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Talking to children about possible physical abuse(19 Posts)
I wanted to pick MN brains on this as there is a possible situation but it is quite delicate. A friend has divorced recently which was triggered by an act of physical abuse against her child. She is suspicious that there is a possibility this is not actually an isolated incident. The child becomes very clingy to her, especially when left with the father. She wants to check with the child but we are both worried that asking may implant the idea if it is not the case (if that makes sense?). Does anyone have experience in this area and can help us phrase kindly questions to the child?
Sorry, just realised I've somehow posted this into adoption threads. I'll repost in chat or something.
This is probably a very good place for your thread as many children from care have been abused. Also, foster carers sometimes have to coax such info out of children. I am afraid I have no advice but hope someone else comes along soon.
Are we talking about physical or sexual abuse of something else, emotion abuse.
You do not need to say but if this is sexual abuse or physical abuse has the dad been legally punished for the abuse? If not, why not? Surely if you suspect additional abuse you should be talking to the authorities? Or at the very least a trained counsellor working in this area.
Advise your friend to seek professional help or this may potentially add to the damage done and cause further problems.
If the law becomes involved they may punish the dad and this may mean contact needs to be supervised. Which would be appropriate in cases of physical or sexual abuse, certainly while the child is young.
He is emotionally abusive to her (and the kids I imagine - certainly in front of them towards their mum) and the police were called by a neighbour when he was alone with them because she could hear him hitting them and they were screaming/crying. No action was taken but I imagine a report was made. That was the tipping point for my friend leaving. I think we are just concerned that for all we know he could be doing the same and swearing them to secrecy. When she is out he messages them through her (all in a Big Brother is watching you kind of way...). It's hard to identify marks too as he has a friendship that gets quite physical at school and often attributes bruises etc to that.
She wants to get a non-molestation order in place and occupancy order - they have decree nisi but still using the house as a base and staying away when the other has the kids. Does anyone have any experience of these?
The domestic abuse in and of itself may be enough to cause the issues she's seeing. I think women often down play the impact of witnessing domestic abuse on children and assume they don't understand what's happening but actually hearing mum being screamed and shouted at and being used to keep tabs on mum is incredibly stressful for children.
Your friend might find it useful to contact Womens Aid and ask if there's a CEDAR class that she could attend which helps women talk to their children about domestic abuse. I'd be looking at that first unless there's reason to think the children are being harmed. If there is a concern about current physical abuse she should contact social services who would look at changing contact arrangements to supervised contact.
Sorry you said physical abuse in title.
I'be not been through any of this so feel free to ignore me but...
Professional counsellor or other independent professional to see what, if any, abuse is on going.
Bruises - do they appear after play with child at school or after seeing dad? Your friends needs to ensure play at school does not result in physical bruises/injuries and when it dorsbhappen it is documented by school and her.
"When she is out he messages them through her..."??? Your friend's children are being messages by him? How? Why is she passing on messages from him?
She sounds like she and they are still stick on abusive relationship.
She needs to call women's aid.
They should not 've using their former home (now her home??) for him to access her and kids if his behaviour is abusive.
If there is a fear he is abusing kids she needs to get help to stop it.
It really sounds like emotionally she is still mixed up with him and he thinks he is in charge!
Yes it is a tricky situation. They haven't formalised the financial side yet and he keeps changing his mind on buying her out. I can see the control aspects and he has gone far more bonkers than I've let on here - of course all of the while shouting at her she needs psychological help (the irony!). I will speak to her about tracking bruises. She has been to women's aid and the kind lady there gave her her mobile to call if needed. Perhaps I'll suggest she take her up on that now. It does all seem to be escalating. He's always apologetic after each event but then does something equally alarming within days. I'm cautious about saying to much as he's hacked her PC before, gone through her phone and she posted on here once and he "found" it...
He is so manipulative that she honestly feels sorry for him despite his behaviour. She's still blaming herself and he makes her doubt herself every time he appears
She needs counselling and assertiveness training. It is not her fault he is an arse.
She needs to get angry. Get legal advice. If he doesn't want to buy her out I'd sell it and start afresh.
Hope she has at least three quotes on price for house. I'd see what women's aid think about the house situation. She I'd allowing this to continue because he has conditioned her to think she is on the wrong.
She needs to get angry and Gove him a time lone for buying her out or will be sold and she can go elsewhere. No property is worth the abuse they have all suffered.
If he is with kids in her house I would get the place full of Nanny cams!
OP you asked about her talking to the kids. I would say she should sort out somewhere safe to live first before talking to the kids. Also to get WA advice on that too.
Just thought I'd chip in with with my safeguarding hat on, if your friend is taking steps to protect the children and has separated from their dad that's great. You're right, it's very hard to speak to children about possible abuse without asking leading questions. Sometimes they'll never tell or disclose anything.
I guess the official line is that if you're ever concerned about possible abuse of a child this should always be reported to social care and everyone has a duty to do this, it's difficult when there's no specific evidence. It could help to ask at the child's school whether they have any pastoral support they can offer, a learning mentor or a parent support advisor who can help or a referral to extended services/their local cluster. I'm not sure what these services look like in other authorities so the best people to approach would be school if there are no other agencies involved. They will have a duty of care to report any possible abuse to social care but it sounds as though your friend is taking steps to protect their children so this shouldn't be something for her to worry about. In terms of speaking about it to the children I would recommend just starting casual and calm conversations about (depending on age of child) how it's never okay to hurt someone else or for an adult to hurt a child or make them keep secrets about being hurt and what to do if that ever happens to them. Maybe setting out some specific safety steps for the children to follow. They're unlikely to disclose anything straight away but it might plant a seed which paves the way.
A non-mol order could be helpful. In terms of domestic abuse (not just violence) your friend could ask for a MARAC (multi agency risk assessment conference) to assess their need for further support/safety measures. Contacting an organisation such as women's aid or behind closed doors could be helpful. Sounds like he's very manipulative and using 'gas lighting' which is a very common tactic. I expect he thinks he's completely reasonable and I'm sure he's reframed it all in his head so he's the wronged party. It totally makes sense that your friend may feel for him. Firstly his behaviour is designed to do this, but also, she's married him and had children so I'm sure she has a lot of complicated feelings for him. Most victims of domestic abuse don't necessarily want to seperate, they want the violence to stop but to stay in the relationship with the person they fell in love with. It's hard to understand that from the outside. The aggression and manipulation may be one facet of their relationship but to them there may be other parts of the relationship that it's less easy to 'give up' if that makes sense.
Hope that helps, it's a bit of an essay!
Wow, thank you for the posts! Sorry I haven't been on here for a bit.
Great advice. We wrote a timeline out - which actually really helped her see how frequent the emotional abuse/harassment was.
He has been OK for 4/5 days - bar an incident where we suspect he was telling stories to her mother to upset and anger her/push her against my friend. I suspect he's using her as a way of finding out more, but we will see.
Other than that she has seen her GP who has put SS in place and they will assess soon. She is also contacting the school this week to explain the situation to the relevant person.
We are both on edge a bit as this is the longest he has gone without some 'event'. Another mediation is due soon, so it could re-start then. My friend is doing so well, I'm really proud of her.
Thank you all for your detailed helpful comments x
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