is that he is credible, he looks ok and turns up to court wearing a suit. He has gone out of his way to discredit me and I am forced to fight him, when he should just be told to back off! Despite me leaving him following his last arrest, he continues to get at me by fighting for access that I don’t even believe he wants. I have been failed by the services left right and centre and despite her being returned by ‘him’ a while back with a large purple bruise under her nappy area nothing was done. I do not want to be reading about my daughter in the papers cause he snapped and lashed out. It is a well known fact that violent men will almost certainly go on to treat their children the same way.

Claire // Posted 20 October 2009 at 11:31 pm

Hi Piscesmoon

Jess has offered to help too. I should be able to devote a few hours to this over the coming weekend. If you are prepared to go unanonymous, I could give you a call and chat it over. Jess has my e-mail address and I give her permission through this post to give it to you – or to observe some other protocol so that we can get something done.

Saz, I do hope you are OK. Will you send us a quick post to let us know.

Claire // Posted 21 October 2009 at 1:48 pm

Dear Dee

I am sorry to hear what a bad time you are having with CAFCASS. You are not alone. THe problem is that fighting with a government department is so hard and very demoralising.

What I would advise you to do is go into the publications section of the CAFCASS website and get hold of the DV Toolkit. Although CAFCASS Head Office publish this well meaning stuff, it is rarely adhered to by the individual officers. You have to keep yelling “domestic violence” at them. If you don’t, they work on a presumption of 50/50 shared care. If you get no where with your own officer, write to Elizabeth Ward at CAFCASS Head Office. SHe was the author of the toolkit. Tell her what is going wrong. I got traction from her as she was critical of my local CAFACSS office and her letter to me enabled me to get a letter of apology from CAFCASS locally. CAFCASS should not be making any sort of recommendation until there has been a Re L hearing. ANyone who suggests you abandon the Re L hearing is in breach of the CAFCASS toolkit and in breach of the court practice direction on the matter. Small comfort if having a court hearing is financially ruinous however. There are two ways of looking at each case: the DV way and the non-DV way. In the non-DV way, parents have to be civilsed, be forced into mediation and take joint responsibility. In a way, I am not sure that that is a bad thing. But in the DV way, everything is turned on its head. So the key is proof of the DV and they will brow beat you and grind you down until you begin to even believe it wasn’t so bad yourself.

Ask Women’s Aid to be present when CAFCASS come to see you.

Good luck.

