CCChat-Magazine_Issue-19

mingrob

The Last Issues of 2020



Contents

Editor's Notes

5 It's the last issue of the year and 2020 has

been....erm....interesting.

The CCChat Interview- Meena Kumari

7 Meena Kumari talks about a calendar, an

art project and the Covid meetings that

have revolutionised the DA sector.

The CCChat Interview - Stella Eden

15 Stella Eden chats to Min about economic

abuse, her journey to recovery and where

she's headed now.

The CCChat Interview - Grant Wyeth

25 Grant Wyeth writes about how the terrorist

Leonard Warwick used a direct form of

violence to try to alter the court’s behaviour.

The CCChat Interview - Rebecca Giraud

35 Rebecca Giraud talks OnlyMums,

OnlyDads a new free initiative for victims

of domestic abuse and a new book.

??????????????

Making The Invisible Visible



Editor's Notes

About The Editor

Min Grob started

Conference on Coercive

Control in June 2015,

following the end of a

relationship that was both

coercive and controlling.

Since then, there have been

several national

conferences as well as

smaller events.

Min’s interest lies in

recognising coercive control

in its initial stages, in

identifying the ‘red flags’ of

a potentially abusive

relationship before a person

becomes too invested in the

relationship, as that is when

it will be much more difficult

to leave, as well as the

challenges faced when

living with and recovering

from trauma.

Min has talked on

identifying covert abuse

and, with the use of

examples from social

media, she identifies a

number of covert tactics that

are commonly used to

manipulate. These tactics

will often be invisible in plain

sight as the abuser seeks

to remain undetected.

Min is also a public speaker,

and speaks on both her

personal experience of

coercive control, family

courts and the livedexperience

of trauma - as

well as more generally of

abuse that is hidden in plain

sight.

Let's Grow The

Conversation!

To contact Min:

contact@

coercivecontrol.co.uk

It's the last issue of the year

2020. I have no words, so I won't even try. It's been a rollercoaster year

filled with challenge and difficulty for many and with at least some of 2021

promising to be more of the same, I hope that anyone who is struggling

reaches out for support. The Helplines Partnership has a list of helplines to

help offer advice, information and a listening ear whether it is for domestic

abuse, mental health, bereavement, young people, disabilities, older

people, immigration, debt or loneliness.

You can find them on https://helplines.org/helplines

This issue sees me interview and also chat with three really inspirational

women- Meena Kumari, Stella Eden and Rebecca Giraud. You can also

find out more about what they do.There is also a mind-blowing article by

the brilliant Grant Wyeth.

Big changes are afoot for CCChat Magazine. After a hiatus of just over a

year, next year will see the return of monthly issues of CCChat. There is

more but I'm not ready to talk about it just yet but suffice it to say that it's all

keeping me extremely busy!

It remains for me to thank all contributors and readers of CCChat

magazine. Without you there would be no magazine and the invisible

would be even less visible than it is, and that is because of you all.

Here's to a Happy Covid-free Christmas, a sigh-of-relief end to 2020 and

fingers crossed for a better 2021.

Min x

Making The Invisible Visible



The CCChat Interview

Meena Kumari

H.O.P.E Training &

Consultancy (Helping

Other People Everyday)

offers high quality training

& consultancy in domestic

abuse, sexual violence/

abuse and safeguarding.

H.O.P.E was established

by Meena Kumari in 2008

and has trained a number

of professionals in a

variety of safeguarding

subjects.

Meena has worked in

front line services since

2005 - with victims and

perpetrators as well as

children and young people

and has also previously sat

as a Magistrate

In 2008 Meena was

awarded the Leicester

Young Achiever Award

and in 2015 Meena was

shortlisted as a finalist as

part of the Iranian &

Kurdish Women's Rights

organisation IKWRO

Awards for her work in

combating Honour Abuse

and Forced Marriages.

In April 2020 Meena set

up the national H.O.P.E

Calls looking at domestic

abuse within Black &

minority ethnic

communities during

Covid-19. Meena is also

the curator of the H.O.P.E

digital ART project which

was launch in 2020

www.hopetraining.co.uk.

I

n

April 2020, Meena Kumari set up the

national H.O.P.E Calls looking at

domestic abuse within Black & minority

ethnic communities during Covid-19. I

was super excited to be able to

interview Meena for CCChat.

Min: Hi Meena, thank you so much for agreeing to this

interview. For the readers who don’t know you, could you

talk a bit about what you do?

Meena: I am the founder and director of H.O.P.E Training

& Consultancy. Over the years I have worked for charities

whose social cause was important to me. I have a keen

interest in social housing and always try to develop my

professional practice within this sector. HOPE was

developed organically in 2008 and I'm specialising in

delivering training and consultancy around domestic

abuse, sexual violence/abuse and safeguarding. My day job

has always been within safeguarding and I am able to

support my work with HOPE alongside this. I also make

time for myself and my family; this is really important to

me, as burn-out and vicarious trauma can be a factor in the

type of work we do.

Min: How did you get into working in this field? Was this a

career path you had in mind or did you fall into it

accidentally?

Meena: I left university in 2005 and fell into domestic

abuse work actually by accident. I started my career

working in Leicester for a very small DA charity where I

was a DA coordinator managing a helpline. My role was to

support the staff and volunteers who were taking calls from

victims, perpetrators and young people. After working

there for a number of years, in various roles, I never really

left the sector!

I actually wanted to do Law at college and university and

wanted to be a barrister but never had the grades to pursue

this academically- I have now worked within that criminal

justice space- again in various roles so feel I still get to have

an insight into this.

Making The Invisible Visible


"These meetings were developed when grass-root organisations, survivors,

activists and even some policy-makers asked me if I knew of any forum where

they could discuss the barriers, issues and fears experienced by black and

minorities communities during covid-19 around domestic abuse."

Min: At the start of the pandemic you

started the HOPE calls which have been

an absolutely amazing way of bringing

together all the great work that is

happening within Black, Asian and Ethnic

Minority communities. What are you

hoping will come out of the calls?

Meena: These meetings were developed

when grass-root organisations, survivors,

activists and even some policy-makers

asked me if I knew of any forum where

they could discuss the barriers, issues and

fears experienced by black and minorities

communities during covid-19 around

domestic abuse. The meeting is simply a

platform; the real voices are those that

come on the call: they talk about

their experiences, how they want to shift

the narrative and the government to

listen to grassroots organisations

supporting victims. Some of the victims

we heard about fled the abuse at 2am in

the morning, or have no food, or want to

support their children, but struggle with

the dynamics of family courts.

I feel I haven’t really done anything other

than purchase a ZOOM account! The

survivors and activists on the call are the

ones who keep the meetings going. We

have to talk about how we can keep Black

and Minority Ethnic victims safe; even

before the outbreak of COVID-19, access

to specialist refuge provision in the UK

was severely limited.

Making The Invisible Visible


I have also found out about some very

interesting work which has been shared

with the network, such as by Dr Olumide

Adisa, Sistah Space, Breaking the Silence,

Craig Pinkney, Professor Aisha Gill,

Imkaan, HARM Network and

CharitySoWhite. I like seeing black and

brown-led research and work in the

mainstream!

Min: And you have a calendar! Can you

tell me a little about how the calendar

came about?

