When I first read the above acronym I thought it was the place where I got my car taxed… and then I realised there was an L missing. Not the DVLA.

Domestic Violence and Abuse. DVA. The ‘L’ that is missing is love.

I’ve been looking through my A level psychology books to think about what I’m teaching next year and one of them has written that many women stay in relationships which are abusive because they get something from it; ie money, security etc.  It’s called the ‘exchange model’ of relationships; of which, more another time.

  • Why do you think people stay in abusive relationships?
  • Have you ever been in an abusive relationship?
  • Are you in one now?

So a whole generation of A level students will grow up thinking that DVA is something that women (and it usually but not exclusively, is women) ‘get something out of’. Wrong.

I’ve been learning a lot about DVA recently and it’s mind blowing. Mainly because before I started learning I used to ask myself; ‘why do they stay’ and I used to judge the women for not being stronger.  Maybe you have thought that too.

Of course the other thing that might be true is that you have had or are having and abusive relationship; 1 in 4 women will in their life time.

It is only within my life time that rape or abuse within a marriage has been seen as a crime; before that it was ‘tough luck you married him and you’re his property, even if you didn’t marry him too.’

The Welsh government have taken a stand and on 30th June a new bill was passed:

‘The Bill aims to improve the Public Sector response in Wales to gender-based violence, domestic abuse and sexual violence. It provides a strategic focus and ensures consistent consideration of preventive, protective and supportive mechanisms in the delivery of services.’

Good. It is needed.

When I was updating my child protection training at school we looked at signs and symptoms of the different types of child abuse: sexual, emotional and psychological, physical and neglect.  The training flagged up the link between DVA and child abuse. The government writes about the association here. 

The Article above states that:

‘Children’s exposure to domestic violence typically falls into three primary categories:

  • Hearing a violent event;
  • Being directly involved as an eyewitness, intervening, or being used as a part of a violent event (e.g., being used as a shield against abusive actions);
  • Experiencing the aftermath of a violent event.’

When I was doing my PhD research and interviewing kids who had been excluded for some reason, it was very clear that some of the pupils who got excluded most often were living in abusive families and all the agencies were aware of the situation…even though, back in 2005, I’m not sure what was actually happening to protect those young people.

Some of the signs and symptoms of domestic abuse and the effect it has in children are:

  • ‘Sleeplessness, fears of going to sleep, nightmares, dreams of danger;
  • Physical symptoms such as headaches or stomachaches;
  • Hypervigilance to danger or being hurt;
  • Fighting with others, hurting other children or animals;
  • Temper tantrums or defiant behavior;
  • Withdrawal from people or typical activities;
  • Listlessness, depression, low energy;
  • Feelings of loneliness and isolation;
  • Current or subsequent substance abuse;
  • Suicide attempts or engaging in dangerous behavior;
  • Poor school performance;
  • Difficulties concentrating and paying attention;
  • Fears of being separated from the non-abusing parent;
  • Feeling that his or her best is not good enough;
  • Taking on adult or parental responsibilities;
  • Excessive worrying;
  • Bed-wetting or regression to earlier developmental stages;
  • Dissociation;
  • Identifying with or mirroring behaviors of the abuse’

When I think back to the children I interviewed for the research, I see now that some of them were living in households where there was abuse or violence and yet I didn’t understand enough about it to spot it.  No one was getting hit, they had beds to sleep in at night, so it didn’t fit with what I thought of as DVA.

  • Do you know any children who are exhibiting any of these signs
  • What will you do about it?

I’m not alone, other professionals I have engaged with have passed over reports of anger, hitting and fear as ‘just normal family life’. No, its not.

Domestic abuse is all about control.  Not knowing when the perpetrator is going to get cross, being lied to, being walked out on, constant rows and silences, treading on eggshells, having to be good all the time so as not to set off a row.  Money might be short, maybe friends don’t come to the house, or they’re not allowed out, or maybe they are out all of the time as they don’t want to go home.  Manipulation, put downs, distorted thinking, blame all of these are signs of DVA.

I didn’t spot emotional abuse or psychological abuse then, even though the kids who spoke to me talked about being scared of their dad or mum and their moods. And yet emotional and psychological abuse are an offense as much as physical and sexual abuse.  I didn’t spot it then. Would you now?

There is a proposal at the moment, on the back of the Saville, Harris et al cases, that the law be changed so that anyone who suspects child abuse is taking place are legally obligated to report it. Not reporting it is, it is proposed, tantamount to condoning it and will therefore an offense.

This at a time when we are finding out that the Pedophile Information Exchange (sweetly shortened to PIE) was not only promoting Pedophilia as a viable alternative lifestyle, but was doing so from room within a government room, which, after all, was safe from police raids.

Who knew about it? Who condoned it? Who turned a blind eye and thought it had nothing to do with them and that it was ‘none of my business’?

Just watching the BBC video embedded in this article  is shocking in that it shows just how distorted the reasoning of the pedophiles is..and I quote from that interview ‘ ‘pedophiles do not exploit a child…it’s an entirely reciprocal relationship…the responsible caring pedophile always refers to the wishes of the child’

If the law changes we are all responsible for reporting our concerns.  No longer will we able to assume it’s nothing to worry about or that someone else will do it.

If  we can spot child abuse, we might also spot domestic abuse. If we can spot domestic abuse we will almost certainly spot child abuse.

‘If you leave I will kill the children’ is not just an idle threat, it happens.  10th July a Texas father has just shot his 4 children ‘a domestic situation gone south’ is how it is crassly described.  What would you do if you were so scared that you can’t leave and yet you know you can’t stay either?

‘Murdered by my Boyfriend’ is a one hour film based on the true story of a girl who was beaten to death, with an ironing board in front of her 3 year old. It’s on Iplayer here.  If someone had helped the child, they might have saved the mum. If the mum had had more protection the ending for them both are different.

It seems that laws are changing to protect both women and children (and the men in the same situation), but it is only ever going to be as effective as the amount of people who come forward to either say ‘that’s me, that’s us – help’ or for others to say ‘it’s them..I think I see signs..can we help them?’.

‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’ Edmund Burke

We have to be the eyes and the ears of the vulnerable, we have to have the courage to not stand and do nothing.

No one deserves to be, or asks to be treated badly, let’s do our bit to stop it now.

  • Do you know anyone in a relationship which you suspect is abusive?
  • How can you support the people involved?
  • Who else needs to be involved?

For my part, I’m starting another book, to raise the profile of and raise money for DVA.  If you have a story to share with the world about yourself as an adult or a child, or someone close you knew then email me by hitting reply.  The book will be people’s stories, in their own words, so we can all learn and from the experiences that some people live through.

Food for thought

Have a good day.


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