New Guidance On Legal Aid For Victims Of Domestic Violence And Abuse

The Legal Aid Agency have recently issued some guidelines on accessing legal aid for victims of domestic violence and abuse.

You can access the guidelines here.

The guidelines explain what kind of evidence can be produced, (you now need to show such evidence if you wish to claim for legal aid support), how you can go about getting that evidence and what to do once you have it.

For information on legal aid generally, please see the following:

legal aid

David and Samantha Cameron – Politics At What Price?

It is election time, and our party leaders are doing everything they can to rouse the troops and blaze their campaign trails. That the televised leaders debate diminished rather than bolstered each party’s campaigns means Miliband, Farage and Cameron amongst others, will be looking to bounce back from their lacklustre performances this week. And although we have no doubt Farage and Miliband will offer equally galling comeback strategies, it is David Cameron’s latest election stunt which we find unacceptable, and a step too far.

Whilst we have every sympathy for the Camerons losing their oldest son, we think this piece by David’s wife Samantha is nothing more than a vulgar prostitution of their child’s memory.

The piece, in which Mrs Cameron talks about the pain of losing her severely disabled son, is clearly designed to appeal to traditional Conservative voters. It focuses on stereotypical gender divides (not as a personal choice but as an implied universal directive), and uses the worst kind of manipulation, both for its thin veneer and the Cameron’s use of their son’s death to gain leverage with families and in particular those who have disabled children. Published just before the election, which coincides roughly with the anniversary of their son’s death, and with her husband’s leadership in jeopardy, it can be no accident that Samantha has chosen to speak about Ivan for the first time, now.

That the article is filled with photographs designed to send out various subliminal, not so subtle messages, is in itself embarrassing. A large photo of their deceased son, Ivan. A photo of David kissing Ivan. A family photo where David is pushing a pram. A photo of the family attending a Christian service. A photo of the Camerons at their late son’s funeral – there appears to be no end to the display of private emotion they are willing to share to secure votes.

The photos tick all the right conservative boxes. David is a family man, a sensitive man, a religious man, a man who, it would seem, feels as deeply as the rest of us, and an excellent father. The last photo, which shows the Camerons with their daughter (the one they left in the pub), hovers over a statement which their daughter allegedly made about the now infamous incident – “I’m on chapter five of Daddy, How Your Life as Prime Minister Has Affected Me. Chapter two is when you left me in the pub.”

That Mrs Cameron says her daughter continues to tease her father about this incident, and chooses to put that down to her daughter’s sharp sense of humour, rather than down to a traumatic experience their daughter appears to be reliving regularly, perhaps says more about this desperate attempt to spin a bad PR incident better than it does about the Cameron’s parenting skills.

And yet many would not have judged the Camerons for this incident. All parents make mistakes. But it is David’s singular lack of tolerance when it comes to other parents around the country (remember his myopic take on single fathers?) that makes it so hard for any of us to buy this pre-election propaganda. And to use their late son’s memory as a call to action is beyond redemption.

If we were to assume for even a moment that this was just a badly timed exercise, in which Mrs Cameron felt the need to speak out about her loss, perhaps even to offer a supporting voice to other parents who have experienced the same (though there is no evidence of that in the article), any PR company worth their salt would have told Mrs Cameron not to publish her thoughts during the campaign. (Even if she really did just want to do an Angelina Jolie and share a very private affair in order to highlight the issue for the greater good).

The voting public is not as naive as it once was. With a greater ability to question party politics thanks to online debate and social media, there isn’t a great deal which escapes the voters’ attention today. And now, having underestimated the general public, the Camerons can look forward to other voices condemning their choice to use their late son’s demise as a way to pull heart-strings, and votes in.

In the game of politics, it can seem as if everything, and everyone, is a pawn. Mrs Cameron’s piece has not solidified her husband’s status as a caring and sincere human being. It has achieved the very opposite.

Double Standards In Language Minimize The Sexual Abuse Of Males

We feel a little odd writing this, but we have a news item here which we feel will make our male readers rather happy. Not because it involves the sexual abuse of males, of course, but because it is an article which highlights a double standard which effectively minimises female on male abuse. And that double standard can be found in the way we use language to describe women who have sex with boys.

The article, written by Jim Struve, a clinical social worker and co Chair of Male Survivor, starts by referring to a case in which a school teacher in America has allegedly had sex with three of her pupils, all boys. The item talks about the use of the word “relationship” when talking about this kind of abuse and how language influences our response to trauma. The piece also tells us that 1 in 4.5 males will experience some form of sexual victimization during their lifetime, and that this often occurs during childhood.

