Tag: reporting abuse

What do you do when you see someone you love being hurt by another person?

What do you do when you see someone you love being hurt by another person?

Strains in relationships in my family are becoming ever more apparent. It’s not just strains. For my part I’m watching two people I care about in the family and worry about be knocked down, put down, undermined and controlled by another family member. I’m on the receiving end too. Right now I’m more worried about the two other people. I can get a little more distance. I’m struggling myself and upset and every anxiety is worse because I find myself in situations that resemble my traumatic childhood and that’s triggering – and the very fact I find it upsetting is used against me to say I am the problem. Yet I have someone else who loves me and a day to day life full of so many blessings with them.

When you see someone you love being hurt, even emotionally abused, by another person, what do you do? When do you speak up? When do you ask them something about it or tell them what you’ve noticed? This is is a situation where the two people suffering seem in one case accepting of being treated like that (even as they are upset by it) and in the other case totally oblivious to it and actually idolising the person doing it to them (likely because they have come to accept it, think it’s normal, actually believe themselves to be the problem).

I’m sure some people would tell me it isn’t my business and I should not interfere. The two people I’m worried about are both adults with their own decisions to make, although if this were a professional environment, one of them would be classed as “vulnerable” because of her mental health. However, in my personal and even work life, I’ve seen too much terrible behaviour and even abuse continue when, if someone had spoken out earlier, it might have been stopped. When I was a child more than a couple of people who knew our family had concerns I was being sexually abused but did not say anything, or when they did say something the person they told didn’t act. (I found all this out as an adult.) In my previous jobs, on two occasions I saw colleagues be victimised and bullied and accounts of events be twisted by other colleagues and superiors who disliked them; after months this led on one occasion to the person leaving and on the other to the person being dismissed unjustly. I’ve also been treated like that by a boss who intimidated, bullied and lied daily, until I was forced to leave my role. Almost everyone saw how the bosses in these situations were behaving but nobody did anything about it; it was accepted because of the bullies’ enormous power and threats. Recently there was a TV programme about a couple who kept over 10 children prisoner in their house in two different towns, neglected and malnourished, sometimes restrained and tied to their beds. It was years before the alarm was raised and the children rescued. In this time neighbours and locals had realised something was wrong, sometimes when one or other of the children managed to get away and ask for help, sometimes when the couple’s bizarre behaviour was observed. Again, for the most part nobody spoke up about their concerns. Could the children have been rescued sooner if they had?

Basically I’ve seen too much abuse go unchecked and nobody saying a word about what they see. I’m hyper aware of this because it would have taken very little, in a way, for the abuse that I was a victim of through my whole childhood to have been uncovered. How might things have been different if the GP who suspected the physical abuse when I was 6 had contacted authorities, if the school had followed up why I was suddenly withdrawn from the education system and isolated at home when I was 4, if the family friend who saw signs I was being sexually abused by my mother had said something to someone other than my dad or if my dad had believed her… might the abuse have been uncovered? Might I have been taken away from my abusers and kept safe when I desperately needed it?

Possibly not; I don’t know. Someone reporting concerns doesn’t guarantee action will be taken. If action is taken, it doesn’t guarantee that the extent of the abuse will be uncovered or that the right help will be given. Abusers are very clever at covering up the truth and twisting explanations and beliefs. I should also emphasise that in most circumstances I don’t think anyone who does not speak up about their concerns is responsible for the abuse continuing*. The responsibility and guilt for abuse lies with the abuser alone, not with the victim or their friend, doctor, neighbour etc. People who don’t speak out often don’t for the best-intentioned reasons, such as not wanting to accuse someone falsely or not wanting to make the situation worse if the abuser finds out that concerns have been raised.

I recognise that the situation today for the two people I’m worried about is not the same as in my childhood. I’m conscious that the traumatised me may feel similarities a lot stronger than they actually are, when my memories surface. This situation isn’t about a child trapped and controlled by an adult who has total power over them. It isn’t the same intensity of abuse. But it is about power and control being used to manipulate and exploit people’s vulnerabilities – vulnerabilities made greater by previous worse abuse they’ve lived through.

It hurts to see loved ones being treated like this. It hurts that they can’t see what’s being done to them or that they think it’s okay they are treated that way. I wish they could leave the relationship but it’s not up to me what my loved ones do. I can’t make them see the situation how I do. Nor should I try.

Is there some way I can help them realise what is happening and that they don’t have to just accept it? For me, something of a turning point came when it was made clear to me how very much not normal my relationship with my abuser was and that the abuser’s view of me, the view she indoctrinated me with, was not the truth and was not how other people saw me. It took years to start to gain this understanding. It doesn’t happen in one conversation.

My main fear is that if I raise the matter now with my loved ones and tell them what I’ve seen happen to them or what the person does to me, they will become so angry or feel so insulted (bearing in mind they are in close relationships with the abusive person) that they no longer want to listen at all or even end our conversation or worse still, cut off / cut back contact with me. Thus they’d potentially get sucked deeper into the abusive relationship. If they told the abusive person about the concerns I raised, she would use it as further ammunition against me and to turn them against me. Our relationship would deteriorate and they’d be more isolated.