Cos // Posted 25 December 2009 at 7:35 am

Hi and Seasons Greetings to you all. I don’t know if I am allowed to put a comment but here goes…..I totally and truly believe without a shadow of a doubt that men seem to be the biggest perpetrators according to statistics. However I sit here crying and really low in mood in one of the safehouses for the male variety who has fled DV. That is why shortened version of my real identity. It’s difficult enough that at times authorities trip up by not taking the victim seriously and underplaying to the level of 50/50 responsibility. What about what a male is going through as a victim of DV (I know I am only part of this minuscule minority)…society in general does not seem yet ready that I can be taken seriously. I have suffered on and off for 13 years and in between my children too. Something is terribly arry….:( here if you could see me now I suppose it would just confirm the case both gender victims of DV for the most part female may consider within 6 months self harm in some form or another). I believe I may be going through the same phase now it is heart renching to say the least and I feel I am subjected to be the victim over and over in my head until justice is served. Just because I am male it sounds like the system has accepted there is no way that a man can be abused in the same way as physical, mental, financial etc….Well my case I started having contact with a …CRISIS centre for 3 odd years plus and calling helplines up to Samaritans….till I plucked up the courage in November this year to flee and take my children with to the so called refuge…Yes I completely agree as a lay person why should the victim be in question in the family court to prove they have 50% responsibility….where I feel it is only too right that the perpetrator in this case was female…and without even there being a court restriction of any kind pending on the children before fleeing….the court nevertheless (despite my lawyer appealing) upheld that the children be taken out of the refuge I was in. :(:( Imagine that but for me I did not have to imagine this it is real….and it would be a miscarriage of justice if this happened to a woman for sure. By the way I do believe there should be equality in terms of every aspect of society. So now alone for Xmas season in my safehouse but what is the point when for everything I was believing in for example the most important the safety and well being of my children to be with me was taken away without even so much a court hearing prelim and investigation of facts taking place before taking children out of refuge. I believe the perpetrator should and be made law (given the same rights )that DV is so serious as maybe let me say like being the victim over and over in ones mind isnt that is bad as being the victim of theft in which case in court it seems its easier to convict thieves and they receive prison sentences. I believe now that forces that be is looking at it blindly . The next horror is that due to the over burden of the courts etc and they have funds and time limits then each case will not be heard to its maximum etent i.e gone over with a fine toothcomb…so my 2 recent assault allegations just recent within 2 months and I have the scars to prove it and pictures and witnesses has been halted by the CPS just yesterday. It sounds that there may be only one person who looks at all the material presented….and has to make judgements on the basis of time restrictions or how long ago the incident took place….yeah well right the court is not going to let go a rape case for example or a murder even if it happened donkeys years ago or today. The fact is that it looks like 99% of woman are the victims of DV however I can truly say I fall within that category as a man in the 1% but who knows with wider eyes and understanding of the depth and scale of what is really happening also to the genuine male variety who have not asked for hurt and trouble but they are on the receiving end. Now CPS not taking assault further now its undermining the level of abuse I received and in which forms…would they have rather I be seriously injured or dead or children fatherless before they would take me seriously as the male victim to say the least. Yeah it’s true if you mistreat an animal and taken to justice you get sentenced in various ways and one would be never or for a period of time not own an animal or look after it….why can’t the majority of people or all stand up for once and change the law by voting for an old act to be changed so there is truly equal % protection for all regards of gender. i.e if the perpetrator has cause untold DV and gone unchecked then not to blame the victim for not having gone sooner but then the victim if has children to be allowed to take the children with to flee without question…priority should be given to the victims to leave the scene of abuse and go to a refuge. So in summation my plight….fled to refuge with children as I have quite well documented diaries and condensed incidents spanning an almost 13 year period in which I may add my life during that time was threatened and of my children that I dare go to authorities then she can do anything, second of all now as the victim I have to trek around 250 miles every time I wish to see my children and outplace myself from the refuge especially when I know it stinks my children taken from refuge without them waiting to hear final judgements of a temporary or and permanent residency order plight. So now the real victims the children and they now are for the moment staying with the perpetrator ….how wrong is that my feeling of course and to top it all it seems the main criteria of decision is going to be the wishes and feelings of the children however the perpetrator had many years to condition the childrens minds to the point I will say I believe the person has cleverly got their way by using parental alienation and extreme forms….

Finally when one goes to Police, Social Workers, Family Court etc..there is going to be seemingly an excuse why something is dragged out before the victim may not bear much of it anymore….

Claire // Posted 27 December 2009 at 10:00 am

Dear Cos

Sorry if some of the below sounds harsh, but here goes. First of all, sorry you are having a rubbish time right now. But welcome to the world according to women.

Lots of your assertions and some of your use of language say bogus to me. I accept I could be wrong but sometimes your protesting sounds a bit like Matt Lucas going on about being the only gay in the village.

Stop pitying yourself for being a man. Stop making this a war of the sexes. It isn’t. It’s about DV, which is serious and awful. You wouldn’t ABSOLUTELY CATEGORICALLY be treated any better as a woman in your circumstances. I know. I have been there and there are plenty of others who’ve been there too. You say society does not seem yet ready that you can be taken seriously. I lost count of the number of times people sought to minimise or trivialise what happened to me. You say most women in DV consider self harm – actually most don’t, but some do. It’s a coping strategy. If you start doing it, try to get help – but help is not always sympathetic or good. You say justice won’t be served. Do you really think it is served any better for women? You are kidding! You assert that the court isn’t going to let a rape case go, like it did for your ABH. Are you kidding again?!? Do you know the stats on how many rape cases are abandoned by the people, even no-crimed, let alone getting referred to the CPS? 70% in some counties. Then the CPS write off the next 25% before any cases get to court.

A refuge isn’t a great place for children. They are uprooted and scared. You need to find somewhere stable for yourself, where you can see them, and get the help you need to put yourself back on your feet. But sadly it is YOU that is going to have to put yourself on your feet, and no one else. It is very difficult. I’ve had my share of knock-backs (and some!). self-pity gets a bum rap – sometimes it is actually healthy to have a wallow, but ultimately, you are in charge of your own recovery from now on.

I wish life were fair. I wish I’d had justice too. But I’m not going to get it. What I got was even better than justice: I got my life back and out of a terrible destructive relationship that still has its aftermaths. You got out of your relationship. Well done. There is no fanfare for you. But you have got your life back and the thing to do now is lead it as you’d like your children to see you lead it. And stop thinking (if you really do) that you have been doubly badly done to because you are a man. You haven’t.

