Monday, 3 December 2018

Meet Hannah

Hannah joined the service in 2016 and took the role of Programme Support Assistant. Originally part-time Hannah proved herself to be a great asset and became a full time employee of the charity from April 2017. Hannah is responsible for contacting clients weekly and completing induction paperwork on a one to one basis. 
Hannah is also responsible for organising events, training, transport for programmes and monitoring clients as part of a research project. Hannah has a Degree in Criminology and Social Policy.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

FREE Training

FREE - Domestic Abuse Awareness Training - Monday 3rd December 2018 (Limited Spaces Available)
Phoenix House, Surgery Road, Blaina, NP13 3AY. 9:30am - 4:30pm. For further information or to book your place please call Hannah on 01495 291202 or email
Please share and tag any professionals/volunteers/students or anyone you think would be interested or benefit from this training 
(This training is not available for current service users of domestic abuse services)

Friday, 16 November 2018

Stop and Think

Great to see so many people including children getting involved in raising money for charity today. Unfortunately, many small local charities are really struggling in these hard economic times and can find it difficult to get support from big national organisations. If you are thinking of making a donation tonight maybe consider could you give directly to a charity you know instead?

Monday, 5 November 2018

Meet Yvette

Yvette was part of the original management committee during the formation of the service in 2002 and then joined the staff team in 2003 as the Project Co-ordinator. She was instrumental in the development of early relationships with partner organisations and also in the design and implementation of our evidence based practice. Yvette is currently Victim Safety Manager for the service and provides IDVA support to adult victims. Yvette is a leading IDVA in the region and ensures that the victim safety team, that she manages, are fully supported to provide a high quality service to our clients. Yvette has studied counselling, psychology, management and teaching and is specifically qualified as an IDVA and an ISVA. She has also recently (2016) completed the gender based violence service managers qualification provided by ‘Safe Lives’.

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Meet Lisa

My name is Lisa Winnett and I am a Blaenau Gwent County Borough Councillor. I fully support the excellent work and support that Phoenix Domestic Abuse give to victims, especially how their dedicated team of staff help people to better their lives through long term support.  Many people do not realise the intervention work that Phoenix also carries out with young people who are showing signs of controlling and abusive behaviour, plus they also work with perpetrators to try and help to change a person’s abusive behaviour and stop them from abusing others in the future. I am more than happy to help and support Phoenix with the work that they do, as they do provide a lifesaving service to many people when they are at the lowest point of their lives due to abuse, their work is a much-valued service.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

BBC Panorama

The next episode of BBC Panorama on Monday (8:30pm in England and 9:30pm in Wales) will include an interview with our Perpetrator Intervention Manager Lidia, will feature our perpetrator programme and comparison to other programmes from across the UK and will also focus on a couple we have supported for over 12 months 🙂 Rogan Productions BBC One
Please share this post and watch the episode and let us know what you think - lets get involved in the discussion and support those brave enough to share their story!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Meet Lidia

Lidia joined the service in 2016 as a Victim Safety Officer. Lidia has recently taken the role of Perpetrator Officer which involves delivering intervention to perpetrators of domestic abuse on a 1-1 basis and group sessions. Prior to joining the service Lidia was a Crisis Worker at Bristol Hospital where she provided support to victims of rape and sexual assault. Lidia has conducted research in HMP Parc and has a Degree in Psychology and a Masters in Forensic Psychology.

Monday, 27 August 2018

Meet Vanessa

Vanessa joined the service in 2011 as a Children’s Support Worker. Vanessa has since taken the role of Youth Respect Parenting Officer. Vanessa works directly with parents of young people (11-18) that are displaying abusive behaviours and facilitates restorative family meetings. Vanessa is also the child protection lead. Prior to joining the service Vanessa gained 13 years’ experience in Children’s Services as a Deputy Manager at a nursery and a Family Support Worker. Vanessa is qualified in working with children, young people and families.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Claire Bennett's Sponsored Head Shave 2018

Claire Bennett has raised nearly £400 online and in cash for Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services by having her hair shaved. Let's try and get to £500 which is double her original target

Monday, 30 July 2018

Review Us

If you have attended any of our training or worked with us as a professional or a service user could you please leave a review on our Facebook page? 

