Sunday, 17 August 2014

Justification?


A report appeared in my local newspaper that  led to  an online discussion about the nature of Domestic Violence where a 32 year old woman admitted she assaulted her partner by throwing a garden spiked candle-holder at him.  The third throw hit him causing a two inch cut.   It was good to see that a man felt he could press charges, although it was actually the man’s mother who reported the crime.  Good on her I say.
Anyhow, what annoyed me was the punishment dished out to the woman.   She got a community order which included 14 sessions at the local women's centre.    What are they going to teach her there ??? That she was really the victim as men are to blame for everything? Will they help her improve her aim so that next time it only takes her one attempt to hit her target???? Absolutely unbelievable.

Expressing this view led to some comments that seemed to want to justify the woman’s actions.  He must have deserved it, he had it coming, he must have provoked her, it must have been self-defence etc.  When excessive force is used however, it can’t be self-defence, more a case of mutual violence.

And yet, were the gender roles reversed, no-one would try and justify such action.  It would be wrong because he was a nasty man attacking an innocent woman.  He certainly would not have got a community order punishment which included 14 sessions at a local men’s centre.  Dare I say it, his punishment most likely would have been at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. 

I’ve encountered such attitudes before, and I have to say that strangely enough, its women who will try to justify the actions of another violent woman.  It’s as if they can’t accept that women can be as violent as men,  and so there has to be some rationale behind the assault.

There is NEVER any justification for any form of domestic  violence.  There is no excuse for domestic abuse. 

Please don’t try to justify any one else’s violence.  They may be ill, they may need help etc, but that is NO EXCUSE EVER.  Think about it next time, any assault is verbally indefensible. 


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Hope


I’ve been meditating on ‘Hope’ for some months now.  It strikes me that hope is the one thing we all hold on to when everything else comes crashing down.  The appeal is that we can always hope for something better. 
For example, in a relationship blighted by domestic violence, the victim very seldom leaves when the abuse first manifests itself.  We ‘hope’ for change.  We make excuses for the perpetrator telling ourselves that they are not well, they are under stress, they may be drinking too much etc.  We hope that they will ‘get better’ or change and everything will be fine.  The longer the situation carries on, the victim realises that this particular ‘hope’ won’t occur, so the hope changes.  The victim hopes for a day when everything is peaceful, and tries to do nothing that would cause offence or trigger a violent episode in their partner.  However, even this approach is flawed, because the mood swings are so random and unpredictable as the perpetrator will find any reason to attack.   Finally, when the victim is completely worn down, feeling worthless and virtually hopeless, the glimmer of a new future away from the perpetrator presents a new hope.  Just how though, remains a mystery as the victim can’t see any way to escape and by this time, all rational thought processes have been destroyed by the constant abuse suffered.
People need hope to survive.  The oppressed often turn to religion because of the hope faith offers.  Most (if not all) faith offers you the hope of a better life in the next world.  “Today’s life will be tough and hard, but don’t worry” adherents of a religion will tell you, “because if you follow XXXXXX  or this path, you will be fine in the next world/life.”  The promise of something better in the future gives hope.  Pie in the Sky when you die.  Furthermore, if you look to a religion/faith for hope, its followers are most embracing and welcoming of you especially when they think they may have a new recruit.  They will do anything and offer all sorts of assistance to make you want to feel part of that group.   Mind you if you turn your back on that group, your so-called friends may no longer offer you the same hand of friendship you previously experienced.   The future hope you signed up to when you acknowledged believe in that faith system evaporates.  You are no longer one of the chosen ones.
Hope is always there.  Hope is not reliant on external circumstances or beliefs.  There comes a time when you just have to grasp it.  Any abusive relationship will never change and if you are being victimised, your only hope is leaving and starting again.  Staying will only result in further problems and difficulties and could even cost you your life.  That hope you may have of a life free from abuse is available to you, but you have to grasp it with both hands and doing that requires a big, bold step.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Karma


At a recent family gathering, I was asked what my views were concerning Karma.  It seemed a little strange as an opening gambit from a relative who I only tend to see at family occasions.  However, I’ve often posted about my spiritual journey which has taken me from being a Christian church minister  to flirting with Atheism.  So I guess, it wasn’t  that strange a question after all.  I had certainly been reflecting on my own beliefs and the origins of personal belief.  My initial response was to say that “it’s probably easier to say what I don’t believe, rather than what I do believe.”

I don’t believe in the concepts of eternal/everlasting or indeed previous lives now.  The only thing we know with any certainty is that we are living this life now.  There is no factual evidence for anything before or after.  I know that some people claim to have had near-death experiences that equate to their own particular belief of what happens next, and there are those who under a form of hypnosis called past-life regression.   My own take on these ‘experiences’ is that the person’s own belief system has already influenced that person’s mind, so your sub conscious tells you what you want to hear. 