These victims and survivors spend much

longer in insecure, temporary

accommodation than other groups.

Organisations supporting them have been

struggling to sustain funding and

consolidate services, due to increased

hostility towards migrants, refugees and

asylum seekers. Many women from these

communities have been forced to go

home or face arrest. The community also

feel badly let down by the delay in the

domestic violence bill and are worried

that it does not address the concerns and

vulnerabilities of migrant women.

The meetings have been running since the

16th April. Nevertheless, black and

minorities frontline services/ activists

have been speaking about lack of ringfenced

funding, no recourse to public

funds, Female Genital Mutilation,

immigration issues, the lack of a public

forum for black women experiencing

domestic abuse, forced marriages,

'honour-based' abuse, the lack of data

from black and minority children/youth

who are witnessing domestic abuse and

related issues. Some of the members go

away and collaborate with each other or

even start those discussions.

Meena: The H.O.P.E calendar has come

out of the digital Art project which I

developed in July 2020. The Art project is

to raise awareness of and celebrates

black, Asian and minority ethnic women

working, advocating or campaigning

within the domestic abuse & sexual

violence sector. It is inspired by the

women I met on the national H.O.P.E

calls and I teamed up with artist and

University of Central Lancashire

Psychology graduate, Daisy Meredith , to

raise the voices of inspirational agents of

change.

It is a celebration of the black & minority

ethnic women who have come together at

these meetings to share their professional

and personal experiences to help create a

better, brighter future for victims. This

project is fully funded by me as I feel so

passionately about showcasing a variety

of women from the sector as a lot of the

public faces or public speakers or quotes

we follow are often only from white

women.

Min: What do you think needs to happen

so that victims can be sufficiently

supported?

Meena: The situation is worsening as

there has been a tripling in reported cases

of violence against women and girls.

Various women's projects have recorded

an increasing number of femicides but it’s

unclear how many are from Black and

Minority Ethnic refugee communities.

Making The Invisible Visible



The closures of schools and daycare

centres back in July showed us the impact

on children and victims, and the lack of

refuge accommodation provided for

women has resulted in many victims

returning to violent partners. There are

also challenges in terms of access to legal

support due to the pandemic.

We have had funding in the sector by the

current government,but it cannot just

stop when lock down stops there has to be

a long term sustained plan in terms of

meeting the needs of those who are

surviving and living with violence in our

communities. We have already seen that

government are releasing emergency

funding which is a huge relief to, but we

need to see that it reaches frontline

services. Also, we need to be aware that a

lot of these services did not have the most

advanced technology systems set up prior

to Covid-19; they were suddenly told to

ensure all employees could work from

home with all the right equipment

and again in November just as some

services were going back to 'face to face'

working, the changes began.

This has been a huge challenge and we

need to congratulate these organisations

as they have continued to support those

in real high-risk situations.

Min: If you had three wishes, what would

they be?

Meena:I wish that I had met both sets of

grandparents. Unfortunately, I only met

my mum's father when I was 11. I wish I

was a better swimmer and I wish that

coronavirus would just go away.

To contact Meena for more

information on the training she

provides, the HOPE calls and also

the calendar, please visit

her website:

www.hopetraining.co.uk

Making The Invisible Visible





MEET

STELLA

EDEN

Making The Invisible Visible


MEET

STELLA EDEN

Stella is an author

based in Sheffield UK.

Writing her story

helped her to find

herself and release her

voice.

“The Right To Be Me”

was published by

Pegasus Elliot

Mackenzie publishers

in 2017.

Stella continues to

raise awareness of

domestic abuse

and speaks at events

and local support

groups.

Her second book,

a self-reflective

journal, has recently

been published.

The techniques in the

journal have and

continue to help Stella

in her own sense of

wellbeing.

Stella is currently

under-taking training

to be a counsellor and

her hope is to help

other women who, like

herself,have also

been traumatized by

the impact of

domestic abuse.

I

recently

had a really good chat with

Stella Eden. It started out as an

interview but, if I'm totally honest, we

could have probably talked for hours.

Here's some of what was said:

M: Tell me a little bit about who you are and what you do.

S: I am an author and a survivor of domestic abuse. A few

years ago, I started writing after I left to understand what

happened to me, as suggested by my counsellor. I wrote

down what was happening and from doing this a story

started to reveal and that led to my book being published.

My autobiography ‘The Right To Be Me” goes into details

about what happened after I left and how frustrating it was

trying to get someone to help me with the ongoing

domestic abuse and stalking.

I have recently published a second book, a reflective

journal- this is a completely different to my first book. I

have created this with a strong sense of holistic techniques,

which I have used and continue to use in my own

wellbeing. Journaling has been a big part of my recovery it

still is part of my on going life journey and it’s led me to

moving into a different part of my life as I’m now training

to be a counsellor.

M: That sounds amazing. What kind of counselling are you

hoping to go in to?

S: It’s going to be person-centred. My aim is to specialise

in the area of trauma and domestic abuse. Having

experienced domestic abuse and having 5 years of

counselling this really helped me to move on with my life.

It gave me a big understanding about guilt, why I felt so

guilty all the time. It really helped me to move forward.

www.

stellasopenroadtrip.

online

Making The Invisible Visible


" I have spent a long time, after leaving,

reconnecting to who I am. “

M: Is this the direction you were headed

in anyway, or has it come about as a

result of getting out of the domestic

abuse?

S: It really wasn’t the direction I was

going to go in, to be honest. When I

escaped, I had no idea which direction my

life was going to go in. I just wrote down,

the word ‘happy’on a piece of paper that I

carried with me all the time. It’s all I’ve

ever wanted to feel. I was in so much

emotional pain. When I left, my focus was

on trying to recover from the impact and

surviving the ongoing abuse. I had no

idea that it would lead me to write my

story, which would get published, which

would then lead on to creating the

journal. I have spent a long time, after

leaving, reconnecting to who I am.

I have spent the last ten years dedicating

myself to myself and understanding who I

am and trying to live a life that I’ve always

wanted and it’s led me down the road in

training to become a counsellor.

I read a book about somatic therapy and

this is an area I’m particularly keen on.

I’m drawn to it because it goes into

an holistic area and talks about how

trauma gets frozen in our neurological

system and how years down the line, this

trauma can just defrost and as a result the

trauma comes up to the surface, and

that’s what somatic therapy looks at and

it guides you through the trauma to bring

some resolution. This really resonates

with me.

Making The Invisible Visible


S: The internal battles I have had within

myself have been relentless. When I first

started going to the counsellor they gave

me some tools to try and help me with

learning how to communicate again and I

thought, what else do I need in my life to

help me get back to myself? I needed to

eat better as I wasn’t eating at all. I was

trying to break the pattern of my abuser

who had controlled everything I ate. I

remember forcing myself to go and take

part in some group exercise class-I hoped

by doing this it would encourage me to

reconnect by talking to other women and

get myself back into society, because I’d

been so isolated I’d completely lost the

ability to form a conversation with

anyone. I thought the exercise classes

would do me good and help get me

physically stronger.

M: If you had to describe yourself now, as

opposed to how you were when you were

living with the abuser, what have the

biggest differences been?