Claire Bennett's Sponsored Head Shave 2018

Claire Bennett, one of our local supporters and friends has kindly volunteered to have her hair shaved to raise money for Phoenix DAS. We are very grateful for Claire's support and would like to ask all our supporters to sponsor Claire. This can be done online or please message us or call us on 01495291202 to arrange an alternative method. 


Thursday, 26 July 2018

Meet Rebecca

Rebecca joined the service in 2008 as a Support Worker. In 2010 Rebecca took the role of IDVA and now covers Torfaen supporting high risk victims of domestic abuse, providing a specialist advocacy role, crisis work, institutional advocacy, risk assessment, safety planning and supporting clients through the Criminal Justice System. Prior to joining the service Rebecca worked for Women’s Aid as a Crisis Intervention Worker. Rebecca is a qualified IDVA, ISVA and has a Degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Give as you Live

Online shopping via Give as you Live is the easiest way for you to raise funds for Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services with NO COST TO YOU!
You can shop via Give as you Live on your computer/laptop or you can download the app on your phone 
Please sign up to continue your support 


The school holidays can be great, there’s no homework to complete for parents to check, July and August should bring blue skies and hot weather, plus there is the ability to sleep as late as you like. For both parents and children, the summer holidays can be heaven.

It’s no surprise that the police report the number of calls drop during the summer months. This must indicate that families are truly happy when they are together, right?

Sadly, for either a parent or child experiencing domestic abuse, factors such as extra time spent together can often make it difficult for people to seek help, or even escape. The increased time of being in an unstable household can lead to multiple feelings of fear and isolation, with a greater chance of experiencing violence and abuse.

For a parent, the added responsibility of keeping children entertained over the six weeks can add tremendous pressure, especially with a rise in temperature.

If you feel like you need to talk to someone, call us on 01495291202

Monday, 23 July 2018

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Foster Homes Needed!

Help4Wales Foundation Animal Safe Haven is looking for kind, warm-hearted and loving individuals to become animal fosterers. You will play a vital part in temporarily caring for animals and improving the lives of victims fleeing domestic abuse. You provide the love and care. Animal Safe Haven will provide a full health check, all food and care essentials including an animal identity card for any vet treatment required. For more information or to apply please visit the website.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018


We have a few spaces left on our Increasing the Safety of Victims Training on Tuesday 17th July. This training is 9:30am - 4:30pm at Phoenix House and costs £50. You will need to have completed our Domestic Abuse Awareness Training or a relevant training course. If you would like to book onto this training or for information on other training please call us on 01495291202 or email us at 

Wednesday, 20 June 2018


We came across this powerful poem about domestic abuse which has got us talking in the office. Although thought provoking some of us feel that this could be seen as victim blaming and we believe that the responsibility for change should sit with the perpetrator of the abuse. At Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services we deliver a perpetrator programme as well as victim interventions although we realise that not all perpetrators have the opportunity or motivation to change.
I got flowers today. It wasn't my birthday or any other special day.
We had our first argument last night, And he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt me. I know he is sorry and didn't mean the things he said
Because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today. It wasn't our anniversary or any other special day. Last night, he threw me into a wall and started to choke me. It seemed like a
nightmare. I couldn't believe it was real. I woke up this morning sore and bruised all over. I know he must be sorry,
Because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today, and it wasn't Mother's Day or any other special day. Last night, he beat me up again. And it was much worse than all the other times. If I leave him, what will I do? How will I take care of my kids? What about money? I'm afraid of him and scared to leave. But I know he must be sorry,
Because he sent me flowers today.
I got flowers today. Today was a very special day. It was the day of my funeral. Last night, he finally killed me. He beat me to death. If only I had gathered enough courage and strength to leave him, I would not have gotten flowers today.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Give as you Live

Plan your summer entertainment via Give as you Live to entertain the kids during the summer holidays! Lots of things to do including days out at top Theme Parks and Go Ape Tribe or garden games from ebay and Argos. Everything can be purchased via Give as you Live which will then raise a free donation for us too!