Similarly, well-meaning Christians have tried to convince me of the errors of my ways in turning my back on their faith by employing  Pascal’s Wager.  Pascal's Wager is an argument in philosophy which was devised by the seventeenth-century French philosopher, mathematician, and physicist Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). It posits that humans all bet with their lives either that God exists or not. Given the possibility that God actually does exist and assuming an infinite gain or loss associated with belief or unbelief in said God (as represented by an eternity in heaven or hell), a rational person should live as though God exists and seek to believe in God. If God does not actually exist, such a person will have only a finite loss.  In other words, you have nothing to infinite loss, but everything to gain by believing in a God.  If the Judeo-Christian God doesn’t exist, you lose nothing.  It’s a hedge your bets argument.  Strange when most Christians/church teaching is opposed to Gambling, they ask you to ‘bet on the existence of god.’

As for Karma I can’t hold the view that my existence in a previous life, affects my current position now.  I have made conscious decisions and then had to live with the consequences of those decisions, many positive and some negative.  Nothing from an unknown past has influenced those decisions. 

However, there is a different type of Karma that we all often refer too.  Phrase like “What goes round comes round,” and “they’ll get what coming to them” has entered our vocabulary.   When someone hurts us or commits an injustice against us and isn’t punished, we use the afore-mentioned statements hoping that everything balances out, that the pain we have felt will soon be inflicted on the person that hurt us.  Does it happen?  It would be nice and rather comforting to think that it does, but in all reality it probably doesn’t.  My abuser has never accepted any responsibility for her actions and has failed to grasp the impact and consequences of her violent actions have had on me or our children.  While I hoped that natural karma would happen, so far it hasn’t.  She carried on living her live oblivious to the destruction she’s caused.  For me, I had to let go of wanting such karma to happen and move on with my life.   While I was anxious for my abuser to receive retribution for her crimes against me, the angst it caused me was a way of still allowing her to abuse me.    I guess I don’t believe in any form of Karma either. 

All that matters to me is the here and now and what I make of it.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Meeting the Criteria for Help , Support and Protection


Earlier this year, I also had first-hand contact with the local DV services.  Despite a desperate situation which cried out for additional support and help, the Local Authority decided that the ‘case’  didn’t  meet their criteria for referral.  I won’t elaborate on the case itself because it’s not only my story but affects others.  Suffice to say that you didn’t need to be an expert to realise that the mental health of the person concerned was a direct result of that person witnessing long-term Domestic Abuse.    However, not enough boxes were ticked, so the person concerned struggles on battling personal demons until another crisis point will be hit.  I wonder who will be there to try and pick up the pieces?

So how do these well-paid ‘experts  decide on who is worthy of their services?   Local authority professionals fill in a form and if they tick enough boxes, you get support, help and protection.  If you don’t score high enough, tough luck!!    There’s no support or help for you.

What follows is the MARAC Risk Identification and Assessment  Forms which is also called DASH.  MARAC stands for Multi Agency Risk Assessment Conference and DASH stands for Domestic Abuse, Stalking , Harassment and Honour based violence.  The form and questions are pretty much standardised right across the United Kingdom.

See what you think….

Referral Details

Most recent Crime Reference Number:  (if known)



Reasons for Referral:

o  Professional Judgement (Please state clearly in Background and Risk issues below the reasons. -

o  14 or more ticks on the Risk Indicator Checklist (RIC)     (number of ticks ­­­___ )

o  5 police call outs in the past 12 months between the same parties / people.

o Repeat Referral.
 To meet this criterion, the answer to the following 2 statements must be YES.
  1. Since the case was last discussed at MARAC, a further crime has occurred within the last 12 months.
  2. The perpetrator and victim are the same as those on the previous MARAC.
How did this case come to your notice e.g. report made to the Police or referral received from another agency.



Background & Risk Issues
Please provide summary of reasons for referral.  If a Risk Indicator Checklist (RIC) was used, or referral made on Professional Judgement, please state clearly the risk factors:




A MARAC referral must be discussed with the victim. Has consent been given for a MARAC referral? 
(If not, please complete an Information Sharing Without Consent Form which is at the end of this document.)
Yes / No




What RISK MANAGEMENT plan is currently in place to safeguard this Victim?
Please write in below, all safeguarding measure already in place.  For example, bail conditions, Non-Molestation Order, Safeguarding Meeting etc.









What SAFEGUARDING MEASURES is the REFERRING AGENCY hoping to achieve through the MARAC?
For example, housing support etc.










What outcome is the VICTIM hoping to achieve through this MARAC referral to help them feel safe and reduce risk?