S: Change. Change in how I live, who I

am, understanding what has happened to

me. It has been exceptionally painful. If I

could go back I’d tell myself that it’s going

to be hard but it’s all going to be ok. I’d

wrap my arms around myself. I can’t

believe how much I have changed over

the years. I’m a constant work in

progress, I don’t want to be perfect, it’s

too much pressure but if I can live my

best life and just be myself, that is the

most important thing to me.

M: That is such a lovely way of putting it

and certainly what I’ve noticed, in the

time I’ve known you is that you have a

serenity about you – as though you’re

taking whatever comes in your stride and

you’re evolving from that. Has it always

been like that or have there been

moments where you’ve really struggled

with anger, hatred or even feelings of

revenge?

I remember one time being in a dance

class and it was really fun. I really enjoyed

it but there have been many times when I

thought what is the point of doing this?

You’re doing it all wrong! Who do you

think you are? This constant battle within

between one voice saying you’re not good

enough and another voice saying yes you

can. This constant conflict going on

within my head has been debilitating at

times to the point I felt I couldn’t go

outside because of my overall physical

grotesque appearance.

It was a struggle with food as well,

because of this internal voice. The words

weren’t even my own, they were the voice

of the abuser saying you can’t eat that,

you’ll get fat, so it has been a battle but I

kept persevering. A few months down the

line, it wasn’t straight away, I started to

notice a change. I started to accept that it

was ok to eat that food, that it wasn’t

going to make me fat and it doesn’t

matter if you do get fat, it’s fine, it’s your

choice.

M: It really messes with your head.It

saddens me that you felt that way and

makes me angry so many have been made

to feel ugly or worthless by others.

Making The Invisible Visible


S: Yes, we have all this information inside

us and it’s not even our own personal

belief, it’s somebody else’s view imposed

on you and, in order to survive, you have

to adapt and you take those words in. I

did that from a young age. When I look

back at my childhood, if I needed help

and went to my mum, she’d shout ‘go

away’ so I knew not to go to my mum

because I knew what the response would

be. I didn’t want to go to my Dad, I’d

avoid him as much as I could and my

sister was aggressive and she would

physically assault me, telling me I don’t

deserve to live, who do I think I am?

Trying to make sense of that as a young

child and live with it, I kind of kept all of

this within me and as I got older, I carried

this with me.

S: When I left I vowed to myself there was

no way in hell that I would have another

relationship ever again, I said I’m never

going to get married and then I met my

lovely wife. Our first date was interesting.

We went out for something to eat and she

asked me what I wanted to eat and

actually being asked what I wanted to eat

threw me off and because I hadn’t eaten

properly for five years- I’d never gone out

to posh restaurants or anything- I didn’t

even know what couscous was.

I remember going to this café and saying

that I didn’t know what the food was. She

was so sweet in that she explained what

the foods were and what they would taste

like. She never put any pressure on me, it

has always been about what do I want to

do?

" we have all this information inside us and it’s not even our own personal

belief, it’s somebody else’s view imposed on you and, in order to survive,

you have to adapt and you take those words in."

When Damian came along, he was a

combination of all of my mum’s, dad’s

and my sister’s personality traits and,

with his words on top I believed

everything to be true. I’ve had to work out

how to break that chain and realise that I

do deserve a nice life, I deserve to be me,

I deserve to have opinions and express

them.

M: It’s really hard to get your head

around that. Even if you know you’re not

to blame, there’s still this small voice that

expects you to take responsibility for the

choices you make. If only I’d done that, if

only…I found grappling that to be the

most challenging.

You’re now in a happy relationship. How

hard was it to come out of an abusive

relationship and go into one that is

healthy?

It’s my choice. She’s never told me what

to do and has always encouraged me. I

have changed since we have met and she

has grown with me, throughout. And it

has always been at my pace.

Our relationship is equal, we are able to

talk, communicate and say what we want,

say no at any time and there’s always

been respect which is so incredibly

important. I remember one time, I went

to the library and I asked her if I should

text her when I get there and she looked

at me and asked why do you want to text

me? Because I had always had to text the

abuser where I was and when I arrived. It

was really strange getting used to not

doing that. All the freedom felt very

strange, how do I deal with it? It felt

really weird.

M: All this choice!

Making The Invisible Visible



S: I know, to be able to say what I want,

eat what I want. It is actually entering

into a new world. It was quite scary at

first, wondering how I was going to cope

with it as I was so used to living without

having a choice.

M: Did it scare you, entering a new

relationship, or did you have faith in your

decision? How did you take that step?

S: There is something I have always

known and did not dare accept-this was

admitting to myself I am gay. Growing up

and living in a community which was

homophobic with the expectation of being

female, you will get married to a man. I

did what was expected of me and pushed

all those feelings away.

S: Economic abuse is used by abusers and

the sole intent is to keep you further

isolated. We live in a world where we

need money. Money buys food, drink,

medicine, clothing – your basic needs- so

if you haven’t got access to money you

won’t be able to pay for property, to rent,

pay your bills or anything.What abusers

do is they slowly take all your money or

limit your access to money and this then

isolates you further as how are you going

to leave? You might not be able to pay for

the bus fare, buy petrol for your car, top

up your phone credit or buy a phone

because you’ve got no money. You might

not be able to get any food and if you have

no food, you’ve got no energy to leave or

do anything and, again, it’s keeping you

isolated.

"she always made it clear that I’m the one in charge

even though I’m not in charge

because we have an equal relationship "

I kept them hidden and refused

to acknowledge them. Accepting myself

for who I am- if I didn’t do this how could

I ever be happy? In doing this,it felt the

most natural feeling to finally be myself. I

have faith in my wife and there is this

deep connection we have-I can’t describe

it. She is such a completely different

person, very caring and nurturing and I

feel completely at ease. It was quite scary

but she always made it clear that I’m the

one in charge even though I’m not in

charge because we have an equal

relationship. That, in itself, gave me the

confidence to build the trust.

M: I know that economic abuse was part

of the abuse inflicted on you. For anyone

not familiar with what it is, could you

explain a little bit about what it is and

how it affected you?

You might not be able to feed your

children or get clothing and what they do

is they take all your money and get you

further into debt. Economic abuse has

been a really big factor in what I

experienced. I wasn’t really that aware of

how much I had experienced and how it

had impacted me because it’s not

something we really talk about or

recognise enough. For myself, when it

first started, it was very slow. It wasn’t a

case of this person comes along and boom

takes all your money. It was very subtle.

When I met Damian, he came off the bus

one time, patting his clothes down,

looking on the floor and I asked what was

wrong. He said he’d dropped his money

on the bus and he only got £1 in his hand.

We were going to the cinema and he was

very apologetic saying he couldn’t pay for

his cinema ticket so I paid. Again, on

another time he’d forgotten his wallet and

he had wanted to pay for the hot

chocolate drinks.

Making The Invisible Visible


He was really upset he couldn’t pay for

them, and I said it’s no problem, it was

only £4.00 and very slowly this pattern of

behaviour started to come in more

frequently and then it slowly started to

increase and because I was quite young

and we were both students, he would

remind me that his books cost a lot more

than my books and he played on that so I

would feel really guilty and I would end

up paying for things because he said he

couldn’t afford it.