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

The Diary Room

The Diary Room is an inflatable consultation structure that can be positioned anywhere, inside or out, shopping centres, youth clubs, schools, supermarkets, community centres, festivals, to name just a few… the Diary Room has the versatility to be used anywhere.
So what’s different from every other consultation tool out there? The Diary Room is a one of a kind innovation. Not only a practical and effective way of consulting with people, but service providers and decision makers can see real people giving real views on any subject.
To find out more or to book the diary room please call us on 01495 291202 or email us at

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Reducing the Prevalence of Domestic Violence and Abuse.

Our Perpetrator Officer Lidia is currently at a conference today for Reducing the Prevalence of Domestic Violence and Abuse.

Monday, 11 June 2018

Powerful Pictures

 We came across these powerful photos and would love to get your comments on them 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Amazon Smile

Tripled donations with every qualifying purchase - from 15 to 29 June, AmazonSmile is tripling its donation rate. Support Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services by starting your shopping at

Friday, 1 June 2018


The following training courses are now available:
Friday 29th June - Understanding the Effects of Domestic Abuse on Children - Cost £50
Tuesday 17th July - Understanding Perpetrators of Domestic Abuse - Cost £50
Monday 13th August - Domestic Abuse Awareness Training - Cost FREE
All courses are a full day and learners will need to have completed the Domestic Abuse Awareness Training prior to attending any of the other courses.
For more information or to book your place please email or call the office and ask for Hannah on 01495291202.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

May Newsletter

Please click on the link to check out our May newsletter "The Phoenix Flyer" If you would like to be added to our mailing list you can do this on our website or you can email us directly at You can just put "add to list" in the subject box. You can also use the Newsletter Signup button on our Facebook Page or message us on Facebook Please share…/…/05/Phoenix-Flyer-May-Edition.pdf

Royal Training Day

How about this for commitment? Two members of our staff, Sarah and Linzi, were delivering Domestic Abuse Awareness Training during last Saturday's Royal Wedding. This training was specially requested to be run on a Saturday as it was delivered to childcare workers who are busy during the week. Despite how beautiful the weather was, and all the fun they were missing out on, Sarah and Linzi ensured the training was fun and informative. Never ones to let people miss out, they donned these disguises to bring a royal air to the day.

The team also offer a  FREE one day professional training course every month which  includes an introduction to domestic abuse, recognizing the signs, the dynamics of an abusive relationship, how to seek help and sharing best practice.

If you would like to find out more about this training or our other available training please contact us on 01495291202 or email You can also message us on Facebook or find further information on our website 

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Garfield Weston Anniversary

Phoenix DAS were extremely honoured this month to receive an invitation from His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales to a very special celebration held at Buckingham Palace. The reception was to mark the 60th anniversary of the Garfield Weston Foundation who are one of the funders of our work. The Foundation was established in 1958 by Garfield Weston who endowed it with 80% shares in the family business with the aim of benefiting the nation. The foundation has supported a wide range of projects covering areas such as the arts, the environment, education, health, science, and many projects directly supporting our communities. We are extremely lucky to have received a contribution from the foundation towards our core funding which allows us the security to continue delivering services where they are needed most. The reception was attended by Cath James (CEO) and William Davies (Chairman) and was a truly memorable event. It was a great chance to meet representatives of the foundation as well as to talk to people from a wide variety of other projects. This was, of course, made even more exciting as it took place in such a grand venue and included some wonderful canapes and champagne. We would like to send a massive thank you to all at the Garfield Weston Foundation for the invite and for the support they give us, and of course to HRH The Prince of Wales and all the staff at the Palace for hosting this special occasion.

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

What is a Success?