 MARAC
                      RISK IDENTIFICATION CHECKLIST




CAADA-DASH MARAC Risk Indicator Checklist

for the identification of high risk cases of domestic abuse, stalking and ‘honour’-based violence







This checklist has been adopted from CAADA for use within the MARAC.  The primary purpose of the form is to identify risk to the adult victim and to be able to offer appropriate resources/support in the form of the MARAC for the most serious cases.

Practitioners must be aware that this is a risk identification checklist and not a full risk assessment nor a case management form.  It is a practical tool that can help you to identify which of your clients should be referred to MARAC and how you should be prioritizing the use of your resources.  Risk is dynamic and practitioners need to be alert to the fact that risk can change very suddenly.   The presence of children increases the wider risks of domestic violence and step children are particularly at risk. However, this tool is not a full risk assessment for children. If risk towards children is highlighted you should consider what referral you need to make to obtain a full assessment of the children’s situation.


Please explain that the purpose of asking these questions is for the safety and protection of the individual concerned. Tick the box if the factor is present R. Please use the comment box at the end of the form to expand on any answer. It is assumed that your main source of information is the victim. If this is not the case please indicate in the right hand column
Yes
(tick)



No
Don’t
Know
State source of info if not the victim e.g. police officer
  1. Has the current incident resulted in injury? (Please state what and whether this is the first injury.)


  1. Are you very frightened? 
     Comment:



  1. What are you afraid of?  Is it further injury or violence?  (Please give an indication of what you think (name of abuser(s)...) might do and to whom, including children)
      Comment:



4.     Do you feel isolated from family/friends i.e. does (name of abuser(s)………..) try to stop you from
seeing friends/family/doctor or others?
Comment:



  1. Are you feeling depressed or having suicidal thoughts?


  1. Have you separated or tried to separate from (name of abuser(s)….) within the past year?


  1. Is there conflict over child contact?



8.     Does (……) constantly text, call, contact, follow, stalk or harass you? (Please expand to identify what and whether you believe that this is done deliberately to intimidate you? Consider the context and behaviour of what is being done.)


9.     Are you pregnant or have you recently had a baby (within the last 18 months)?


  1. Is the abuse happening more often?


11.  Is the abuse getting worse?


  1. Does (……) try to control everything you do and/or are they excessively jealous? (In terms of relationships, who you see, being ‘policed at home’, telling you what to wear for example.  Consider ‘honour’-based violence and specify behaviour.)


  1. Has (……..) ever used weapons or objects to hurt you?





Tick box if factor is present. Please use the comment box at the end of the form to expand on any answer.
Yes
(tick)

No
Don’t
Know
State source of info if not the victim e.g. police officer
14.  Has (……..) ever threatened to kill you or someone else and you believed them? (If yes, tick who.)
      You ¨        Children ¨            Other (please specify) ¨

  1. Has (………) ever attempted to strangle/choke/suffocate/drown you?

  1. Does (……..) do or say things of a sexual nature that make you feel bad or that physically hurt you or someone else?  (If someone else, specify who.)

17.  Is there any other person who has threatened you or who you are afraid of?  (If yes, please specify whom and why. Consider extended family if HBV.)

  1. Do you know if (………..) has hurt anyone else? (Please specify whom including the children, siblings or elderly relatives. Consider HBV.)

      Children ¨          Another family member ¨       
      Someone from a previous relationship ¨    
      Other (please specify) ¨

19.  Has (……….) ever mistreated an animal or the family pet?

  1. Are there any financial issues? For example, are you dependent on (…..) for money/have they recently lost their job/other financial issues?


  1. Has (……..) had problems in the past year with drugs (prescription or other), alcohol or mental health leading to problems in leading a normal life?  (If yes, please specify which and give relevant details if known.)

      Drugs ¨          Alcohol ¨           Mental Health ¨


  1. Has (……) ever threatened or attempted suicide?


23.  Has (………) ever broken bail/an injunction and/or formal agreement for when they can see you and/or the children? (You may wish to consider this in relation to an ex-partner of the perpetrator if relevant.)

Bail conditions  ¨   Non Molestation/Occupation Order  ¨ 
Child Contact arrangements ¨ 
Forced Marriage Protection Order  ¨     Other  ¨


24.  Do you know if (……..) has ever been in trouble with the police or has a criminal history?  (If yes, please specify.)

      DV  ¨    Sexual violence ¨    Other violence ¨         Other  ¨

Total ‘yes’ responses    




For consideration by professional: Is there any other relevant information (from victim or professional) which may increase risk levels?  Consider victim’s situation in relation to disability, substance misuse, mental health issues, cultural/language barriers, ‘honour’- based systems and minimisation. Are they willing to engage with your service?  Describe:







Consider abuser’s occupation/interests-could this give them unique access to weapons? Describe:




What are the victim’s greatest priorities to address their safety?