When we started living together, he

would come up with different reasons for

why he couldn’t pay for the house

repairs/utility bills - he had not been paid

enough that month so I would pay more

towards the bills. He’d blame someone at

work that he had been set up-money had

gone missing and the firm he worked for

had blamed him so he had to take out a

loan to pay for this missing money

otherwise they would fire him. And

because of this, was his reasoning why he

couldn’t pay for his share of the holiday, I

ended up paying for all the holidays and

he then started to get me to pay for more

things. I think the worst thing was that I

didn’t realise he was slowly getting me

into debt and I ended up with £3,000

worth of debt on my credit card.

He had said to me that he didn’t need a

credit card because he had a personal

bank 24/7 and that bank was me. We

went out one time, I can’t remember

where, what I remember is that I had

£100 in my purse in cash and he spent

that within an hour. He walked around

the shop picking out what he wanted

there were quite a lot of DVD’s and they

came to around £300 and I started to

panic thinking this was quite a lot of

money.

I said I can’t afford to buy them and

opened up my purse to show him there

was no money and he asked me what

would cost me more the £300 of DVD’s or

the damage he would cause to the shop?

Making The Invisible Visible


He threatened to smash it all up, the

entire contents and he told me about how

it would go to court and I’d have to pay

the court fees, the damage to the stock

and that it would be my fault. I panicked

Min, so I got my credit card and paid.

He repeated this pattern and it just got

worse. He used economic abuse

throughout the divorce proceedings as

well – he threatened me telling me what

he was going to do if I left him that he

would financially ruin me and make my

life hell.

I remember at the time, when it came to

the point where I had to leave because it

wasn’t safe and suddenly it felt like a light

had been switched on.

M: Mine was the same yet so different. It

started that we’d go out for a meal and he

would always order the most expensive

dish on the menu, the most expensive

wine or champagne and always lobster, if

it was on the menu. It was always, let’s

order this and I’ll give you the money for

it and when it came to the bill he always

forgot his wallet but said he’d pay but he

never did. I would never ask him to repay

me as I thought it was rude to ask yet it

was never forthcoming. At the time, I

could afford to swallow the cost and so I

just let it go but there came a point where

my financial circumstances changed, yet

he still behaved in exactly the same way.

Literally days after we got married,he

suddenly announced that he had a lot of

debt and that he wouldn’t be able to

"I’ve got no money, he had spent every penny I earned,

he has isolated me from everyone,

will anyone notice if I am gone or care if he kills me?"

I sat slumped on the floor thinking that

nobody knows what he’s doing to me. I’ve

got no money, he had spent every penny I

earned, he has isolated me from everyone,

will anyone notice if I am gone or care if

he kills me? He’d got his family involved

and I was kept hostage for three hours

and physically restrained by his father.

How do I get out? Where do I go?

It then hit me,what he had been doing

slowly, over the years, supported by his

parents and I hadn’t seen it coming. His

spending spree escalated before I

escaped. He was spending an obscene

amount of my money and money I did not

have.

It’s just awful, it’s happened to you, it’s

happened to millions of women and sadly

it is still happening to this present day.

contribute to the bills and the mortgage,

for at least six months. He told me that it

shouldn’t be an issue as I had managed

perfectly well before we got married and

that he was hardly at the house anyway

and so would not be using much water

and electricity. He actually told me he

wasn’t costing me anything and besides,

his best friend had told him that he

shouldn’t be expected to pay his wife

rent!

It was really hard to get him to see that

we were living together as a couple and I

wasn’t his landlady and it wasn't rent but

that was how he insisted on seeing it. He

wanted me to pay for his debt on my

chargecard but I refused so he insisted

I pawn my watch to help him pay off

some of his debts, promising he’d pay the

whole amount to get it back. Six months

later he refused to pay for the interest

saying that the watch was worth less than

the money it would take to get it back.

Making The Invisible Visible


Besides, as I hadn’t worn the watch for 6

months I obviously didn’t miss it! Even

worse, he insisted that I keep all the bills

in my name, saying it would be better for

me because, if he died, the money

wouldn’t be tied up in probate and the

kids and I wouldn’t suffer in the event of

his death. How do you argue out of that?

M: Yes, they do. I carried his debts for

years. He left me eight times during the

pregnancy and more after I gave birth –

each time he didn’t feel anything for me

or the baby. It was only afterwards, that I

realised those times coincided with an

upcoming mortgage repayment. He’d say

the relationship was over, move out and I

would panic and ask if he could help still

with the mortgage because I was terrified

of ending up homeless. He’d then say he

couldn’t help because he now had to

prioritise finding somewhere to live, he’d

then say he’d always try to help but not

this time and let’s be friends and I hope

you find the money because, it would be a

shame if you and the kids ended up

homeless and he really would help, if he

could. It was always veiled in that slimy

pseudo-friendship so it was really hard to

unpack that this was actually economic

abuse. I would have to borrow money and

he’d then beg to come back after a week

or so and it would be like, I can’t give you

anything because I spent the money

whilst we were apart. And because the

bills were all in my name, he was able to

say that I was controlling all the money

because nothing was in his name!

" How do I get out? Where do I go?"

S: You just can’t. They’ve got it so well

scripted. They’ve got it all worked out.

M: Yes, and then when you say something

it’s why are you making such a big fuss?

Why are you making it about money, I

thought you married me for love and not

because you wanted me to help you with

the bills. Why are you using me to pay

your mortgage?

S: They know how to cleverly word it and

always bring someone else in to justify

their answer.

Even though we were married, all of his

post was still going to his old address

which he had rented out. There were a lot

of secrets around his finances and he

made sure he kept everything away from

the marital home and if ever I questioned

it, it was always well, it’s convenient, and

later on it would be well, there’s no point

in changing the address because our

relationship was unstable and, besides, he

didn’t know if he wanted to be with me.

S: I only had one bill in my name, the rest

were in his and he wouldn’t always pay

them and I would end up paying them.

Making The Invisible Visible


M: And you’d never know because you

probably couldn’t ask for fear of

retaliation.

S: It’s that emotional and psychological

abuse keeping you isolated

M: Isolated and constantly on edge

worried about money all the time,

knowing that they could help if they

choose to and it’s that bind that keeps so

many attached to their abusers.

S: There are many changes needed in our

courts systems, awareness in work places

and overall awareness to those who don’t

get what domestic abuse is or how

damaging it is. The more we keep talking

and sharing our experiences of domestic

abuse is when we become an ocean,

turning those waves we will eventually

create much needed change- it is only a

matter of time.

Stella Eden is the author of two books:

The Right To Be Me is a harrowing tale

of a woman's struggle to free herself from

the clutches of an abusive marriage.

Stella's Open Road Trip Journal

is funky, colourful and totally interactive.

Both are available from Stellas's website

or Amazon

For more information on Stella Eden:

www.stellasopenroadtrip.online

Making The Invisible Visible



Grant Wyeth

is a researcher at the Asia

Institute,

University of Melbourne,

and a columnist for the

Asia-Pacific affairs publication,

The Diplomat.

Making The Invisible Visible


How The Family Court’s Purpose To

Protect Children Became Inverted

Grant Wyeth

I

n the early 1980s in Sydney, Australia, the family

court suffered a series of brutal and ideologically

driven attacks. A judge was shot dead on his

doorstep, and bombs were exploded in the houses of

two other judges; one killing a judge’s wife, and the

second injuring a judge and his children.