Phoenix Domestic Abuse Services receives over 600 referrals each year and of these engages with around 200 victims of domestic abuse, 50 perpetrators and 35 young people.  Each individual has a unique story and our work is person centred and adapted to meet those individual needs.
The following is a typical story of a couple who have worked with the service.
Diane and Jack had been together for a few months when the police first attended.  Diane had called the police and reported that violence and threats had been used. During the next 12 months there were 10 incidents where the police attended and completed a risk assessment form.  On 3 of these occasions Diane gave consent for a referral to be made to Phoenix DAS.  A number of these incidents were classified as High Risk and agencies were trying to engage both Diane and Jack. 
A referral was also made to Phoenix DAS from Social Services.  These referrals resulting in Phoenix DAS attempting to contact Dianne on 4 occasions.  Diane later admitted that she was not ready to even think that her relationship was abusive, let alone do anything about it.  Diane did agree to an initial appointment but did not attend.
This ‘non engagement’ can be typical when a victim of domestic abuse first comes into contact with support agencies and Phoenix DAS is able to use a flexible and creative approach when making contact and engaging with victims.  Very often needing to ‘leave the door open’ for future contact.
Diane and Jack’s first child was born during this time and Diane began to engage on a one to one basis. She had an initial appointment with a safety worker (IDVA) where a full support and safety plan was completed along with a risk assessment.  With a lot of encouragement and support Diane then began to attend The Knowledge Programme.
The Knowledge Programme is a 10 week programme designed and developed by Phoenix DAS and delivered twice weekly in Phoenix House.  It can help participants understand and define domestic abuse, how it has affected them and recognise their power and choices.  It covers Power & Control, Isolation, the Effects on Children, Threats and Intimidation, Physical Abuse, Emotional Abuse and Sexual Abuse.
18 months after first meeting and despite claiming that they were no longer in a relationship Diane disclosed that she was pregnant with their second child. Social Services became involved, the children were placed on the child protection register and eventually placed in foster care.  Diane and Jack’s relationship was very much on and off.  However a referral was made for Jack to the Perpetrator Programme and they both were now engaging with Phoenix DAS.
The Phoenix Respect Programme has been accredited by RESPECT (a nationally recognised accreditation body for the purposes of domestic abuse perpetrator work) to meeting a safe minimum safety standard of practice in regards to its perpetrator intervention work.
The Phoenix Respect Programme is voluntary and is designed for people who are ready to make changes. Participants will benefit from 24 core group work sessions and additional one to one support sessions.  Participants consider key themes including Victim Awareness, Accountability and Honesty, Respect, Thinking & Behaviour, Consequential Thinking, Communications Skills, Partnership, Emotional Control and Healthy Relationships
Over the next 6 months both Diane and Jack continued to engage with one to one support and group programmes.  They also both completed parenting assessments with Social Services.
The rehabilitation of the children back into their care began. Jack completed the Perpetrator Programme and the children were back with Diane and Jack 9 months after being removed.
The couple took the decision to separate permanently and safely 6 months later with Diane having full time custody of the children and Jack having regular access.  This was very different from previous separations in that it was managed safely and there was a complete lack of harassment and continued abuse that had been present previously.  Jack and Diane were able to vocalise this to professionals and both felt emotionally able to be independent parents to their children.
We at Phoenix DAS consider this a successful result for the whole family and in line with our service outcomes of reducing risk of harm to victims and families in their current and future relationships.  For both Diane and Jack there is also improved sense of wellbeing and resilience and they have an increased knowledge and understanding of domestic abuse and healthy relationships.
By this time Diane had also completed all programmes and her case was closed with the service. Phoenix Domestic Abuse Service has continued to have some contact with Diane sporadically and have recently checked in to see how things are and what impact the work undertaken had with her. An annual review form was completed and Diane said she is doing really well and her final comment was…
“Jack got a lot out of the perpetrator programme and our relationship is friendly, although we are not together it is significantly better”

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Facilitator Training

There are spaces available on our Facilitator Training due to take place in October. If you are interested please see the poster below for further details or contact us on

Monday, 23 April 2018

Meet Sarah

Sarah joined the service in 2007 as Programme Officer. Sarah is now the Deputy CEO and Programme Manager with responsibility for developing and delivering groups for victims of domestic abuse as well as the delivery of professional training. 
Sarah supports Cath James CEO, in developing strategies, goals, policies and objectives for consideration and implementation by the Phoenix DAS Board of Trustees. 
During her time with the service Sarah has been instrumental in developing a full set of innovative programmes for victims which are currently being fully evaluated in line with the services commitment to research and development. 
Sarah is a very experienced trainer and facilitator and previously worked for a large financial institution for over 20 years gaining vast experience in training and facilitation skills. Sarah has qualifications in management, social policy and criminology. 

