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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Shropshire’s High Sheriff raises awareness of child to parent abuse

Shropshire’s High Sheriff has been raising awareness of adults being abused by their children during her year in office.

Mrs Dean Harris, High Sheriff of Shropshire
Mrs Dean Harris, High Sheriff of Shropshire

There is a perception domestic abuse is only between those who are, or have been, intimate partners but it is estimated up to 10% of families experience child to parent abuse (CPA), also sometimes called adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA).

Throughout her shrieval year, Dean Harris has been highlighting the work of PEGS – a national charity based in Shropshire which assists professionals and affected families. Now, she is hoping to encourage everyone – and especially the county’s business leaders – to find out more about the signs of CPA, and support available for families in need. This is especially important at the moment, given the 70% increase in incidents during the first lockdown in Spring 2020.

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Dean says: “It’s encouraging to see domestic abuse being talked about more openly, but we need to include child to parent abuse within those conversations. There may be feeling of guilt, shame and embarrassment associated with CPA but it’s only by encouraging victims to speak out that we can start to change that.

“It is a little-known and often misunderstood issue, with parents sadly all too often blamed. It is an invisible phenomenon with behaviours including physical acts (hitting, kicking, throwing things), emotional (belittling, using humiliating language), coercion and control (refusing to attend education, threatening to harm themselves or others), financial (constantly demanding money, stealing from the household, taking out credit cards in parents’ names) and sexual abuse (leaving inappropriate images around, inappropriate touching).

“Because parents may not feel able to speak about their situation, it’s important for everyone to be alert to the potential signs which include: parents taking time off work or being late constantly, the child’s school or police contacting them regularly, difficult behaviour being mentioned but minimised or excused, or them having unexplained injuries that they don’t want to discuss.”

Michelle John, founder of PEGS, added an increase was also expected in the current lockdown, with parents having the added pressure of home-schooling a child who they are in fear of, with behaviours becoming more aggressive.

“Our parents have spoken about how they fear lockdown, as they know the abuse will get worse and that they will be locked in with their child, while others have said they are in fear of being further punished by schools or the police as they are unable to keep their child in, get them to follow Covid restrictions or attend online learning.

“It makes it harder to offer support to parents as their child is at home, so we cannot always speak to them to see how they are or assess their safety. As an organisation, we worry not just about those who we support, but also about those who don’t have any support at all.”

Dean is calling on Shropshire businesses to ensure they are aware of CPA and the possible impact on staff who may be suffering.  The PEGS 2020 survey revealed almost 35% of parents who are being abused by their children have had to reduce their working hours, and nearly 22% had to leave employment as a result of their family situation. Almost 40% of parents felt they would not consult colleagues for help.

Michelle says: “There are many ways a business can support someone experiencing CPA: Domestic abuse policies and staff training should always include CPA – and displaying information around the workplace can also reinforce that anyone experiencing it will be supported”.

“If a disclosure is made, then it’s important to remain non-judgemental and not talk negatively about the child; make reasonable adjustments to working hours if it’s possible and safe to do so; ask the employee what they feel would help; and consider providing a space for expert services to attend and offer support if these are not accessible at their home.

“If you do not feel the person is safe then the safeguarding policy will need to be followed, and if you are unsure on how to support them effectively then do seek professional support. Reassuring them in the first instance that you believe them, it’s not their fault, and they are not alone can be so helpful.”

Search PEG Support or email hello@pegsupport.com for more information about CPA.

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