A third bomb was exploded outside a family court building in the suburb of

Parramatta, with another unexploded bomb was found under the hood of the

car of a family court lawyer. In a related incident, a Jehovah’s Witness church

hall was also bombed, killing an elder and hospitalising 71 members of the

congregation.

For decades these attacks remained one of the great unsolved mysteries of

Australian crime, until 2015 when a man named Leonard Warwick was

arrested and charged for the murders and bombings. In July this year the

Supreme Court of New South Wales found Warwick guilty of 31 of the 32

offences for which he was charged. In early-September he was sentenced to

life in prison. In his summary of the proceedings Justice Peter Garling

described Warwick’s acts as “...an attack on the very foundations of Australian

democracy.” Yet this is a far too broad depiction of the reasons for Warwick’s

murderous behaviour, instead his actions were an attack on a specific idea; the

idea that the state has the right to intervene in domestic affairs.

Warwick was motivated by an extreme hostility towards the family court

during a child custody dispute with his ex-wife. He saw the court as an

impediment to his self-prescribed right to dominate his ex-wife and child,

with his actions a violent demonstration of how intensely he believed in his

own absolute domestic authority. His bombing of the Jehovah’s Witness

church hall was due to the congregation having helped his ex-wife and child

hide from him.

Warwick’s crimes can be understood as acts of proto-Men’s Rights Activist

(MRA) terrorism. MRAs have a pronounced - and unfounded - grievance

against family courts, maintaining that they are instinctively biased against

men, and designed to undermine their ability to exercise what they see as their

rightful power over their children and partners. MRAs obsessively advance the

idea that women habitually lie about domestic abuse in order to manipulate

the courts.

Making The Invisible Visible


This argument can rarely be

substantiated because it is actually

atactic of misdirection, designed to

obfuscate custody hearings and elicit

sympathies from judges who may

share an instinctive suspicion towards

women. Instead what these men

actually believe is that violence is an

essential component of masculinity,

that it is intrinsic to their dignity, and

therefore they should face no

consequences for exerting it. Such is

the fervour by which MRAs believe in

their own fundamental right to

violence they have even taken to

arguing that government services that

seek to assist battered women are

discriminatory against men.

Around the same time Warwick was

conducting his acts of terrorism

against the family court in Sydney, an

American psychiatrist by the name of

Richard Gardner was devising a way

for men like Warwick to legally gain

the upper hand in custody hearings.

Gardner’s work would allow this idea

about the importance of violence to

masculinity to be advanced, rather

than hindered, by family courts. Of

course, this could never be explicitly

advocated, so instead women who

reported sexual and physical abuse of

children needed to be discredited in

order for male violence to be

disbelieved, downplayed, or

completely ignored.

His actions were an attack on a specific idea; the idea that the

state has the right to intervene in domestic affairs.

Astonishingly, over the past three

decades an ideological revolution

within family courts throughout the

West have seen these institutions

become more sympathetic to this

worldview. In doing so they have

perpetuated the violence and torment

for countless women and children, and

severely damaged their own

reputations as ethical and dependable

arbiters of disputes.

In June, the United Kingdom’s

Ministry of Justice issued an

extraordinary report that firmly stated

its family courts are now refusing to

protect children from obviously

dangerous fathers. Similar reports

could be written in almost all Western

capitals.

Gardner’s scheme involved exploiting

a weakness in the dominant legislative

framework throughout the West

concerning child custody. This is

known as equal shared parental

responsibility, and it works on the

presumption that a child’s best

interests are always met by both

parents sharing duties towards the

upbringing of children, regardless of

whether they live together.

The legislation technically contains a

condition to disregard this

presumption if children are at risk of

harm, yet Gardner found a way to not

just neutralise this condition, but

invert it.

Making The Invisible Visible


Gardner’s revolution was built on

devising a “theory” that could be used

to create suspicion towards any

attempts by mothers to report cases of

child abuse. Parental Alienation

Syndrome (PAS) has a simple premise;

that almost all allegations of child

abuse will be false, and the more a

mother, or even the child themselves,

insists that abuse has occurred, the

more this “syndrome” - or

brainwashing of a child - is at work.

Gardner asserted that this “alienation”

was itself a form of child abuse more

damaging than any violence.

He designed a trap, one that would

silence mothers from reporting abuse,

or punish them if they did. All of

Gardner’s writing was self-published,

and none of it peer-reviewed. His ideas

have been widely discredited as junk

science in academic literature, and

have been dismissed by all

authoritative psychiatric,

psychological, medical bodies in the

United States as lacking supporting

empirical or clinical evidence.

Despite heavy lobbying from MRA

groups, PAS has failed to meet the

scientific standards for inclusion in the

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of

Mental Disorders.

This is because Gardner’s “syndrome”

wasn’t designed to diagnose a mental

condition in a child, it was designed to

help abusive fathers win court cases.

Children for Gardner were merely

pawns to be used in a battle for the

state to recognise the absolute

domestic authority of men. Their

predicaments seemed inconsequential

to him.

Making The Invisible Visible



Due to the way legal processes build on

precedents, once his ideas had worked

their way into the justice system they

were easily able to multiply and fortify

themselves. The legitimacy of PAS in

the eyes of judges and other legal

associates stemmed solely from the

frequency by which it was used, rather

than the validity of the concept itself.

Despite this lack of professional

credibility, PAS has been advanced

into family courts by an active

coalition of grifter therapists and

unscrupulous lawyers working for

abusive men. As attorney Barry

Goldstein explained in a recent issue of

Family & Intimate Partner Violence

Quarterly: “...the best way for lawyers

and mental health professionals to

make large incomes is to support

approaches that favour wealthy

abusers. The pernicious Parental

Alienation Syndrome (PAS) was

concocted to give these professionals

an argument to support abusive

fathers. This started the cottage

industry that has done so much to help

abusers and spread misinformation in

the courts.”

While he was alive Gardner himself

became an “expert witness” in over

400 custody cases throughout 25

states in the United States, with judges

willingly deferring to his testimony

despite his lack of academic and

professional credibility.

However, efforts have been made to

counteract these lazy judiciary

practices. A 2008 report by The

National Council of Juvenile and

Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)

recommended that “Under relevant

evidentiary standards, the court should

not accept testimony regarding

parental alienation syndrome.”

Further adding that “...quite apart

from its scientific invalidity, [PAS]

inappropriately asks the court to

assume that the child’s behaviours and

attitudes toward the parent who claims

to be “alienated” have no grounding in

reality. It also diverts attention away

from the behaviours of the abusive

parent.”

With the deceptive nature of PAS

gaining legal recognition, the cottage

industry that Goldstein depicts found

an uninventive, but arguably even

more insidious idea to advance into

family courtrooms in order to

circumvent this controversy. This is

simply called Parental Alienation (PA).

By dropping the “syndrome” advocates

of PA have attempted to distance

themselves from Gardner’s assertion

that children are suffering a mental

condition when they are reluctant to

engage with an abusive father. They

have also sought to broaden the

concept away from Gardner’s primary

goal of discrediting allegations of child

sexual abuse. Instead PA is a catch-all

description of actions taken by one

parent to exclude another.

