Despite domestic abuse consistently featuring as a top priority in policing, violence and abuse committed by a person’s child or other family member has tended to be side-lined by both the research into domestic violence and abuse and by the police response.
On 11th June 2018 around 60 people attended the annual N8 PRP Knowledge Exchange Conference at Rockliffe Hall. The purpose of this event was to bring together delegates from police, academic and practitioner organisations who have been working in this important and often neglected area, and for them to share research findings and best practice with a range of stakeholders. After a brief welcome from Professor Nicole Westmarland, Deputy Director of the N8 Policing Research Partnership, the days sessions began.
Child to parent violence and abuse: Should you call the cops on your kids, and other questions
Helen Bonnick (Helen Bonnick Associates)
Helen Bonnick opened the conference by giving a comprehensive overview of some of the complexities of CPV. Her key point was that despite some progress over the last 15 years, child to parent violence remains a great unknown, with both the general public and academics and practitioners often unsure how to understand and respond to it. There is still no clear sense of how many families are affected, though we do understand there to be many different risk factors, and huge impacts on daily life and health. Helen’s first hand experience has shown parents often say that it “feels like” intimate partner violence, but with children as young as 3 or 4 involved we must be cautious about our conceptualization and responses.
The pivotal question asked by Helen’s session was ‘should parents call the cops on their kids?’ This is not an easy question to answer and it depends on the situation, and what the parents want to achieve. If they feel in real danger, or perceive the child to be at risk of harm then this is an open, but caution is advised. There are other ways of working and in some cases, building relationships with local police officers has allowed for ongoing positive engagement and support for families to prevent a situation reaching crisis point, and for families to be supported to remain safe.
Helen’s slides can be found here
Conceptualisations of, and responses to, child-to-parent violence in England and Waless
Dr Sam Lewis (University of Leeds)
Our next speaker was Dr Sam Lewis who presented findings from her research with Dr Amanda Holt (University of Roehampton). The study gathered information from over 200 practitioners from across England and Wales about local services for children and families experiencing CPV.
Their research found that whilst the Government is framing CPV as a form of domestic violence, practitioners’s views and responses are shaped by a wide range of factors, including (but not limited to) occupational training and professional cultures. CPV is also often the result of a number of complex needs such as, substance abuse, mental health issues and wider family dysfunction. It cannot therefore be looked at in isolation.
‘Policing’ Parent Abuse: Collaboration opportunities for preventative interventions
Dr Simon Retford (Greater Manchester Police)
The final morning session was delivered by Dr Simon Retford of Greater Manchester Police. His research sought to develop an understanding of key themes and collaborative prevention opportunities in relation to CPV in Greater Manchester, and make recommendations for the development of practitioner responses.
CPV is a unique problem that is often lost under the banner of domestic abuse. It is complicated by the bonds between family members with parents often reluctant to report incidents for fear of criminalisation and losing their child. There is also a lack of joint working and governance on this issue – better provision of which would allow organisations to work together more effectively in early identification of possible cases of CPV.
A personal challenge highlighted by Simon’s research was, as a serving Detective Superintendent, how would he approach data collection? While needing victims honest testimony to provide accurate and meaningful data for his research, as a police officer he has an obligation to act if a crime has been committed. This highlights the difficulties of gaining a greater understanding of under reported and sensitive issues.
Simon’s slides can be found here
Where parricide meets eldercide: an analysis of child to parent/grandparent homicides in the UK
Dr Hannah Bows (Durham University)
The first of the afternoon sessions was presented by Dr Hannah Bows who’s research specifically examined the vulnerabilities of older adults and their risk of CPV. Older adults (aged 60+) have traditionally been viewed as low risk for violent crime. However, the available evidence suggests that, whilst risk might be lower for older adults, it is certainly not low. In the UK alone it is estimated that a minimum of 2 million adults aged 60 and over experience some form of violence and abuse each year.
Hannah’s presentation shared new findings from the first national study to examine homicides of older people in the UK. Her findings reveal that domestic homicides involving older adults account for 1 in 4 domestic homicides, however the patterns and characteristics of these offences are different to domestic homicides of younger age groups in a number of ways. Both gender and age are important characteristics and there is an urgent need for further research to explore these in more detail.
Hannah’s slides can be found here
How do we secure data to understand the real prevalence of child to adult violence?
Det Supt Melanie Palin and Tania Percy (South Yorkshire Police)
The final session of the day was delivered by Melanie Palin and Tania Percy of South Yorkshire Police. When reviewing CPV within their own police force, they found that much of the jigsaw was still missing. By the time an abused parent reports a violent incident to the police, it is unlikely to be the first incident which has occurred. As a result the point at which early intervention could be most useful has passed.
The workshop asked delegates for their views on what are considered to be the crucial elements of defining CPV, at what point the pattern of violent behaviour can start and how it manifests, and how we can look to what data is held by partnerships to support academic review in this area. Delegates participated in some lively debate which clearly showed the difficulties in the current approach and knowledge gaps around CPV. Among others, concerns were raised around the question ‘at what point does CPV start?’ and the complexities and unintended consequences of early intervention if we set the bar too low.
Melanie and Tania’s slides can be found here