Domestic violence and children

The Safe Contact Project
Chris Newman
Domestic Violence Intervention Project
Prevalence of domestic violence
• Domestic violence accounted for quarter
of all crimes against the person in England
and Wales.
(2001 British Crime Survey England and Wales, London: Home Office) and for over half of all
incidents attended by the RUC in 2001 (police service statistics RUC, Northern Ireland,
• Every year around 150 people (120
women – nearly half of all female murder
victims - and 30 men – around 8% of all
male murder victims) are killed by a
current or former partner.
(Flood-Page, C. & Taylor,J. (eds) Crime in England and Wales 2001/2002, London
; Home Office, 2003).
Prevalence of domestic violence
• The 1992 British Crime Survey reported that
in 90% of domestic violence incidents
children were in the same or adjacent rooms.
Mayhew, P., Aye Maung, N. and Mirrlees-Black, C. (1993) The 1992 British Crime
Survey. Home Office Research Study No. 132. London . HMSO.
Domestic violence and parental separation
• Of the many thousands of incidents of
domestic violence against women recorded
each year in the British Crime Survey, 36%
occurred when the couple were no longer
living together.
Mirrlees-Black (1999) The 1999 British Crime Survey. Home Office Research Study No.
132. London. HMSO.
• Women are most susceptible to homicide by
a spouse or partner in the post-separation
Crawford and Gartner, 1992; Kennedy and Dutton,1989; McNeil, 1987; Sonkin, Martin
and Walker, 1985 –see Spousal Assault Risk Assessment Guide P.Randall Kropp et
al(2nd Edition).
Domestic violence and children
• Research suggests that between 40% to 70% of
men who assault their wives or partners are also
directly physically or sexually violent to their
children or abuse or threaten the children to
increase their control over their mother
(Edleson 1999, McGee 1997, Pence and Paymar 1990, Holden and Newby 1991, Bowker at al
1988, Stark and Flitcraft 1988, Hester and Pearson 1998, Forman 1995 etc).
• Domestic violence features in the lives of 37% of
children who are receiving social work
interventions and 60% of children on the risk
(Children in Need Census 2001).
Domestic violence and children
• In more than one in eight DV incidents the
London Metropolitan Police note issues
around child contact or residence.
Home Office (2001) Understanding and Responding to Hate Crime; DV fact Sheet,
London: HMSO.
• In 2002 a survey was undertaken by NAPO
of the work of CAFCASS in contested
residence and contact cases. The study
found that out of the 300 cases involved,
77% (230 cases) featured allegations of
domestic violence.
Domestic violence impacts on children
• A review of the available research shows
that children who witness violence
between their parents have emotional and
behavioural difficulties that mirror those
of children currently identified as being
Carroll, J (1994) The Protection of Children Exposed to Marital
Violence. Child Abuse Review. Vol. 3 (1). P. 6 – 14.
Hester and Radford
Domestic violence and child contact
Social Policy Research 100 June
Many professionals in England interpreted
the Children Act 1989 in a way which
allowed contact with fathers to take
precedence over child welfare.
Fathers commonly used contact with the
children as a route to further abuse the
mother. Domestic violence injunctions and
policing practice in both countries gave
women only limited protection from
further abuse.
Hester and Radford study
Only 7 of the 53 mothers interviewed in
England were able - eventually- to arrange
contact which did not threaten their own
safety and/or their children's well being.
Most mothers initially wanted children to
see their fathers; contact arrangements
broke down because of violence.