Making The Invisible Visible


This realigned concept of PA sounds more

reasonable. One can easily imagine

scenarios where one parent acts to

exclude another. However, in its legal

usage both the general and the gendered

sentiment remain the same; a “hostile

mother” acting to undermine the

perceived domestic rights of a father. PA

has become beloved by MRAs as it

provides legitimacy to their paranoid,

conspiratorial thinking that mothers are

“poisoning” children against them,

instead of recognising their own abusive

behaviour as harmful and fear-inducing.

The concept easily plays into medieval

conceptions of women as “irrational” and

“hysterical” that can be used to paint

women as vindictive, manipulative, and

prone to fabrication in custody hearings.

These irrational decisions are leading

to horrific subsequent outcomes. Over

the past decade the Center for Judicial

Excellence has been tracking the

murders of children in custody

disputes in the U.S. By its data there

have been 106 murders of children

where judges have knowingly placed

them in dangerous environments. This

is not just an astonishing institutional

failure to prevent violence against

children, it is also a failure to recognise

how abusive men take their legal

victories as endorsements of their

behaviour. When family courts reward

abusive men with custody they often

intensify the violence that children

experience.

The legislation technically contains a condition to disregard this

presumption if children are at risk of harm, yet Gardner found a way to not

just neutralise this condition, but invert it.

This tactic to mislead the court has

proved incredibly successful. Once PA

is raised in a custody case it has the

influence to overshadow all other

arguments, and minimise the evidence

of both child and partner abuse in the

court’s decision-making. Such is the

concept’s power that it is able to

reassign victimhood away from

children towards abusive fathers by

making mothers seeking to protect

their children the real perpetrators. A

2019 empirical study of over 2000

custody cases in the United States by

the George Washington University

Law School found that when mothers

report child abuse, a counter claim of

“parental alienation” by the father

doubles the rate that mothers

themselves will lose full custody of

their children.

Earlier this year a special issue of the

Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law

dedicated solely to the phenomenon of PA

highlighted how the concept was also

skewing custody cases in the United

Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New

Zealand, Spain and Italy. With several

authors describing how the concept was

undermining both domestic law and

international convention.

Throughout the West “parental

alienation” has now become the standard

defence for any fathers who are accused

of domestic violence and child abuse. As a

result, family courts have become so

hostile to mothers and children that

lawyers - cowed by the process - often

now recommend that mothers do not

report child abuse because they know that

this will lead to custody being granted to

the abusive father.

Making The Invisible Visible


Parental Alienation has become such

an effective tool for abusive men

because of the way it has attached

itself to the legislative framework. The

concept has been able to bastardise the

interpretation of the presumptive

“right of contact” for children to both

parents - with the overriding caveat of

child safety and welfare - towards an

affirmation of the “right to contact” for

fathers, regardless of their behaviour.

Extraordinarily, Gardner’s belief that

“alienation” is a form of child abuse

more harmful than violence has

successfully been able to convince

judges that in awarding custody to

abusive men they are actually acting in

the child’s best interests.

on outcomes - being susceptible to

PA’s underlying assumptions.This is

not just the conception of women as

instinctively deceitful, but also an

adherence to primitive familial gender

roles. PA’s philosophical core is built

on the MRA’s misguided sense of male

dignity; that this requires both the

submission of women and children to

paternal authority, as well as the

violence to enforce this submission.

These may seem like archaic notions

that intellectually sophisticated

professionals within justice systems

would easily dismiss, but

subconsciously they are proving to be

remarkably resilient.

Throughout the West “parental alienation” has now become the

standard defence for any fathers who are accused of

domestic violence and child abuse.

The perverse “genius” of PA’s

deception has been the way it backs

mothers into a corner, preys on her

fears, and turns her maternal instincts

to protect her children into a pitfall.

The more PA manipulates the justice

system to endanger her children, the

more desperate a mother becomes.

Because now it is not just an abusive

man who is the threat to her children,

but the state itself with all its coercive

powers. This desperation is then not

viewed as evidence of a genuine threat

by judges - who would never see

themselves as part of the problem - but

instead a further example of a mother’s

“alienating” behaviour, and a

confirmation that she is not to be

trusted. Of course, this ideological

conversion of the court has relied

heavily on judges and custody

evaluators - who are highly influential

Due to PA’s dominance of family court

proceedings, a “good mother” is now

not one who is loving, caring, and

responsible towards her children, but

instead a mother who actively

encourages contact with a father,

whether he is violent or not.

This demand of mothers is not just an

abdication of the court’s responsibility

to protect children, but a clear

demonstration of the backsliding in

women’s rights within the justice

system. A reversion of women to a

state of coverture, where her

obligations as a citizen are in sole

service to men.

It is re-establishing this female

servitude to men that has been at the

core of how MRAs have successfully

captured family courts.

Making The Invisible Visible


These groups have specifically targeted

the family court because it is a court

that trades in gender roles, and

because the household is deemed an

area where male supremacy should

still endure.

MRAs have a brute zero-sum

understanding of human interaction,

and therefore display a profound sense

of grievance and victimhood that the

advances in women’s rights and

capabilities are perceived to come at

their expense. The ideological

conversion of the family court is

retribution for these female social

advancements, hitting women where it

hurts them the most; their maternal

protective instincts.

With the institutionalisation of PA

within family courts, abusive men have

successfully been able to weaponise

legal proceedings against their

children and former partners. The

family court has now become an

extension of these men’s coercive

control, making it almost impossible

for women and children to escape from

abusive environments. The organising

principle of the court has become one

that sees male violence as something

that women and children simply need

to carry for their societies.

Through this perspective the contest to

define masculinity as simply - and

approvingly - brutish and chaotic is

being won. The state is relinquishing

its monopoly on violence and

conceding that domestic violence is

outside of its purview; the goal of

Warwick’s acts of terrorism against the

family court in Sydney.

Making The Invisible Visible


"The conviction of Leonard Warwick offers family courts

the opportunity to self-assess; to understand what has

occurred over the past three decades that has allowed

terrorists like him to gain ideological ascendancy in their

courtrooms."

At best, the family court seems to believe

that setting behavioural standards for

men is unfair, that love, care, and

responsibility are beyond their

capabilities and therefore custodial

judgements need to compensate for these

natural male deficiencies.

But by consistently rewarding abusive

men the law is giving no worth to those

men who are loving, caring, and

responsible partners and parents.

The state is signalling that masculinity

doesn’t need to find its dignity in love,

kindness, and compassion, and that

parenthood - for men - is effectively a

neutral concept devoid of any ideals to

strive towards. There is an assertion that

a man’s biology carries far greater legal

weight than his actions.

The conviction of Leonard Warwick offers

family courts the opportunity to selfassess;

to understand what has occurred

over the past three decades that has

allowed terrorists like him to gain

ideological ascendancy in their

courtrooms; to comprehend how they

have surrendered to an unscientific ruse

that would be deemed inadmissible in any

law-abiding court; and to recognise that

their core purpose - the protection of

children - has now been extraordinarily

inverted.

It is an opportunity for family courts to

grasp that just as the New South Wales

Supreme Court has ruled that Warwick’s

acts of public terrorism were

unacceptable, so too should they believe

that private acts of terrorism are equally

intolerable.

Reproduced with

permission.

Grant Wyeth's article which

includes links to references,

and his other writings can be

viewed on Medium.