Do you believe that there are reasonable grounds for referring this case to MARAC? Yes  /  No

If yes, have you made a referral?  Yes/No

Signed:                                                                                                                 Date:
Do you believe that there are risks facing the children in the family?         Yes  /  No

If yes, please confirm if you have made a referral to safeguard the children:     Yes  /  No

Date referral made...........................................   


Signed

Date

Name


Practitioners’ Notes





























Guidance on making a referral to the  MARAC threshold

The xxxxx MARAC has three criteria by which a case can meet threshold:

  1. Professional Judgement: if a professional has serious concerns about a victim’s situation, they should refer the case to MARAC.  There will be occasions where the particular context of a case gives rise to serious concerns even if the victim has been unable to disclose the information that might highlight their risk more clearly.  This could reflect extreme levels of fear, cultural barriers to disclosure, immigration issues or language barriers particularly in cases of ‘honour’-based violence. This judgement would be based on the professional’s experience and/or the victim’s perception of their risk even if they do not meet criteria 2 and/or 3 below. 

  1. Visible High Risk: the number of ‘ticks’ on this checklist.  If you have ticked 14 or more ‘yes’ boxes the case would meet the MARAC referral threshold OR

  1. Potential Escalation: the number of police callouts to the victim as a result of domestic abuse in the past 12 months.  This criterion can be used to identify cases where there is not a positive identification of a majority of the risk factors on the list, but where abuse appears to be escalating and where it is appropriate to assess the situation more fully by sharing information at MARAC

Please pay particular attention to a practitioner’s professional judgement in all cases.  The results from a checklist are not a definitive assessment of risk.  They should provide you with a structure to inform your judgement and act as prompts to further questioning, analysis and risk management whether via a MARAC or in another way. 

MARAC Repeat

A repeat MARAC case is one where any of the following types of behaviour have taken place within 12 months of a victim’s first referral to MARAC:

  • Violence or threats of violence to the victim; or
  • Where there is a pattern of stalking or harassment; or
  • Were rape or sexual abuse is disclosed.

Where these criteria are met, the victim should be re-referred to MARAC regardless of whether they meet the MARAC threshold.

RESTRICTED WHEN COMPLETE
INFORMATION SHARING WITHOUT CONSENT

This section must be completed for MARAC referrals made without consent and should also be sent via Secure email to xxxxxx   with the Referral and Risk Indicator Checklist.

The below link explains which of the above E-mail addresses you should send referrals to.  

Concern


Immediate risk / crisis                          
Risk identified through risk assessment
Child(ren) at risk/Danger to child(ren)


Danger to client                                                                  


Client poses a risk to self or others                                                       


Risk Identification Checklist
(number of ticks)

Incident/information causing concern  (include source of information)



Legal Authority to Share


ð        Protocol relevant ___________________­_______________    OR

        Legal grounds (please tick 1 or more grounds below)

ð        Prevention and detection of crime  (Crime and Disorder Act 1998)

ð        Prevention/detection or crime and/or apprehension or prosecution of offenders  (DPA, s. 29)

ð        To protect vital interests of the data subject; serious harm or matter of life or death (DPA, Sch. 2 & 3)

ð        For the administration of justice (usually brining perpetrators to justice  (DPA, Sch. 2 & 3)

ð        For the exercise of functions conferred on any person by or under any enactment (police/social services)  (DPA, Sch. 2 & 3)

ð        In accordance with a court order

ð        Overriding public interest  (Common law)

ð        Child protection – disclosure to social services or police for the exercise of functions under the Children Act, where the public interest in safeguarding the child’s welfare overrides the need to keep the information confidential  (DPA, Sch. 2 & 3)

ð        Right to life  (Human Rights Act, Art. 2 & 3)

ð        Right to be free from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment  (Human Rights Act, Art. 2 & 3)

Balancing Considerations

ð        Pressing need

ð        Respective risks to those affected

ð        Risk of not disclosing

ð        Interest of other agency/person in receiving it

ð        Public interest in disclosure

ð        Human rights

ð        Duty of confidentiality

Comments




Internal consultations
 (Names, dates and advice/decisions)


External consultations
(Home Office guidance, Information-sharing Helpline)




Client Notification

Client notified of disclosure(s)? 
Yes/No
Date of notification
Please insert date of disclosure
If not, why not?       



Review

Date for review of this situation 
(Review to include feedback from the agencies informed as to their response)
Yes/No
Date of notification
Please insert date of disclosure
Who is responsible for ensuring the situation is reviewed by this date.


Record following details of information sharing in case file:

·       Date info shared; Agency and named person informed; Method of contact (by email, letter, phone call); Legal authority for each agency


Signed and dated by caseworker                    Authorised and dated by manager