Wednesday, 18 April 2018


Unless you have been living in a cave this week you have probably read something about  Jordan Worth, who last week became the first woman in Britain to be convicted under the new ‘controlling or coercive behaviour in an intimate relationship’ law introduced in 2015. She was sentenced to seven and half years in custody for this and other offences against her boyfriend Alex Skeel and it has been the subject of much discussion on facebook and in the media.  There have been many references to her ‘petite’ size, charity work and the fact that the victim ‘Alex Skeel’ himself has hydrocephalus, a condition which makes him especially vulnerable to head injuries.  There is mention of his horrific injuries, I believe he had 118 when he left, and the many times his neighbours heard his cries for help and saw his black eyes. We have read about the fact that she scolded him with boiling water and did not allow him to sleep in the same bed as her. There is less mention though of the fact that he was denied contact with his own family for a long time and virtually nothing of the two children who were probably one of the main reasons he didn’t leave earlier.  Now I ask you ‘SO WHAT?’
I have read lots of comments from people praising his bravery for firstly leaving Jordan and reporting these crimes to the police, then secondly, for waiving his anonymity in an attempt to raise the profile of domestic abuse and particularly the plight of male victims.  I have read many comments, and even arguments, about whether men are treated fairly and how women only have to say they have been hit and police believe them.
I think throughout all of this many people are missing the point.  NOBODY should be subjected to abuse, anywhere, but definitely not within their home. This is the one place that they should feel safe. NOBODY should live in fear of upsetting their partner, feeling cut off from those who may offer support and salvation. NO CHILDREN should grow up in an environment where they can’t sleep because they are worried about what is going on in the next room , or live in the constant tension that exists in a home where domestic abuse is going on.  Although there are differences between male and female victims, to get caught up in the gender argument is, I believe, missing the most valuable lesson for the story. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
Now don’t get me wrong, Jordan, as the perpetrator of the violence and abuse, is completely responsible for the pain and emotional harm she subjected her boyfriend and children to, but who else?  What about Alex himself? Is he to blame for staying? Unfortunately in our society we often do blame victims for their own abuse, asking why did they stay? Needing the excuses of his vulnerabilities to explain how a ‘petite’ women could inflict harm on a man.  What about medical services who had seen him on previous occasions, and did not step in, I understand that support was offered but he denied any problem. His family then, why didn’t they step in? Would you allow a family member to suffer abuse without rescuing them? What about social services? Shouldn’t they have helped those poor children? Who else? The School? The Neighbours? The Police? What if the outcome hadn’t been as positive?
There were 454 Domestic Homicides recorded by the police in England and Wales between April 2013 and March 2016 (source Office for national statistics). This represents 31% of all homicides where the victim was aged 16 and over during this time period. Of these 70% (319) were female and 30% (135) male. These are surely shocking figures to anyone. Despite this we only talk about a small amount of these cases, the ones that stick out as different, but every one of them had family, friends, neighbours, and many had children.
So who cares? We all should! I believe that until we start breaking the silence and start talking about domestic abuse, things will not change. Responsibility sits with everyone to stop ignoring the signs, ask the questions, call the police, report concerns to social services but most of all to listen. Let’s be clear most victims don’t want to be rescued, they want to be heard and we need to start listening. We have come a long way in the last 20 years, but can you honestly say that you would call the police if you were worried about a neighbour, a friend or a family member, or would you think it’s not your place to get involved?  Alex’s neighbours have been publicly thanked by his mother and praised for helping to save him, would you do the same? Change is everyone’s responsibility so we ask you to join our campaign to ‘end the public camouflage of domestic abuse’

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Training - Youth Team

Our Youth team are available to provide training in many areas related to working with children, young people and families.
Children and young people do not need to see an abusive incident taking place for abuse to have an impact. They may overhear the incident or see the aftermath.
However they experience it, domestic abuse in the family home has a huge impact on the children.
Understanding the Effects of Domestic Abuse on Children and Young People
This course is available regularly (please see the Training Dates article within the newsletter) and includes the following
  • Improves understanding of the effects of domestic abuse on children and young people.
  • Considers the impact on children of various ages.
  • Examines the ways in which domestic abuse impacts on parenting characteristics.
  • Explores the roles and characteristics of children living with domestic abuse.
  • Looks at abusive teenage relationships.
  • Understanding Adolescent to Parent Abuse (APA).
Phoenix DAS Youth Team can also offer a range of bespoke packages to any group, organisation or service. We will work closely with you to design, develop and deliver workshops/training events tailored to your individual needs.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

