Domestic Abuse, Young Women
and Youth Justice
Michele Burman
University of Glasgow
IMPACT and SOLUTIONS - Domestic Abuse, Young People and Youth Justice
Hampden Glasgow Jan 30th 2013
Overview of presentation
• Domestic abuse
– Conceptions, definitions and approaches
• Domestic abuse and child protection
• Abusive teenage relationships
• Abuse, its impact and young women’s pathways to
• Working with justice-involved young women affected by
• Issues for policy and practice
Domestic Abuse
Typically involves:
– a pattern of physical, sexual or emotional
abuse, threats and intimidation
– that escalates in frequency/severity
Focus on adults
Has profound consequences in the lives
of individuals, children, families and
Recognised as most prevalent form of
violence against women,
Domestic abuse: prevalence and patterns
– prevalence studies (Walby &
Allen, 2004)
– victimisation surveys
– police data
– research with survivors
• Methodological issues
– under-reporting
– definitions /measurements
– limited/partial data sources
(Dobash and Dobash 2012) ;
Cross Government Scottish definition
"Domestic abuse (as gender-based abuse), can be
perpetrated by partners or ex partners and can include
physical abuse (assault and physical attack involving a
range of behaviour), sexual abuse (acts which degrade
and humiliate women and are perpetrated against their will,
including rape) and mental and emotional abuse (such as
threats, verbal abuse, racial abuse, withholding money and
other types of controlling behaviour such as isolation
from family or friends).“
(National Strategy to Address Domestic Abuse in Scotland, 2000)
Domestic abuse as gender-based violence
• Feminist perspective and analyses
– recognising relationships between different forms of violence
• Power and control
– Misuse of power and exercise of control
• Gender as integral
– framing domestic abuse within broad societal context to examine
its gendered nature (cf UN Declaration on Elimination of Violence
Against Women, 1993)
– barrier to gender equality at practical and symbolic levels
• Gendered impact
• Proposes a gendered analysis
“Gender based violence is a function of gender
inequality, and an abuse of male power and
privilege. It takes the form of actions that result in
physical, sexual and psychological harm or
suffering to women and children, or affront to their
human dignity, including threats of such acts,
coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether
occurring in public or private life. “
(Scottish Government, Safer Lives, Changed Lives, 2009)
Domestic abuse as a ‘risk factor’
• Recognized as a risk factor in child protection matters
– Seeing, Hearing, Feeling ………. (Cawson 2002)
• Research shows that children/ young people living in households
where there is domestic abuse experience increased likelihood of risks of
disturbance, such as:
• behavioural problems (aggression, delinquency and anti-social behaviour)
• internalising problems ( anxiety and depression) (Sternberg et al 2006; MartrinezTorteya et al 2009)
• insecure attachments
• disruptive sleep patterns, bed-wetting and frequent nightmares.(Humphreys
et al, 2009)
• higher rates of psychopathology and post-traumatic stress disorder than
their peers (see, for example Ernst, Weiss, & Enright-Smith, 2006; Kolbo, Blakely, &
Engleman, 1996; McIntosh, 2003)
Living in an abusive environment
• Co-existence of different forms of
– 1 in 3 child protection cases show a
history of domestic abuse in the home
(Hester and Pearson 1998)
Risks of children being directly
physically or sexually abused
markedly increase where they are
living with domestic abuse
– Estimated that 30- 66% of children suffer
direct abuse when living with domestic
– are more likely to be physically
assaulted at home if their mother is
being physically assaulted (Harwin, 2006)
Severity and length of time over
which domestic abuse has
occurred increases risks for
children and young people
(Edleson et al, 1999 and Grych et al, 2000)
Teenage relationship abuse
A teenage problem ?
•Increasing recognition that domestic abuse affects young people as much
as it does adults.
•Growing awareness of teenage relationship abuse, with teenage girls
considered to be at greatest risk from violent relationships
•Gendered impact
•Fluidity of teenage relationships
Widening definition
•In England and Wales, from March 2013, definition will be widened to
include 16 and 17 yr olds
“any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive, threatening behaviour,
violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate
partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality “
Risk of Victimisation?
• National crime surveys reveal that younger adults are at greater
risk of victimisation than older adults.
