An introduction to Ali's story

In this podcast, Dr Jessica Wild speaks to Ali about parenting her children while experiencing domestic abuse from her then partner, and her involvement with children’s social care.

Dr Jessica Wild, from Research in Practice, speaks to Ali about her experiences as a woman parenting her children while experiencing domestic abuse from her partner, and about her involvement with children’s social care. In this first episode, Ali discusses:

  • Being referred to children’s social care
  • Pre-birth assessment
  • Devising safety plans
  • Being dishonest with professionals
  • ‘False choice’ and feeling ‘blackmailed’ by the system
  • Practice responses experienced as replicating the behaviours of the perpetrator.

Talking Points 

  • Introduction and an overview of the history of Ali’s relationship and the domestic abuse perpetrated by her partner at the time.  
  • Referral into children’s social care and pre-birth assessment.  
  • PLO (Public Law Outline) or pre-proceedings meeting: the meeting considers what needs to be done to protect a children from harm and to establish if an agreement can be reached.  
  • Section 20 of the Children Act 1989: refers to the local authority’s duty to provide a child with somewhere to live because they don’t have somewhere to live or a safe home.  
  • Devising safety plans that go beyond just calling the police and the risk of escalation if the police are called for some victim-survivors.  
  • Family group conferencing and involving other family members to increase safety.  
  • Being dishonest with children’s social care due to the fear of the child being removed. 
  • The notion of ‘false choice’ and feeling ‘blackmailed’ by the system.  
  • The unitary response to domestic abuse which requires that women should leave the relationship or lose their child(ren).  
  • The fear of children’s social care as ‘more scary’ than the perpetrator of abuse and feeling like children’s social care sometimes replicate the behaviours of the perpetrator of abuse. 

Questions for reflection 

Ali has compiled the following reflective questions to facilitate conversation and develop practice:  

  1. Do your plans with families in which there is a perpetrator of domestic abuse truly support the family, or do they just tick boxes?
  2. Is leaving the only plan available to the family?
  3. How can you think outside the box to make a plan that works for the family and which considers each family member?  
  4. What steps have you taken to understand the experiences of the family from their unique perspective?
  5. How can you try to help the family to understand the complexities of domestic abuse? 
  6. How might you involve all members of the family in any plans that are put in place?
  7. Reflect on the ways in which typical practitioner or system responses to victim-survivors may shape the ways in which they engage with children’s social care and the measures put in place? Consider specifically issues of honesty or disclosure of incidents.

Ali’s poem  

Below is a poem written by Ali, which may help to begin thinking differently about your practice with families in which there is a perpetrator of domestic abuse:

Don't tell me I'm a victim then punish me for his actions. 
Don't tell me the statistics "it takes on average 7 times before women leave" then punish me for not being some miracle who went against the statistics. 
Don't put me in a catch 22. 

It's half your fault I lied, either way was court, so I took the risk and lied.   
Don't lie and tell me you're there to help when your end vision’s already in mind and is only to move the problem by just leaving him behind. 

And to do this; lie to me, manipulate some truths but if I lie you punish me, 
And if he manipulates it's abuse! 
One rule for you another me. 
He was the risk but the pressures on me. 

As mother it's my job to protect, well what about him as the father! 
You gave him a list of things he must do then it was only ever me that heard from you. 
He didn't engage, is it any wonder why? No one spoke to him until I got mad and asked why?! 

You blamed him, he blamed you. 
What a childish way from both of you.

You give me advice say I take it or court. It's not really advice that's blackmail for sure. 
You blackmail me with my child. 
What makes you better than him? 

Oh yes, you're professionals as I was told in the past you're my daughter's social worker ‘n what you say is that. 
We'll I am my daughters' mother and I won't be pushed around.  
I'm done playing games so from now on I make the plans. 

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