I don’t know what the answer is and I don’t know where to get advice.

Ginny xxx

*Sometimes, this can be complicated and I might write about it in another post.

***

Picture sourced with thanks, from istockphoto.com

Slipping through our fingers

There have been several cases in the news recently, in particular two this week, of children suffering unfathomable cruelty at the hands of their parents / caregivers. Much has and will be made of the failings on the part of social services and social workers. How could the horrors and suffering go unnoticed and why were concerns not followed up, staff nor taking a more joined up approach, so the children could slip through the net?

I don’t doubt that there certainly were failings in the services. I’m not denying that. I can’t imagine the guilt the workers involved in those two cases are feeling right now. I’ve suffered myself and so did my mother and so have several other people I care about, because of failings in the organisations that should give support and protection, which let us fall through the net without intervention in times of crisis and without promised follow up or communication across different services. Sometimes the services involved have seem totally unaware of the harm this causes and unwilling to take responsibility. That hurts even more. Fortunately I have never suffered anything approaching what the children in this week’s cases did.

I’m not trying to deny that there were failings and I don’t want to hurt anyone who has been through similar experiences. However I think the somewhat understandable jump to publicise the blame attributed to the social workers and agencies masks some important points.

First, the perpetrators of the terrible abuse the children suffered were their mothers, father’s and family members. That’s the greatest horror. It is terrifying that as humans we are capable of inflicting such suffering on another, let alone on one of our own family or our own child. It’s particularly horrific that a mother can do this to her own child. It so negates every good and nurturing thing a mother is. It means no relationship and no home is immune to evil actions and absence of love.

Secondly, that is such a frightening fact and we want to know why. How and why can a person do that? What does that mean about what’s possible? About our human race? That sounds like an overly broad concept really. But I think it shakes us. Can we conceive that our world is one where what should be the safest and most protective relationship, mother and child,  is used to inflict fear and hurt and pain?  We don’t want to. We at least need some explanation. It’s easier to label the failing of a particular social worker or agency, because that we can understand. That we can name. What brought the abusers to use their own children that way, we can’t.

Thirdly – and this is something that’s hard to explain but significant to me as a survivor of childhood abuse – these horrific abuses can and do happen in secret and undetected. Trying to come to terms with what happened to me and questioning over and over whether the things I can remember done to me are true, I’ve often doubted myself and told myself it must have been my fault or I must be mad and inventing it all, because at the time nobody else realised what was going on and nobody intervened and people thought my family was normal (er okay maybe not but they didn’t often suspect the full truth). These two tragic cases in this week’s news show the awful fact that abuse much worse than what I suffered can indeed continue in secret. Therein lies the abuser’s power to control, manipulate and deny.

Fourthly, no more resources are coming for social workers and care and protection teams at the moment. The little glimpses I’ve seen from my work in hospitals, psychiatric services, care teams and so on has shown me loud and clear that there simply are not enough hours in the day and not enough people on the ground to have the contact and communication and time to spend directly with children, families, patients in need,  as well as following the ever more extensive proformas and completing paperwork that is required to meet the rules and regulations (which are supposed to ensure good care is happening but at the same time take you away from doing it).

This is no new or ground breaking feeling. I think most people in nursing or caring services have been saying this for years. But it’s still frighteningly swept under the carpet and denied by those in power. When I worked in a service that supported teenagers and young adults with mental health needs and social support needs, I would take the minutes of clinical team meetings. In one such meeting, changes to documentation for care planning and recording were being introduced, which would require nursing staff to (a) spend much longer away from patients, sitting at computers completing databases and reports and (b) in many cases require nursing staff to spend already limited professional development time on training in IT packages, not in patient care.  Of course, the aim of all these whizz new care planning systems was supposed to be a magical improvement in compliance with regulations about good care. However, nobody could answer who was going to be delivering the care during the time that the already over stretched nurses were completing the compliance paperwork. I wonder whether there’s a box in the risk assessment screen to record the increased risk caused by the fact the nurses and carers are filling in the [expletive deleted] risk screen instead of assessing the patients? 😉 Time and time again there was no answer to this impossibility. In that meeting, one or two nurses directly asked, how in the same shift with the same staff,  were they to fit in their work with their patients, as well as completing the new compliance activities being introduced. How could they do both? Which was to go when the time ran out? In my eyes the response was appalling. The nurses were told that was an unacceptable attitude to display and there was simply no choice and the compliance work was to be done. This came from a senior clinician who I had greatly respected and her response was totally at odds with her usual very reflective approach. Of course I don’t know the history with that particular member of staff who asked the questions and perhaps there was more to it than that, but there seemed a forced denial of the impossibility of continuing to provide good care and the level of presence on the ground with those we are caring for,  which is so important if we are to prevent tragedies like the children who slip through the net where abuse and suffering goes undetected.

