Content warning - some of this material may be difficult to read.
Whenever our sleep is disturbed by a clattering din outside, my partner always assumes a fox is scavenging the bins and rolls over and back to sleep.
Whereas I am up like a shot to the window, peeking through the curtains and peering into the darkness, fearful that something or someone is threatening our domestic security.
I share this because I want to share with you why I launched my training service, why I do the work that I do.
We are drawn to the work we do for many different reasons
We are drawn to the work we do for many different reasons. My own work is informed by both professional and academic perspectives. Both invaluable, but personal experience, or lived experience, whatever you want to call it, underpins everything..
The long-lasting impact of domestic abuse on children, and adults, cannot be understated. I have lived in a safe and secure environment for many years now, however domestic abuse was a constant in my early childhood. Those early experiences have left me hard-wired with a fear that violence could erupt at any moment.
As a child I came to recognise the tell-tale signs at home that things were about to turn violent. The deliberate way a key was turned in a lock, the awkward silence round the dinner table, the body language of my father. I could not have articulated back then how it was I knew the situation was about to explode. But I knew. Nor was my own experience unusual. NSPCC research revealed that 1 in 5 children are exposed to domestic abuse before the age of 18.
The language we use really matters
I was delighted when the Domestic Abuse Act of 2021 recognised children as victims because the language we use to explain children’s experiences of domestic abuse really matters.
Prior to the Act children were described as witnesses, not victims, the implication being that theirs was a passive experience and that they were merely non-participant bystanders.
Whereas the reality always was, and is, that domestic abuse experienced in the home, coupled with the constant fear that it will recur is, quite literally, the stuff of nightmares. Many children sleep very badly and live in a permanent state of stress. They may feel powerless and even guilty that they can do nothing to protect their vulnerable parent.
Some fall behind at school and struggle to make friends or have healthy relationships of their own. Some children end up being separated from a non-abusive parent, typically their mother, as they are taken into care because she cannot access the services she needs to safely leave the abusive relationship.
The views of people with lived experience are not taken seriously, or as seriously as they should be.
I am not suggesting that personal experience is a prerequisite for working in the field I have chosen. Far from it. But it does offer perspectives insights and solutions that should be but often aren’t valued as highly as other perspectives typically held in greater esteem. So often, the views of people with lived experience are not taken seriously, or as seriously as they should be. I have been in many a workplace, place of learning and conversation where a view, and so often a solution to a particular issue is formed solely on the basis of what has been read or what has been taught.
Come to that, I have encountered training materials prepared by teams with no direct experience of the topics they offer training in, nor any experience of training anyone themselves. Too often, this is coupled with a comfortable if complacent one-size-fits all approach that fails to factor in who is being trained, or where, or why they have sought training.
The messaging in the training I deliver is consistent throughout, but how I deliver it is always shaped by who I’m delivering it to, and I can and, when appropriate, do draw on insights from my own experiences as a young person, coupled with expertise acquired from years spent working both with and on behalf of vulnerable groups.