Why is it so hard to talk?

Feature Pic courtesy of by Salim Virji on flickr - thanks!

I’ve never been short of an opinion or two. Sometimes I change my mind and change my opinion. I think it’s important to talk about stuff to test out whether your opinion meets that test.

I’ve got some opinions about how difficult we find it to talk about domestic violence with any sense of balance or nuance. I’ve written about some of the problems I have with that before (see here for example), and as it happens the focus of much of what I’ve written on the topic has been on Women’s Aid campaigns as they are the most visible of a number of bodies in the field. I’ve never had so much as a whiff of feedback on those posts from Womens’ Aid, not even to politely disagree. I think that’s a shame. I don’t want a dust up, I just want a conversation. I think Women’s Aid have important stuff to say, and I worry that they sometimes damage their message in the way that they articulate it sometimes.

And then recently I was invited to a face to face event on the topic at which Women’s Aid were talking. Having whinged a lot on the interweb, and having complained about the lack of dialogue, I thought I owed it to the debate to go. So I did, with my Transparency Project hat on. It was a really informative, thought provoking event. I wrote it up here, on The Transparency Project website:

What About Henry? An interesting discussion about how we deal with domestic abuse

We specifically invited a response from Women’s Aid to the questions I posed about the evidence base upon which Women’s Aid base some serious allegations about the Family Courts, AND from CAFCASS, whose principal social worker said some very surprising things about the role of CAFCASS, which sounded very much as if CAFCASS Officers may be being told that it’s fine to step into the Judge’s shoes and decide whether allegations of violence are true (you can see the detail of the exchanges about that in the post I’ve linked to above). I’m willing to bet this goes against everything many of my colleagues in the legal and social work professions had understood about the basics of how children proceedings work (not to mention the laws of evidence), so I think we deserve an explanation of why we’ve been doing it wrong for all these years if that is the case. Or CAFCASS need to reflect on how they’ve got their messages so mixed up.

I have to say I’m baffled at the silence so far. I really hope that we get a response. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m not – but isn’t this stuff really really important? Why can’t we talk about it like grown ups? We complain that parents can’t communicate, but I’m not sure we professionals are much better sometimes.


Feature Pic : courtesy of by Salim Virji on flickr – thanks!

9 thoughts on “Why is it so hard to talk?

  1. The answer, surely, is that there is no evidence base on which the Women’s Aid understanding of domestic violence is based. The growing evidence bases – such as those by Martin S Fiebert or the Partner Abuse State of Knowledge (PASK) project directly contradict the patriarchy theory of domestic abuse. Women’s Aid do not want to get dragged into a debate they would inevitably lose.

    Unfortunately, however much we might want a conversation about DV and other issues, you cannot debate with someone who will not engage. Women’s Aid’s paradigm dominates; why would they want to risk that?

    The Transparency Project is doing some excellent work and uncovering some facts about the CAFCASS approach to fact-finding or the continuation of targets in adoption which I suspect surprise practitioners more than they surprise parents. This is important, vital work, because it has a credibility which parents’ groups lack.

    The idea that the Transparency Project is to provide guidance on the courts’ response to domestic violence should be welcomed: the flawed Sturge/Glaser report has had too great an influence. One has to ask, however, what authority it will have.

    • Hi Nick,
      The Transparency Project are not planning to produce guidance about what the ANSWERS should be, only guidance on how the courts DO approach domestic abuse. It’s not for The Transparency Project to attempt to change or influence the law, merely to explain and demystify it – so we won’t be setting ourselves up in competition to Drs Sturge and Glaser!

  2. More’s the pity! Thanks for the clarification.

  3. Hi Lucy, it’s much the same here in NZ. The main agencies (all in receipt of significant amounts of mainly taxpayer funded $) consistently produce campaigns based on the duluth model. Any efforts to have reasonable discussion on possible alternatives are quickly shot down.

  4. I agree, I work with Women’s Aid a lot in CP and they do great work. That isn’t undermined for me by their publications but I wouldn’t have had the time to unpack the information in them if it wasn’t for you, I just might have wondered about the cohort for example. Well I did. I just didn’t do anything more about it.

    The other slightly tangential thing about DV that does my head in is perpetrator programmes, I can’t be the only SW watching men (& it is mainly men I’m afraid) moving into different households in relatively small communities. It is right that we ask children are protected, who we give responsibility for that to is too often mums and for all the reasons we all know about (or don’t) leaving that relationship is over challenging. It isn’t a small thing that there should be a review of what works well but it is complicated by what seems a highly contested arena.

    I also am v curious about the CAFCASS comments. I think they need to go to Anthony Douglas, they are alarming and I don’t think anyone should/would accept their finding of facts.

    Anyway, as I say I agree so just thought I would say so. It isn’t good for any of us to be so invested in any position that we can’t talk and shift position. That way is progress.

  5. […] posts focused on communication and inter-personal relationships : Why is it so hard to talk? was about how we struggle to talk across silos about domestic violence, and A plea for […]

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