I left the service I mentioned because more and more changes were taking clinicians, and support staff like myself, away from being able to maintain the personal contact with patients.  (I’ve since regretted leaving, I’ll admit.) Clinicians left too, at least in part due to stress and sadness around similar issues. They were a great loss to their patients, in my opinion.

A little later I worked a temp cover role as a secretary for the legal team that supported my local county council’s child protection services. Round about this time I thought about training as a social worker. I didn’t in the end. I thought I’d find far too many situations where my hands were tied and too many times bureaucracy stopped me doing the good that was needed.

….

I cry for the children that suffered and for those who so want to be present on the ground to help those at risk but who are taken away and whose voices are silenced when they highlight the lack of resources and impossibility of meeting the demands of keeping children safe in the field, and complying with everything that’s supposed to be ensuring children’s safety. One thing is sure and that’s that it is far too easy to be silenced – again both in the case of the victims and the carers pointing out the shortage of resources to help them. Let’s keep on speaking out.

Ginny xxx

Going to the police

[TRIGGER warning for mention of and thoughts around memories of childhood sexual emotional and physical abuse, reporting abuse and so on; also as I wrote I know I’ve gone totally crazy and this post could be frightening.]

I’m waiting for the police to call me. A DC called me earlier in the week and we talked about making a statement reporting the abuse. (I’ve another post I haven’t uploaded yet about how this all came about – will upload that as soon as I can. ) We decided I’d take a few days to think and the DC would ring me back this evening about 7.00 to talk again. He hasn’t rung yet. But I can well understand they’re busy and have emergencies to deal with. I’m just on edge and really unstable today.

However, my decision is made. Funnily enough my friend’s actions yesterday, when she knew I was in pieces and really needed help and had asked her please did she just have a little time to talk about how to get through reporting what my mother did to me – she messed around the time of the meeting, then still left me waiting 20 minutes, made sure we had no privacy and very little time so I couldn’t talk about a thing and then left me when I was really distressed and unsafe (why exactly do all this? Why not just refuse to meet? Why trick me again and pretend to be there, drag it out and string me on more and more desperate?) – all of that has crystallised my decision in my mind.

This is yet another time nobody hears me and nobody is there when I’m most desperate. When I try to tell them about this it gets brushed off, I’m not allowed help, I just have to keep going and be independent, nobody will listen, they say I’m making impossible demands. … when I have had absolutely everything I needed to be safe taken away then I’m thrown out on my own and told just get on with it you’re responsible for your self. … it’s a really sick game.

Nobody will help me. They’ve tricked me.

I don’t want anything to do with them again. I’m not letting them near me.

I will report what she’s done. I found out she attacked a paramedic, attacked my father twice at least, as well. So what she did to me she is capable of to others too. If others can be in danger from her it makes some difference too. I thought perhaps it was only to me. She had so many delusions about me. The things she did were always bound in some way to those. That we were being watched, that I had a special intelligence and knew her thoughts exactly and had plans to punish her, that I was causing my father to have a heart attack or her to be paralysed, that people had done things to me and she had to check it out and then show me what a woman I’d be taken to would do when she examined me – that was her way in when she started putting things inside me. Was it all bound to her sickness? How can we know? Her intent wasn’t the same as an abuser who take sexual pleasure from it if she was sick and doing it because of weird beliefs? What does that mean? Was it a crime still?

And so much was emotional. Does that count as a crime? She trapped me and trapped the family and isolated me totally and did quite a good job of the same with my father. She made false allegations about my father. She told me I was saying and showing my father had abused me sexually unless someone else had done it and she told me I had to tell her what had happened or that was what it meant. They’d be taken away and go to prison and all because of me. So I had to tell her. I had to stop it. I lied but I had to stop it. I could have got someone else in trouble with my lie though. I was 6 or 7 I should have, must have known. I took it back as soon as I made myself dare. I took it back and I hate myself since. I hate the foul thing I am to do that. I know I invented something – so I can never trust myself and never be sure because I did that. She told me for years how evil I am inside. If i lied like that perhaps I could be. It’s not perhaps. I am.

But she encouraged me in the story. She didn’t go right to the police. She told me I’d be taken to be examined. She kept coming back to me to get me to tell. She showed me books and wanted me to draw pictures. Something is not right. Something is not the normal action of a frightened or worried parent. Was she actually sick getting some pleasure from it? That thought has never been in my head before today.

I’m going to the police. They will have to listen when they take my statement. Perhaps they will tell me. Perhaps they will find the sick thing in me and if I’m evil they’ll punish me. They’ll take me in. They’ll tell me if it’s abuse or if it’s me that’s the sick one and invented in some twisted part of my mind. They’ll tell me if she was sick or if she was abusing me. She did hurt other people and maybe at least I can stop that. I need the answer now because I am going mad with this and this will be how I get it because everyone else I trusted has decided I don’t get any help and have to be left. I think the police are my very last hope now.

Ginny