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Partner and Head of Family Law, Rugby
Recently, Linda Jones brought our attention to Operation Encompass; a scheme whereby schools are informed if there has been an incident of domestic abuse in a child’s home to which the child has been witness. This feels like a big step forward in beginning to recognise the hidden wounds of domestic abuse.
One of the most powerful experiences I have had professionally was when I attended a short CPD interactional workshop which invited us to look at the impact of domestic abuse between parents, on children. Our small group was asked to sit on the floor making sure our eyes were closed or that they were covered by our hands, we were asked to imagine that we were a child in bed at night. Meanwhile the two facilitators, one male, one female left the room and closed the door and all was silent for a couple of minutes then sounds began to emerge.
I could feel myself straining to hear what was happening, I could hear two voices, a man and a woman seemingly having a conversation but as the voices got nearer, it became apparent that they were having some sort of disagreement. I could feel the tension rising in my body, a sense of trepidation as to what might happen next, sure enough a loud thud suggested a wall or a door had been hit followed by more shouting and swearing. The voices were getting closer and closer, the shouting more intense, I could hear everything that was being said now and all of it was unnerving, I didn’t want them to come into the room, I wanted to get away from the situation but had no choice but to be there.
Just as it felt it was becoming unbearable I heard someone move away and a door slammed, shortly after, the sound of someone crying reached my ears – it was over. Even though the group knew that it was just a role play the effect of being part of it was quite startling.
Sadly some children are subjected to this and much worse on a regular basis. In this acted out case no one was physically abused but to me listening, there was a huge potential for that to happen and my physical response recognised that; increased anxiety and stress, increased adrenalin levels inviting the fight or flight response.
Children I have worked with who live or who have lived in a family where domestic abuse between parents is the norm, can show their responses to this in a variety of ways all of which effect their emotional well being, their relationships and their school life. If schools can be made more aware of what is happening at home, they can have greater insights into the root cause of any behavioural change in the child rather than just having to try and deal with any negative behaviour.
Let’s hope Operation Encompass goes nationwide and that we can offer support to the sometimes unnoticed victims of domestic abuse.
If you would like further advice, please contact me.