How The Family Court’s

Purpose To Protect

Children Became

Inverted

https://medium.com/

equality-includes-you/howthe-family-courts-purposeto-protect-children-becameinverted-d300871553d0

Making The Invisible Visible



OnlyMums'

Rebecca Giraud

Rebecca Giraud

joined OnlyMums

in 2009 having

returned from

working on a

range of social

development

projects both in the

UK and overseas.

Having worked

with vulnerable

families for over

fifteen years,

Rebecca recognised

the need and value

of giving parents

access to accurate

professional online

support

especially victims

of domestic abuse.

She also volunteers

for the Support

Through Court.

Rebecca lives on

Dartmoor with her

family.

I

have been wanting to talk to Rebecca for a

long time. Both she and her business

partner Bob Greig have long been

supporting both mums and dads going

through separation and divorce. The

release of the 2nd edition of their book was

a good opportunity to find out more.

M: Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed for

CCChat. For the readers, could you tell me a little bit about

what you do?

R: OnlyMums & Dads are a social enterprise, we work very

much from the stance that both parents matter, whether

you see your son or daughter for ten minutes a week or

you’re having 50:50 contact, we support all parents. In

essence we do our best to support parents who are looking

to make the best decisions for themselves and their

families during separation and divorce.

Everything we do is motivated by how we can encourage

parents to put their first and to look at alternatives to court

where possible. So, we have a live chat facility and a contact

page both free to use. We commission and publish

professionally written articles to support parents on key

issues and based on questions that we are asked on a daily

basis. It is important to us to provide up to date and

accurate information as there is so much misinformation

on the internet.

We have recently published the 2nd edition of our ‘101

Questions Answered About Separating With Children’

which we try, subject to donations, to give to those who

need it the most at no cost. We also have a project called

the ‘Green Phone’ initiative which is legal professionals

offering a free consultation to any victim of domestic

abuse. Since Covid, we’ve had more and more enquiries

that have an element of domestic abuse to them and so for

us to be able to say go and talk to someone, it won’t cost

you anything and a professional will be able to set out your

options for you and let you know what you can and can’t do

is a great resource. We also have a nationwide network of

family lawyers, many of whom are accredited specialists,

who parents can access at anytime.

Making The Invisible Visible


We do a lot of signposting, many parents

who come to us tend to be at the

beginning of their separation or have

been asked to go to court and they just

don’t know where to go for support or

information, so we will often spend some

time with them finding out what it is they

need and then steer them off to

organisations or individuals that might be

able to support with the next step. As an

organisation we have always responded to

what parents ask us. For example, as you

know the legal process can be really

complicated, so it is very important for us

to produce resources that are hopefully in

a language and lay out that is easy to

understand and follow. We were so lucky

with our book, it was crowd sourced.

R: We are UK based although we do get

some international enquiries, there is

often an element of family law to all our

enquiries and we are not resourced to

respond to those outside the UK.

M: Would you consider expanding the

Family Law Panel to beyond the UK?

R: Well, we have thought about it. It

certainly would be helpful to have

representatives in other countries,

particularly the United States and

Australia.

M: What made you go into this?

R: It was actually my colleague Bob of

Only Dads who set it up.

‘A Good Place To Start’ which is about getting the second edition of the

‘101 Questions’ out to as many parents as we can, those who potentially

can’t afford to initially engage with a professional, to support parents

in making more informed decisions. "

We approached many leading and

experienced professionals and friends

that we had made over the years asking

them to contribute, and everyone said

yes. They all, like you, gave up their time

to support the publication. We also

engaged with parents and young people

asking for their reflections on how

separation had affected them, what had

they learnt and what advice they might

give to a friend. We also have input from

therapists and academics, the aim being

to produce a more holistic resource to

support parents. It was a huge project and

something we are very proud of.

M: That’s massive and also really

amazing. I thought I knew what you did

but I had no idea of the length and

breadth of it. Who do you accept

geographically? Is this just UK based?

He went through a very difficult

separation and was essentially left with

two children who were under five and it

was a big shock for him and had a serious

impact on his mental health. He didn’t

know where to go so he looked online for

support and there wasn’t anything so he

set up a very basic website. What he

found was that lots of questions that came

in from dads were legal and also lots of

mums were getting in touch.

I was working overseas at the time on an

HIV project, when I came back a friend of

a friend put us in touch and Bob asked if I

would come and help for a couple of

hours a week, I did and now we are here

today with a full time social enterprise.

M: So what happened in between you

helping out for a couple of hours and it

exploding into the massive entity it is

now?

Making The Invisible Visible


S: It just grew and grew! We built a

second website (OnlyMums) and from

that we started to engage with family

lawyers to see if we could encourage them

to give up some of their time to answer

questions we were getting. This is was

hard work but we managed to engage

some amazing professionals and as a

result have made some friends and

colleagues on the way. Then as we

became more aware of the complexity of

the questions we were getting and of the

process of separation itself we started to

engage with other professionals in other

areas including therapists and academics.

So we have grown but we are still

essentially a ‘two man band’ working on a

shoestring. We are reliant on grants and

donations which can be quite stressful!

M: I know that feeling! You also have a

new initiative, could you tell me more

about it?

R: Yes, ‘A Good Place To Start’ which is

about getting the second edition of the

‘101 Questions’ out to as many parents as

we can, those who potentially can’t afford

to initially engage with a professional, to

support parents in making more

informed decisions. We have a saying in

our office, let’s try and support mum or

dad to take the M5 not the M4.

The book is a huge resource for anyone

who is starting or even stuck in the

middle of the separation process and just

doesn’t know what to do or where to go. It

has been fully revised including much

more information on domestic abuse; it

has pages of valuable, accurate

information, signposting, tips and

reflective pieces. It’s also now available as

an e-book which is terrific as it is a

website in itself with all the links to

support etc.

We’d like to be able to say to some of the

parents who contact us and other

organisations working with families, you

know what, have a copy of the book

because it will really help you.

Making The Invisible Visible


" It certainly would be helpful to have representatives in other

countries, particularly the United States and Australia. "

We are doing two things to raise funds for

this; engaging with lawyers to support the

project and asking the public for

donations. We have a donate page and if

someone donates £10, we will send them

a link to a copy of a free e-book that they

can then send it to a friend.

My theory is that we all know someone

who is breaking up or separating so I

thought it would be a positive way of

reaching out to parents who might be

stuck and wondering where to go for

support.

M: That’s such a good idea because it

would also be a good resource for

someone thinking about separating, so

they can have the information to hand

before they take the next step.

R: Exactly, and as result of Covid our

enquiries have gone up by 40% and we

both worry that with the lockdown and

Christmas that it’s going to add another

layer of pressure for many families. We all

know somebody in that situation and an

e-book is handy because it can be kept on

their phone which is discrete. For those

mums or dads who may be stuck in an

abusive relationship or even wondering if

they are, it’s important they can access

the book safely.

It does feel good to be able to give copies

away. Our aim is not to just give them

parents who contact us but also to other

small grass-roots organisations working

to support families but that depends on

donations etc.

Making The Invisible Visible



M: Is this what you and Bob do full time

now?

R: Bob more so than me, I am an older

mum with a small person still in school! I

also work as a volunteer with a charity

Support through Court, they supports

people going through the court process.