No evidence to support claims made by
many of the professionals interviewed that
contact broke down because mothers
were 'hostile' to the idea of contact
Hester and Radford 1996
Hester and Radford concluded that
contact should not be presumed to
be in the best interests of the child
if there has been domestic violence
to the mother
HMICA Thematic Inspection 2005
“The perception of a presumption of
contact in domestic violence cases
is experienced by women as
dangerous to themselves and their
HMICA Thematic Inspection 2005
“In order for the welfare of children
to remain paramount, the current
emphasis on agreement seeking in
the family justice system needs to
be recognised as a valuable
secondary development, rather
than a primary goal”
Contact orders
1995 - 2,113 out of 31,506 were refused
= 6.7%
2004 -504 out of 70,169 were refused
= 0.7%
(source – response to question in Parliament - Harriet Harman MP)
The Domestic Violence Intervention Project
London Probation
Perpetrator services
Victim support services
Individual work
32 session structured group
Structured workshops
Support groups
ongoing follow up group
Safety planning
Children’s services
Supervised contact
Therapeutic work
Risk assessment for the family courts
Assessment of:
• Risk
Victim support
LCD guidelines for good practice on parental contact in
cases where there is domestic violence (April 2002)
In deciding the issue of contact the court is
asked to consider domestic violence and in
• the effects of the domestic violence on the
resident parent and children
• the history of domestic violence
• the motivation for seeking contact
• ‘victim empathy’, attitude to past violence
& capacity to change
In deciding the issue of contact the court is asked to
consider domestic violence and in particular:
• the risk to the children if contact is
• the wishes and feelings of the child
• whether to make treatment for the
abuser a condition of future contact or
seek advice in assessing the risk of
harm to the child
• whether or not conditions or nonmolestation orders should be made and
whether contact should be supervised
Risk assessment for the family courts
• Risk
The Primary or Predominant Aggressor?
(or ‘primary perpetrator’)
The person who:
Uses the higher level of violence,
Has an established history of violence in the relationship,
Who represents the more serious ongoing threat of violence.
Look at:
the level of injury
the history of violence
Which party represents an ongoing threat (who is afraid of
(Guidance on investigating domestic violence produced for Association of Chief Police Officers in 2004)
Risk Assessment
…the formal application of instruments to assess the
likelihood that intimate partner violence will be
repeated and escalated.
The term is synonymous with dangerousness
assessment and encompasses lethality assessment,
the use of instruments specifically developed to
identify potentially lethal situations.
Risk Assessment
Two approaches
Identification of risk factors – on basis that
increase in number of factors and increased
intensity raises risk
Use of risk assessment instruments/scales
e.g. DAS, SARA
Risk Assessment
Caveats regarding the use of risk
assessment instruments.
Research on prediction of repeat domestic
violence is in its infancy (Weisz, Tolman &
Saunders 2000).
Roehl and Guerin (2000, p. 172) note that
‘…data on reliability, validity, and predictive
accuracy of risk assessment are scarce.’
Risk Assessment
Caveats regarding the use of risk
assessment instruments.
The use of risk assessment scores by
professionals should not be a substitute for
listening to women (Websdale 2000a).
It is important to remember that the true goal
of the evaluator is to prevent violence, not
predict it. Risk assessment is one part of risk
management process
General Risk Factors
History of
domestic violence
– crossing a
boundary once
makes it easier to
with injuries requiring
medical treatment
•Used strangulation
•Used or threatened to
use a weapon
•Threatened to kill his
•Was violent when she
was pregnant
•Used sexual violence,
such as rape
•Assaulted other family
members, including
•Violence is becoming
more frequent
•Violence is becoming
more severe
Attitudes about
the violence
History of
•Severely blaming his
•Severely minimising or
denying the violence
•Lacking remorse
•Having traditional
attitudes about male
•Lacking empathy for
the victim
•Fantasising about
killing her or wreaking
severe violence on her
•Not recognising the
•Having no motivation
to change
•Being unwilling to take
part in a perpetrator
•Currently has access to
the partner
•Partner is trying to
leave or has recently
•Currently isolated from
support systems
•Step children in family
Psychotic disorders.
