Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Is the CAB guilty of under reporting DV?

Two interesting stories today left me pondering the alarming statistics from the Citizen's Advice Bureau, and whether they too are part of the problem of the lack of reporting on domestic violence.

Gillian Guy is Chief Executive of the charity said:

“…the Citizens Advice service took action and piloted a new radical programme in bureaux across the country to give victims a safe space to disclose this hidden violence by asking a few routine questions.”

"No less than 27 per cent of female clients involved in the ‘ASK’ scheme said they had experienced domestic violence at certain points since the age of 16 – three per cent higher than the national reported average of 24 per cent. If the same discrepancy were in place across the rest of the UK, it would equal 540,000 victims of unreported domestic violence, the charity claims – “the vast majority of whom would otherwise have stayed silent.”

Now the study only appears to have involved female victims. I've checked back to the March announcement when they talk about compiling their statistics, and it seems, very much, a gender based exercise.

Consider the warning of Mrs Justice Parker to social services in a recent case:

 '...not all allegations of domestic violence and abuse are true and at the end of a stormy and difficult marriage as this has been between the parents of the children, it is very easy for parents to re-write history in their own minds.’

The words 'alleged' and 'allegations' are missing from the CAB's announcement. It's also somewhat disappointing that they report only on alleged domestic violence suffered by women. Domestic violence is, in most accepted definitions, any controlling behaviour, be it physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, or financial control. Since March 2013, the term coercive control has been accepted within the definition.

Mrs Justice Parker makes a further, objective point relating to contact breakdown and the matter of manipulation of children which, curiously, always seems ignored in domestic violence reporting and statistics:

‘I regard parental manipulation of children, of which I distressingly see an enormous amount, as exceptionally harmful.’

It would be reprehensible to claim that domestic violence against women shouldn't be taken seriously, or should be ignored. However, the CAB do exactly this against men, and fail to report on (or consider) how DV affects non-resident parents and their children in the case of unreasonable contact denial. The case study they give cites a woman whose ex applies to the court for contact (so the issue of contact denial is on their minds...). The sad thing is, where false allegations are made to justify contact denial, the CAB and legal profession can end up perpetuating this 'violence' through the assistance they give the perpetrator against the victim (let's use the proper words!)... and this has gone on for years! All victims need help... when considering the services required, all should be heard in surveys to ensure a balanced provision of services.

Also, it seems that when DV is perpetuated against men (through contact denial), we must justify the seriousness of it in terms of the impact on the child (relegating the impact on the adult to a seemingly minor matter). Contact denial is often routed in controlling behaviour... and despite the emotional and psychological harm caused (and the increased incident of attempted suicide among victims... estimated at 7% in a past survey by a family charity), somehow, stopping a parent from seeing a child (and vice versa) seems less serious among social workers, court welfare officers, and many judges (who don't have Mrs Justice Parker's insight).

Mrs Justice Parker nails it though, when she says it is 'exceptionally harmful', and we'd add, affects millions of adults and children in the UK this Christmas. DV to the non-resident parent... and child abuse too. Let's call it what it is. Their study also ignores male victims and physical domestic violence... and trust me, they exist, and end up hospitalised too.

If the CAB (rightly) views the lack of reporting of DV as a scandal... does it add to the problem by seemingly ignoring how DV impacts on such a large segment of society in their study?

Aren't men citizens too?