My Story of Discovery and Recovery

Hello. I’d like to tell you about my experience of domestic abuse. I still don’t think it’s properly understood and I’m sure there are lots of men and women going through similar experiences.
One thing I want to get across is that it can happen to anyone, age, education, career, religion, gender, rich or poor, domestic abuse has no boundaries.
I work for Gwent Police. Ironic, isn’t it? You wouldn’t think that someone who works for the police would fall prey to domestic abuse, but that’s just it. It can happen to anyone. And for people in professional occupations it can be easy to mask the reality.
I knew early on that my other half was a bully, but by then it was already too late, I was caught in the circle of abuse. And because of having a job and a mortgage and so on, I didn’t think I would be entitled to any housing or whatever to help me leave. Working for the police didn’t help either. I was being subjected to emotional and psychological abuse – no physical violence, no injuries to show anyone. And I knew my partner only equated physical abuse as domestic abuse, there was no understanding of the emotional, controlling manipulation as being abusive. When we were (rarely) in company, he put on a very good show that we had a loving, perfect relationship. So who was going to believe me that I felt trapped and no control in my life? I did speak to certain supervisors, I was given counselling, I was put on anti-depressants by my GP. When I told my partner I had been prescribed anti-depressants, the response was “I don’t want you on tablets. You can manage without them”.
I put up with it for years. Then I hit my personal rock bottom. I needed to get that low to realise I needed help. And although I had acknowledged that I was a victim of domestic abuse to myself, I had never uttered those words to another person, because I knew once they were said they couldn’t be taken back. It wouldn’t be my secret any more. Realistically, my colleagues had known what was going on, but didn’t signpost me to anyone to get support. So, at my rock bottom, I was talking to a professional. I was describing what my life was like, and I heard myself say “It’s domestic abuse. I know it is.” That person did the best thing they could ever have done. They told me about Phoenix DAS, but there was no pressure to do anything. There was no reflex reaction to get me out of the situation. What sold it to me was how they said I could go to Phoenix DAS and get some support, whether it was to help me cope with the current situation or if I wanted to make any changes. I agreed for them for make a referral and within a very short space of time I was talking to my support worker. Again, there was no pressure to do anything, we had a conversation, I was asked lots of questions, which ultimately led me to the conclusion that I needed to get out.
I told my work colleagues and supervisors what was going on, that I was planning on moving out and things might get messy. I couldn’t have asked for better support at this point. I was also told about the new legislation that had come into effect, controlling and coercive behaviour. Legislation that was perfect to deal with what I had been putting up with for years. I chose not to make a complaint under the legislation, partly because of my job, but mostly because I thought it would make a bad situation even worse. However, the legislation is effective and if you recognise that you are being controlled and manipulated, I would urge you to speak to someone you trust and report it to the police. In terms of Gwent Police, when I needed the help and support, it was there, and still is. The organisation is getting better at dealing with domestic abuse in all its forms.
Phoenix DAS helped me through the process. I joined the Dignity program. I stayed with the program until I was strong enough to manage on my own. I have “graduated” now. It has been hard and there are many challenges still ahead, but I know I can deal with them. On my own. With Phoenix as a safety net if I have a wobble. Despite it being the worst time of my life, it has turned out to be the best. I am far happier, without a doubt I made the right decision.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Easter Egg Donation

We would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved with Zion Miners Chapel and Community Room Llanhilleth for the generous donation of Easter Eggs. These will be provided to children in Blaenau Gwent that have been affected by domestic abuse.