– e.g. In BCS 2009/10, 12.7% of women aged 16-19, indicated they had
experienced at least one incident of domestic abuse in the last year, compared to
4.8% of those aged 55-59 (Smith et al. 2011, p. 88).
• US self-report studies of offending suggest that peak age for
perpetrating domestic abuse may be as young as 16 yrs
• Too little, too late?
– i.e. suggests that most state intervention – the delivery of criminal justice
responses to adult offenders and victims – is rather too little too late (Nocentini et
al. 2010)
• Question of onset ?
• Conceptualising appropriate response ?
So, what do we know … ?
Worrying level of incidence and concern over reported attitudes of
young people in relation to the ‘acceptability’ of abuse in
Burton et al, 1998 attitudinal survey of 2,039 young people ( aged 14-21)
documented ‘wide-spread acceptance of forced sex and physical violence against
women’ and a marked readiness on the part of young people to blame women for
men’s violence towards them
Kitzinger and Batchelor, 2000 – evaluation of Respect educational programme
the majority of young people involved in the programme were not taking on board
the messages in the campaign and did not alter their attitudes towards violence
Burman and Cartmel, 2005 survey of 1,395 young people (aged 14-18)
– 7% of girls/29% boys reported having been slapped
– 16% of girls/25% boys had been pushed/grabbed/shoved,
– 9% of girls had been kicked/bitten or hit compared to 19% of boys.
– 10% of girls and 8% of boys who participated reported that their partner had tried to
force them to have sex (Burman & Cartmel 2005)
Evidence base is building …..
4. Partner Exploitation and Violence in Intimate Teenage Relationships
1,353 young people (13 and 17) from England, Scotland and Wales took part in a
survey / 91 took part in in-depth interviews. (Barter et al 2009)
experiences of physical, emotional and sexual forms of violence in their partner
relationships, incl. their coping strategies and views on intervention
25% girls/ 18% boys reported physical partner violence
³/4 girls and ½ boys reported emotional partner violence
33% girls / 16 % boys reported incident of sexual abuse
5. Violence in dating relationships between younger teens
1,143 young people (aged 13-14 years (younger age groups) in one area of E &W
questionnaire to assess their experiences as victims, witnesses and perpetrators
46% girls/44% boys reported abuse of some form (most commonly emotional abuse)
24% girls/25% boys reported being abusive
Gender difference in terms of perpetration were not statistically significant (Gadd et
al 2012)
Pathways into Offending
Abandonment, bereavement, parental
– important source of anger/frustration
Violent Victimisation
– in home, in intimate relationships
Financial Pressures
– The feminisation of poverty
– esp. substance misuse
Emotional pressures/coercions (often from
– Prostitution; dealing;
Gaining ‘respect’ from
excitement and
‘having a laugh’
Running Away
Escaping abuse
Offending young women
Multiple presenting difficulties and history of unmet need
– accumulation of risk across a range of indicators
– stem from deep-rooted and complex life experiences such as violence
and sexual victimisation and lack of care
Offending can be a long-term effect of women’s and girls’ abuse /
Many justice-involved young women and girls believe their sexual
abuse histories are related to their subsequent offending
– ‘deserving’ of abuse perpetrated on them
– self-blaming (self-esteem)
– self-harming
(see, for example: Batchelor 2007; Belknap & Holsinger, 2006; Belknap et al., 1997; Burman and Batchelor
2009; Burman and Imlah 2012; : Douglas and Plugge 2006; McIvor 2004;
Sheehan et al 2007; SCRA 2009Sharpe 2011Chesney-Lind & Rodriguez, 1983;Corston Report 2007;
Time for Change Young Women’s Project
(n= 44 justice–involved young women )
• Virtually all with problematic familial backgrounds
– Histories of physical and sexual abuse
– High levels of victimisation ( within domestic environment)
family problems (disruption)
– Bereavement
• Socio-economic disadvantage
• Two thirds CHS involvement (mostly welfare grounds)
• Almost all with experience of being ‘looked after’ or
accommodated by local authority
• Almost two fifths with problematic substance abuse (alcohol)
• Over a quarter with a history of self-harm
(Burman and Imlah, 2012)
Joy (aged 15)
Joy was referred via children and families social work, with whom she had extensive involvement
over several years, since she disclosed sexual abuse by her brothers, and physical abuse by her
mother. Following the subsequent criminal investigation, she was rejected by her family, and
spent periods living with other relatives and foster carers.