Jackie // Posted 2 February 2010 at 10:43 am

My daugter has been being abused for 9 yrs from her partner, Oct 2009 he made a 3hour long assault on her ,the childern aged 2yrs and 6 yrs have been around this all throught their lifes ,I would have them for long periods at my house. My daughter pressed charges and it went to court ,he got 10 weeks supended over 12 months (you get more for shop lifting)my daughter came with the children to stay at my house this was )Oct 2009 and 2 weeks ago she went to see a friend for a few days,she then came back last tuesday night and told me she was taking the children to be with their father she got them up out of bed (this being late at night ) Well the social services are involed so are the nspcc but no one knows where they are staying ,I ring her phone but she cuts it off ,I am ringing anyone that I think can help my husband and my self as so disstressed feel like we are going out of our minds. all the agents say that the children are at risk but dont seem to be doing anything,WHAT CAN I DO

Butterflywings // Posted 2 February 2010 at 11:50 am

Jackie, so sorry to hear that. It must be so distressing and frustrating for you – I can only imagine. And a 10 weeks suspended sentence is pathetic.

In terms of what you can do to help your daughter – if no-one knows where she is, have you reported her missing to the police? Especially as there are children involved, who are at risk, and social services are involved, they *might* take it seriously.

I think otherwise you’ve done all you can.

I would keep calling her, and get her friends to do so. Abusers try to separate people from their friends and family, basically, everyone who cares about them. If people stop calling, she might feel everyone has given up on her. She probably regrets going back to him (or will get to that point soon) but feels everyone will think ‘I told you so’. If you can leave voicemails or text her, say you’re always there for her, you’re not judging her, whenever she needs anything, just call. Get her friends to do the same.

I know this sounds non-advice and you may have done those things already. I wish I had some more helpful advice. Perhaps others will think of something I haven’t.

jackie // Posted 2 February 2010 at 12:09 pm

thankyou for your comments, I hope the social services will get thing moving ,my eldest grandson 6yrs old was having counciling with the nspcc because he was so frightened of his step father.It was all going well he seemed to start beeing happy and doing well at school I think if he knows he will not be coming back (she has taken them to Kent) they all lived in cornwall as we do and my eldest grandson as only ever known here. Im sure this will do so much mental harm to him. I am waiting for a call today from kent social services and hope that this time they can tell me whats going on as I just kept being told I am not allowed to know any details . I know that no one can do much out there but it helps to talk. I am doing all the things you have suggested.

Claire // Posted 2 February 2010 at 2:37 pm

Jackie

The other thing to do is speak to Women’s Aid. They have field workers all over the country and in fact many social work departments don’t handle DV themselves but outsource to Women’s Aid. If you have not already done so, you should also let the NSPCC know. They sometimes are more effective than social services and have a statutory duty to act.

angie // Posted 20 September 2010 at 11:34 pm

hi , i was in a domestic violence relasionship for eighteen years , i made numerous calls to police and domestic violence forum , on one occasion i was put in a refuge in droitwich ,where whilst i was there droitwich social services called out to me and my three children and added us to there files , the following day walsall social services came out an removed all my children , they took me to court , an said they had removed my children from my care due to domestic violence , bearing in mind i was no longer in a violent relasionship as i was in a womans refuge , i didnt get my children back ,they now have all got full care orders , and are all split up all other the country , there reasons for not returning now that im no longer with my violent ex partner is that the children are all now settled , they have been in care for 5 years now , since then 12 months ago i had a baby with another man who has never been violent , as soon as i went into labour social services was up the hospital trying to get a emergency care order , which the judge did not allow , but three months ago they managed to remove my baby from me , and im not allowed to see her by myself , only can have supervised visits , i have never done anything wrong to my children which social services agree i took very good care for my baby and said her care was not an issue , but i cant have her back just in case i ever get involved in a violent relasionship again , i feel very let down by the authorities , i have had to pay for my ex partners violent ways

Sheila // Posted 21 September 2010 at 9:02 am

angie, so sorry to hear your story. Are there any other avenues you can explore? What has happened to you is vile, but not isolated. I went to Stage 2 complaint against Social Services, got a full apology and 500 quid compensation – a derisory sum compared to what I and my children suffered, but I know Social Services got a fright and that some people were held accountable who normally get away it. Don’t give up fighting.

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