Monday, 26 March 2018

Meet Sam

Sam joined the service in 2016 as a part time Programme Officer and originally co-facilitated programmes to adult victims of domestic abuse on a weekly basis. The role was developed as part of a research project aiming to test the impact of a co – gendered facilitation team on outcomes from victims.  Sam quickly became a key member of the team and his role was expanded to full time with the additional role of Youth Respect Officer being added. This role involves working with young people (11-18) who are displaying abusive and controlling behaviours towards their parents and/or intimate partners. Sessions are usually conducted on a 1-1 basis but Sam also co-facilitates a Youth Respect Group for some of the young people. Prior to joining the service Sam has gained experience in both facilitation and youth work from various roles. Sam is currently a member of the Gwent (Ask and Act) Regional Training Consortia and has a Degree in Youth and Community Work.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018


Who is to blame when teenagers are violent and abusive? Society? School? The media? Hormones? Are they ‘born evil’? Or are their parents to blame? Even then, what about the nature versus nurture argument? I bet you have an opinion about it, I know that it’s something regularly discussed in our office. It’s a massively emotive subject and one that cannot easily be answered without someone saying ‘ ah but, what about…’. It’s complicated even further for those of us with children with a difficulty separating our own feelings of responsibility for our children’s behaviour from the horror stories that we hear about children committing horrendous acts of violence and abuse towards others. The other week I was watching a TV programme about the horrific torture and murder of James Bulger 25 years ago, and couldn’t help but hold the parents mostly responsible for the action of their sons, in fact I felt incensed to seen the fully grown men making threats directly towards the boys and throwing themselves at the vans they were transported in, can we really hold a ten year old fully responsible? It’s all too easy, I think, to sit in judgement of others and search for all the things that separate us from those terrible parents who obviously just don’t care where their children are, or what they are doing.
So what about when this abusive behaviour is directed at their parents? One of our projects deals directly with this issue, providing interventions and support to those families experiencing adolescent to parent abuse. For those of you that think that we are working with young people who are ‘acting out’ in a way most teenagers do, please believe me this is not the case. Some of these young people use all the tactics of adult perpetrators of domestic abuse to control their families. We see significant incidents of physical, emotional, financial and even sexual abuse, that often go entirely unreported to anyone. One of the things that shocks me the most is that, after reading a referral filled with stories of a mother feeling afraid to do anything for risk of physical reprimand and younger siblings being terrorised and controlled, we are greeted at the door by an angelic looking twelve year old, who looks more like they should be writing a letter to Santa than facing removal from their family home as a protective measure for others.
So who is to blame? I am afraid there isn’t an easy answer to that although there are patterns that we see too often for it to be mere coincidence. The families that we see have, more often than not, experienced significant trauma in the past. This trauma can vary and includes incidence of parental substance misuse, mental health issues, serious illness of a parent and bereavement. However, the most common cause, by far, is domestic abuse between parents. From this, we think, things can develop in two different ways.
The first, which we have seen in male and female young people, is when a young person ‘steps up’ into a parenting role themselves. This can be seen as really helpful at first with them taking on responsibility for caring for siblings, cleaning, cooking and often becoming the emotional support for the parent who is stuck in the aftershocks of the trauma itself. This can go on for some time with the young person feeling more and more powerful and simultaneously losing confidence in the parent’s ability to protect and provide. This will generally come to a head when the parent manages to make improvements and tries to regain the position of ‘head of the house’ resulting in resistance and a battle for control.
The second group we see is predominately, if not exclusively, male and seems to arise mostly when they have been witness to domestic abuse directed from their father towards their mother. In these cases the relationship has ended, sometimes dramatically, with criminal action, imprisonment or no contact with their father, where there is contact is often very acrimonious with on-going harassment and intimidation. It seems, in many of these cases, the boys have learnt that, as a male, they have the right to be dominant in the home and women should be obeyed in the home.
For parents in either of these situations it can be really hard to admit what is going on in the home, they are often wracked with guilt about the things their children have been exposed to, disempowered as parents and have little or no confidence in their ability to protect. They feel frightened that asking for help will cause people, and service, to judge them. Yes they may be guilty of over indulging their children, or having weak boundaries and little in the way of consequences being enforced, but let’s make sure we consider the path they have taken to arrive there. We’ve seen mothers who have worked hard, with support, to end violent relationships and prove to social services that they can protect their children, only to return to us years later in desperate need for support as their teens behaviour can no longer be hidden and has become dangerous to others and themselves.
So who is to blame? The answer, as I said, isn’t an easy one, but I think it is something that we all need to be more aware of, as those little comments we make when giving our opinions in the office or with friends, can make an already isolated, disempowered mother, even less likely to seek support.