Joy was subject to a residential supervision requirement in a children’s unit. She was truanting
from school and her risk of secure care on protection grounds was escalating due to her continual
absconding , frequently on a daily basis –and risky sexual life. She had no offending history at
that point, but the situation was deteriorating. The primary reasons for referral were for the
provision of intensive support to try to stabilise her current placement, minimise the likelihood of
onset of offending, and address the historical abuse which social workers and residential workers
believed was at the root of Joy’s difficulties.
Joy initially engaged relatively well but due to her absconding , rarely kept any scheduled
appointments. She spent a period of respite, and achieved some stability during that time. On her
return to the children’s unit, however, she absconded once again, this time committing offences
with two others. She had a second period of respite care, but absconded once again and was
eventually sent to secure accommodation due to serious concerns about the risks she posed to
herself and to others. Shortly after her arrival in secure care it was found that Joy was pregnant.
Ashley (17 yrs)
Ashley was on pre-trial remand for a serious violent offence; her first experience
of custody. She had extensive experience of social work involvement due to a
lack of parental care; her mother was absent for much of her childhood.
Following her parent’s break-up when she was 5, Ashley went to live with her
uncle, who sexually abused her over several years. At 13, she returned to live
with her mother - who she described as ‘a stranger’.
At 14, Ashley was diagnosed with ADHD and developed drug and alcohol
problems; she also began self-harming. Relationship with mother broke down.
At 15, Ashley went to live with an abusive male partner (also her co-accused)
Whilst in prison Ashley developed an intimate relationship with another young
woman. Ashley was convicted and placed on probation and, on release, moved
in with her new partner. This proved a highly volatile relationship (characterised
by abuse) ; Ashley began to self-harm again, and breached her probation –
back into prison.
Challenges for working
• Persistent offending is strongly associated with victimisation and
social adversity, which need to be addressed alongside offending
behaviours (McAra and McVie 2010)
Yet .......
• Particular needs (seen as individualised troubles) difficult to meet
in justice settings (and exacerbated by age)
• Troublesome, challenging (intractable, malevolent; recalcitrant)
• Importance of staff and relationships
Systems perspective
• Underpins ‘gender-responsive’ work with offenders
– recognition that lives of offending young people are embedded
in a complex social reality, encompassing their relationships,
their personal history, and intricate social, structural and
contextual factors (Zaplin 2008:84)
– prospects for desistance cannot be easily separated out from
this context
• Trauma Informed (Covington, 2003; 2012)
– Ensuring physical safety; trustworthiness; facilitating choice;
• Crisis Intervention
– securing young persons’ safety (either from themselves and/or
from others) is an imperative, along with the provision,
wherever feasible, of short-term emergency help and care
(see, Harris, 1998; Fallot and Harris 2006; Covington, 2003; 2012; Zaplin 2008; Burmana
and Imlah 2012)
• Individualised care-work plans
– Take into account the social realities from which young
people come and to which they will return
• Consideration of range of (interconnected) needs:
– Backgrounds of victimisation (sexual, emotional, physical
– High risk behaviours (attempted suicide, self-harm, risky
sex, ingestion behaviour and addictions)
– Accommodation; finance management; education/training
– Offending behaviours (violence, fighting, drink/drugs
Issues for policy and practice ?
• Appraising young people about the risks of abuse in intimate
relationships is crucial
– Need to equip young people with an understanding of healthy relationships,
consent and non-violence i
• Early intervention programmes (inc. schools-based programmes)
• Linking forms of violence
• Multi-faceted approach to prevention
– Societal attitudes
• Developing integrated responses
– Cross-sectoral collaboration and co-ordination (Whole System Approach?)
• Need for trust and engagement
• Attentiveness
• Confidential / specialised front line services for teenage domestic
and sexual abuse
Issues for policy and practice
• Research needed on needs of young people – as both victims
and perpetrators
• Strengthen support services to ensure the needs of teenagers
are met and their recovery facilitated
– Gender and age –specificity in interventions
Work in partnership to deal effectively with young perpetrators ....
( age-specificity of existing mechanism/programmes)
Working with young people rather than working on them
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The totality of violence? - Centre for Youth & Criminal Justice