Note that psychotic
persons who kill often
have active symptoms
such as command
hallucinations Antisocial personality
disorders, such as
borderline personality
disorder, a psychopathic
personality or beliefs of
persecution by others
General Risk Factors
Current or recent life
Mental state
Other relevant
•Severe abuse in the
perpetrator’s family of
•Equivalent life stresses
•A feeling that he has
nothing to lose – the ‘fuckit’ factor
•High levels of anger and
•High levels of hostility to
his partner in particular
•Suicidal depression
•Generally low mental
•Obsessive jealousy of his
•Obsessive control of his
•Obsessive thinking about
his partner following
•Current substance
misuse – notably of
alcohol or drugs (uppers)
– especially where it has
exacerbated the severity
of the violence in the
•Generalised aggression,
both inside and outside
the home. This may not
be present in cultures
that show little tolerance
for public violence
•Recent or current
suicide risk or threats of
Vulnerability factors for women
(Calvin Bell, Safer Families, Plymouth)
Developmental and Demographic Factors
vulnerability marker
1. Population base-rate
aged under 25 years; low educational
2. Direct experience of abuse in
experience of abusive or harsh parenting
as a child
3. Exposure to violent parental
role model
exposure to violence between parents
or caregivers in childhood
4. Prior sexual or physical abuse
experience of physical or sexual abuse
in a prior adult relationship
5. Disability
disability because of physical, sensory
or cognitive impairment
6. Pregnancy
pregnant and post-partum mothers
(especially in adolescence)
7. Substance misuse
misuse of alcohol and/or illegal drugs
8. Mental health
significant mental health difficulties,
especially self-harming and parasuicide
9. Prostitution
involvement in prostitution
Vulnerability factors for women
Environmental factors
vulnerability marker
10. Poverty
low income
including being in receipt of state
11. Quality of housing
low quality accommodation
including council or housing association
12. Overcrowding
more occupants in the household than
the number of habitable rooms
13. Social isolation
isolation from her community,
extended family or other social support
14. Ethnic minority
ethnic minority background likely to
result in barriers to support services
because of language difficulties or
Vulnerability factors for women
Relationship factors
vulnerability marker
15. Co-habitation
co-habiting relationship (as opposed to
being married)
16. Financial dependence
lack of independent income or male
partner earns more than 75% of the
couple’s income
17. Other power imbalances
gap in strength or age, class, social,
educational or occupational status
18. Young children
having young children in the home,
especially aged under five years
19. Step-children
having children in the home who are
not the man’s biological offspring,
especially if the couple are not married
20. Repeated separations
history of repeated separations and
21. Ongoing conflict
differences in parenting styles; ongoing
or unresolved marital conflict especially
over the future of the relationship
Anger management as a response to DV?
Anger management’ suggests that the client
has difficulty controlling anger.
• Selectivity of victim
• Selective level of severity
• Instrumental, controlling nature of DV
• Also implicit blame of victim “I just lose it
when she winds me up, she pushes my
Anger management:
But - need to address deep seated belief systems
and/or emotional developmental legacies.
Therefore focus on the underlying emotion and
cognitions at the time of an assault rather than
solely focusing on control of the mislabelled
Outcome studies suggest that violence/ abuse elimination
occurs from reconstructing clients’ entrenched belief systems
and assumptions about masculinity and its perceived
entitlements, and enhancing victim empathy and co-operative
decision-making rather than from the management or control
of anger. (Healey et al 1998)
Couples work, mediation?
• The victim is unlikely to feel free to
speak freely
• and may be punished with physical
violence or other abuse for speaking
out of turn
The power and control model of an abusive relationship
A model of an equal and non-controlling relationship
Elements of domestic violence perpetrator programmes
• Increase awareness of physiological, mental and
emotional signs of build up to violence.
• Develop critical awareness of attitudes and beliefs
that support use of violence.
• Increase empathy for victims
• Increase awareness of effects of domestic violence
upon children
• Widen definition of abuse, set it in context of power
and control
• Teach and practice alternative behaviour.
Safety implications of perpetrator programmes for
(ex)partners or referring agencies
They lie about attendance and suspension
He may use the programme material to criticise his
partner’s behaviour
He may lie about what happens in the group
He may use his attendance as a bargaining tool
His attendance influences
behaviour of others….
Safety implications of perpetrator programmes for
(ex)partners or referring agencies
and most importantly –
May create unrealistic
perpetrator will change.
that the
Objectives of the Women’s Support Service
• To give information about the Domestic Violence
Prevention Programme and assist women in having
realistic expectations
• Safety planning with women and children who are in
dangerous situations
• Supporting her in identifying resources she could use
increase her control over her own and her children’s
• Emotional support and groupwork to facilitate her
personal and social understanding of the abuse she
has experienced
Assessing programme quality
See Guidelines from Respect ( The National
Association for Domestic Violence Perpetrator
Programmes and Associated Support
Interventions with abusive fathers
• As part of a perpetrator programme
• ‘Ordinary’ father’s groups
• ‘Caring dads’ programme –
specific issues are the development of empathy –
over and above techniques for
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