It’s an interesting read, which highlights the sometimes unconscious ways in which we describe sexual relationships.

Child Abuse Inquiry: Chair Under Fire For Marginalising Victims Of Abuse

Last month, whilst being questioned by the Home Affairs Committee, Lowell Goddard, new Chair for the Child Abuse Inquiry tentatively suggested the creation of a separate panel for survivors and victims of child abuse. She also explained her desire to create a separate panel to that of the core Inquiry panel – and it is this reasoning that has this week ignited a new row.

Although Justice Goddard offered up the suggestion of a standalone panel for survivors and victims in order to give them a voice within the Inquiry, she also clarified her decision not to integrate them onto the core panel. The reason she gave was that she felt they would not be impartial investigators, and therefore a potential source of difficulty for the Inquiry.

This morning victims have lashed out at Goddard and Home Secretary Theresa May for what they feel is a marginalisation of their role in an Inquiry which needs them and a decision which, they argue, is prejudicial. Currently, survivors and victims are not prevented from acting as judges or jurors in abuse cases under British Law so why have they been excluded from the central Inquiry panel?

The previous panel, which was an integrated board that included survivors of abuse, was disbanded after months of internal rows and a very public altercation between legal counsel to the Inquiry Ben Emmerson QC and panel member Sharon Evans, a survivor of abuse herself. Graham Wilmer, another former panel member and a survivor of abuse, was also the subject of criticism after an email he sent to a victim of abuse left the victim feeling highly distressed. What followed was a very visible change in panel makeup and background – the new Inquiry panel is heavily dominated by legal minds and of course, no survivors in sight.

Goddard’s comment about survivors’ objectivity at the Committee meeting last month was telling. Given past embarrassing scraps amongst panel members, legal counsel to the Inquiry, Emmerson, who at the time was effectively Inquiry Chair for procedural and other purposes, may have been tempted to throw his new found weight into the debate on the creation of a new panel and suggest a lawyer-dominated and survivor free board to minimise conflicts and disagreements. That action, regardless of its provenance, has now cost the Inquiry dearly.

A campaign to force a U-turn on the proposed membership criteria for the Inquiry Panel has been signed by over 200 survivors, whistleblowers and child protection professionals. It has also been backed by Michael Mansfield QC who at one stage was the survivor’s and victims’ favourite to hold the position of Inquiry Chair. In an open letter to the Home Secretary, the group expresses dismay at current Chair, Goddard’s view that survivors and victims lack sufficient objectivity to be quasi-judicial members of the Inquiry.

The Inquiry must get a handle on survivors and their culture before it is too late. For Home Office officials to still take the view, after these many months, that survivors and victims of abuse are at best a homogeneous group and at worst, dysfunctional and disruptive cogs in their investigative machinery, is a mistake. The secret to a succesful panel does not lie in excluding survivors, but in creating a panel with excellent chemistry, and that must include the right survivors for the task at hand.

Lowell Goddard, Chair for the Statutory Inquiry Into Child Abuse

Lowell Goddard, Chair for the Statutory Inquiry Into Child Abuse

Update: Child Abuse Inquiry

According to a news item on New Zealand website Stuff, Justice Goddard is now flying over to our shores to get ready to head up the nation’s Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

There’s lots to do. In the article, Goddard highlights the need, still, to define the written terms that will make up its remit. She talks about including a glossary which will offer definitions for all the key terms used, something we suggested in a previous post and so we are glad of the move. Justice Goddard also said in the interview that phrases like, the aim of “truth and reconciliation” will likely be replaced by “truth and justice”, because some survivors say reconciliation is not possible, due to what has happened to them. And she will, finally, be doing away with the word ‘historic’, acknowledging that survivors and victims’ of abuse live with the effects of that abuse every day and is therefore not an experience consigned to the past.

It also looks as if the Inquiry is unlikely to be completed within four years (not news really, given its gargantuan task) – the interim report alone is allegedly not due until the end of 2018. Justice Goddard also talks about the difficulties in structuring the Inquiry so that it is manageable, one of her bigger tasks before the Inquiry gets underway.

The piece also gives us some insight into Justice Goddard and her early adult experience, which involves England. An interesting piece, not just for its snippets of information on the investigation (crumbs we should really be receiving on the dormant Inquiry website, not through an online newspaper) but for a closer look at the new Chair of our Inquiry.

Researching Reform For Jordans: The Child Abuse Inquiry Must Radicalise To Succeed

This month for our column over at Jordans, despite the persistent radio silence from the Inquiry itself (a bad move even if they are scrabbling to mobilise), we have chosen to write about the pitfalls of Inquiry culture.

