Written by Kudakwashe Nyakudya
Child victims of Domestic Violence & Abuse (DVA) in Scotland have spoken out about the realities of being forced to have court ordered contact with their abusive parents. They have also exposed the challenges they face in having their voices heard.
Often in our work, we see that it is normal practice by United Kingdom courts & social services – as well as members of other communities – to force children affected by DVA to have contact or to live with their abusive parent, especially after the non-abusive parent has separated from the abusive parent.
This is despite the well known fact that more than 50% of those with child contact arrangements with an abusive ex-partner continue to have serious ongoing problems with contact, including further child abuse that causes emotional damage and physical injury, neglect, and abduction1, 2, 3.
The fact that the courts and social services are involved at post-separation does not imply that the freedom and new life the victim and her children hope for will become a reality. In fact, in too many cases it is the authorities who complicate the experiences of adult and child victims at post-separation.
This often results in unsafe exposure to perpetrators, often done using force and threats. The video above which was commissioned by the Scottish Government is a clear report of the realities too many children face, expressed by children who have been pushed through the defective system of contact. The children also reveal how judges often misjudge their wishes and feelings, including fears of their abusive parents.
Contact is beneficial to children where the abusive parent is willing to reform and to co-operate in giving positive parenting, following the stipulations of the court order. But too often contact is used by abusive parents as an opportunity for perpetrating post-separation DVA towards both adult & child victims1, 2, 3. Also too often, abuse that occurs during contact is minimised by the courts and social services, and the abusive parents continue to get privileges with no reprimand.
This film is powerful and will definitely trigger a debate on professionals in places of authorities should be listening to the voices of child victims, with the intention of protecting them and improving their experiences of life together with their non-abusive parents, after escaping their abusers. Children must not be ignored because DVA causes multi-dimensional damages, even at post-separation.
1. Coy, M., Perks K., Scott, E., & Tweedale, R. (2012). Picking Up The Pieces: Domestic Violence & Child Contact. Rights Of Women, London Metropolitan University & CWASU: London
2. Women’s Aid. (2013). Domestic Violence Statistics. Women’s Aid: London. Retrieved 12 June 2013 from www.womensaid.org.uk/core/core_picker/download.asp?id=1602.
3. Thiara, K. R., & Gill, A. K. (2012). Domestic Violence, Child contact and Post-Separation Violence Issues for South Asian and African-Caribbean Women and Children: A Report of Findings. National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children: London.
© Kudakwashe Nyakudya 2014. All Rights Reserved.