Having already hosted many inquiries for child abuse matters in the past, the UK is in danger of producing yet another expensive non starter when it comes to our children’s safety. So what can the Inquiry do to make a difference and will it be able to offer a unique approach to solving child sexual abuse and alter our embarrassing track record in stopping it?

We offer a couple of ideas on how the Inquiry might be able to change the course of history, for the better, and blaze a trail in child welfare.

You can grab our article here.

Note: There is a typo in the article as printed this month. “This would not create confidence in the Inquiry, but would allow the Inquiry”, should read “This would not only create….”


April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month – Let’s Pledge For Prevention

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in America, but that shouldn’t stop the world from joining in and raising the profile of this devastating global phenomenon. With elections just around the corner, and our party leaders pledging their hearts out, hot on each other’s heels as they blaze a campaign trail, let’s get them to focus on child welfare.

Child Abuse Prevention Month in the US started in 1982, after the introduction of the first piece of federal child protection legislation was ushered in, in 1974 – the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act . There’s a really good timeline you can view on the US Department of Health and Human Services website. 

This year will mark the country’s 20th annual conference on child protection which has been titled, “Making Meaningful Connections” and marks the 40th anniversary of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).

Other good sites to check out are the Child Abuse Council, and North Carolina’s Prevent Child Abuse. 

Closer to home, we have Stop It Now, and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation which runs Stop It Now. For anyone wanting to alert authorities to child sexual abuse online, excellent sites include the Internet Watch Foundation, who will look into websites which host child sexual abuse content, and CEOP, for content that may not host images of children being abused, but host other forms of content which are abusive or potentially illegal.

Our proposal for the month of April is two-fold:

For our politicians:

  • To make pledges about what they will do to prevent child abuse in the immediate future

And For the rest of us:

  • To be vigilant online and proactive, reporting any content that features or encourages child sexual abuse

We can help to protect the world’s children this month, and every month. Let’s do it together.


New Research: The Ongoing Impact of Men’s Violence On The Mother-Child Relationship

First published in January of this year, this research paper explores the legacy violence leaves behind within the family unit. Written by Ravi Thiara, a Research Fellow at the University of Warwick in the UK and Cathy Humphreys, a professor of Social Work at  the University of Melbourne, Australia, the paper uses interviews from 45 mothers and 52 children who took part in a project to support women and children after experiencing domestic violence.

The title of the paper is Absent Presence: The Ongoing Impact of Men’s Violence On The Mother-Child Relationship.

We add an abstract from the research paper below:

“…This paper draws from interviews with 45 mothers and 52 children who participated in an action research project to develop activities to support women and children in the aftermath of domestic violence.

A thematic analysis was used to analyse the data and explore the question: In what ways does the perpetrator of abuse remain present in the lives of women and children following separation?

The paper invites workers to recognize the distortions created by domestic violence that may need to be identified and addressed in the aftermath of violence. The ways in which past trauma, erosion of self-esteem and the undermining of the mother–child relationship continues to create a shadow across the present relationship are identified.

The continued presence of the perpetrator of abuse through child contact arrangements and ongoing harassment is also highlighted. The ‘absent presence’ of the abusive partner is posited as a concept to assist workers with a framework through which to understand problems in the mother–child relationship which emerge when living with and separating from a violent partner. The paper has implications for social workers orientating practice to focus on perpetrator accountability and support strengthening the mother–child relationship….”

If you would like to read the paper in full, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll email the paper to you.

Many thanks to National Child Protection Alliance for sharing this paper with us.


Question It!

Hello and welcome to a week that is bound to be filled with chocolate easter eggs and fluffy, stuffed toy chickens.

A recent report by The Vulnerable Witnesses and Children Working Group has recommended that children be given tours of family courts, much like the current school tours to the High Court and the Crown Court.

The idea behind the suggestion is to make the Family Court more open and accessible, and offer children an educational experience at the same time. However, unlike the High Court and the Crown Court, most of the matters dealt with in the Family Court directly involve children and are more likely to be personally traumatic for them – especially given that many may well have experienced family courts, either through their parents’ own divorce or even child welfare proceedings.

Our question to you then, is just this: do you think open days for children to various family courts is a good idea?


Conversations With….

Twitter is one of the most thought-provoking and engaging social media sites around, and we often find ourselves having conversations with people who have windows into controversial and curious worlds. That is why we have decided to start a “Conversations With” category, so that we can share the discussions we have with you.

Some of these discussions will feature professionals in child welfare, and others will feature activists and we hope a whole host of others who inspire and inform us and we want you to be part of the conversation.

We will take screen shots of our discussions, so that they remain authentic and transparent, and post them as images so that you can just dive right in.

We’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Photo 5


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