Pre-covid they had offices within family

courts with a team of trained volunteers

to support litigants. During covid the

family courts have been operating online

which presents its own set of challenges.

For me it has been very humbling

experience to support parents through

this project, you are with someone who is

often very vulnerable, in a strange

building with professionals making

R: Do you mean friends and family?

M: Yes. They can make it a hell of a lot

worse by fueling the distress. It doesn’t

really help the couple who are separating.

R: I agree, they can fuel it and encourage

a parent to take a route that actually is

not helpful or necessary.

M: Yes, and especially when someone is

hurt and traumatised – it makes it really

easy for conflict to escalate and there’s

really nothing in place to help with that.

R: It does and saying ‘take her/him to

court’ or ‘I will give you the name of a

solicitor I know’ can be the worst thing to

do.

" The problem is when you’re really angry and hurt it is much

harder to make rational decisions "

decisions about your life. It can be really

tough. I choose to do it because I felt I

had some skills that would help and I also

wanted to. really understand what it is

like to go through the court process. I

hope it makes me better at my job It is so

important for the work we do at

OnlyMum & Dads, to understand better

what it is that makes parents take that

road. What I have learnt is that once you

get on that trajectory it can be very

difficult to get off it.

M: I agree. I think the biggest issue with

relationship breakdown, because it’s rare

that both sides mutually agree to

separate, is how to handle the anger and

hurt of betrayal, because one person

always feels betrayed by the fact that the

other wants to end the relationship and I

think a lot of the time, what makes it

worse is the people around the separating

couple.

M: Yes, definitely but that's also another

problem. Just because a solicitor has

worked for someone, it doesn't

necessarily mean that is the right choice

for that person. I would always advise to

go with a solicitor you can trust with your

most personal information. They can't act

for you, if you can't talk to them.

There definitely needs to be something in

place that is more therapeutic and

considers the emotional difficulties that

come with separating.

R: Yes, I agree, often one person is much

further down the road than the other,

they’ve just moved on and it’s very rare

for both in a couple to be at the same

place at the same time. We hear and see

so much anger with parents, I think that

it’s often a build up of unresolved

resentments and issues that get in the

way of them being able to put their

children at the centre of their separation.

Making The Invisible Visible


Maybe we need annual relationship

‘MOT’s to help us learn how to resolve

conflict better and how to take

responsibility for our part in things.

M: There's so much we could do to make

it easier to be on the same page, because

if the couple are in the same place, it’s

very unlikely that they would feel the

need to go to court.

R: Absolutely, the problem is when you’re

really angry and hurt it is much harder to

make rational decisions.

M: Totally. What’s happening now is that

no consideration is being given to the

person who didn’t want the separation

and who has often been blindsided.

R: It doesn’t work. It’s ok to feel like that,

it takes time and the right kind of support

and then you don’t end up in front of a

judge who will determine when or where

you can see your child.

M: There is nothing in place to help make

the process easier. Nothing. And what is

in place just adds fuel to the fire and it’s a

serious problem. Anyway, here’s a

question: If you had a magic wand what

would you do to change the system?

R: Ok, here are two things I would do to

try and reduce the conflict and the

potential damage to children. One is, at

the point of where parents go to court, to

have an early triage system.

" Separation and divorce is a big issue for schools and as we know

the impact on children can be very damaging."

That is a huge problem because “Just get

on with it, put the children first ” clearly

doesn’t work in many of those instances.

R: It doesn’t, it’s so difficult when you are

in emotional turmoil, more access to

professional support would help so many

people, to help you to understand why

you’re feeling like you do and tools to help

you cope. There needs to be a lot more

early support and also less stigma from

society around families that do break up

and single parents.

M: Yes, it needs to be the kind of support

that not only looks at de-escalating

conflict but also comes from a place

where a person’s pain is acknowledged.

The punitive ‘You shouldn’t be feeling like

this, you shouldn’t be doing that, get over

it’ approach doesn’t work because it

disregards human emotions that need to

be validated and the often judgemental

tone antagonises.

Obviously there are cases where it would

be entirely inappropriate, however, if

judges were able to make an early

assessment in those cases where there

was no perceived risk to the child that

enabled the child to continue seeing the

parent albeit in a contact centre until the

case was over, then at least those children

would continue to have some contact with

that parent. The way the system is set up

now children can go for months without

seeing the other parent and there is

plenty of evidence to show how damaging

that can be not only to the child but the

parent also. The second one, we were

talking earlier about more therapeutic/

mediation interventions. Again if this was

made available at the beginning of a court

application (only if appropriate) it may

stop those parents from going through

the courts at all. So many of the cases I

have been involved in at court need

not have been there with the right

support.

Making The Invisible Visible


R: Separation and divorce is a big issue

for schools and as we know the impact on

children can be very damaging. Having

parents who are in conflict can be very

disruptive for the child and the schools. I

know many schools are having to deal

with these issues. Personally I think we

should have local family centres or hubs.

Spaces which are designed in a friendly,

welcoming and accessible style which

could become centres for mediation,

counselling, other types of conflict

resolution, general information, meeting

spaces as well as having a café and a safe

meeting space for parents etc.

M: And a soft play area!

M: I’ve been thinking a lot about parallel

parenting, in the situations where there is

no risk to the child but parents aren’t able

to co-parent because it leaves it open to

escalating conflict, schools could have an

important role to play in facilitating

contact with a non-resident parent, as

opposed to relying on a clinical and

unfriendly contact centre that, for private

cases, is run by volunteers who don’t

know the child and aren’t always

particularly sensitive either.

The schools already know the child and

have school counsellors on hand and

there really should be a scheme whereby

the government supports using the school

as a means of facilitating contact as well

as having the school as a designated pick

up and drop off point. Of course I’m not

saying that it’s something schools should

do, they do enough already without

enough resources but looking to see how

this could be piloted and funded would, in

my opinion, be a good idea, but I’m sort

of thinking out loud here.

R: Definitely. Going back to schools, I

recently spoke to one head teacher who

said it was such a problem in her primary

school that she had put together a Divorce

& Separation Policy for the staff. I think

lots of parents use the school as a

handover location it can often be less

distressing for the child and less stressful

for the parent.

M: Exactly. Because I know a lot of the

fears around contact are because a parent

doesn’t want to have their ex in their

house- either physically or electronically,

so it would alleviate the fears around an

ex FaceTiming their child and then seeing

what the house is like. Having an ex's

voice in the house can also be invasive

and distressing if the marriage was a bad

one or an abusive one and the impact of

that is simply not considered enough. I

speak to a lot of, mainly mums, who feel

like this and I also had that, if I’m being

honest. I was happy for contact but felt it

was a violation of my personal space to

have him wanting to zoom call into my

home every week. I speak to a lot of

parents who, although happy for contact

to take place, are heavily traumatised, not

getting the support they need and having

their private space invaded makes them

feel unsafe. It shouldn’t be too much to

expect to feel safe in your own home.

Making The Invisible Visible


R: Yes I hear that too. Agreeing how

contact happens can also be very difficult

as you both have to agree and stick to a

plan. There are resources and support out

there but when you are feeling highly

stressed and anxious it can be difficult to

ask for help. You should not feel unsafe in

your own home.

M: Yes, I agree, and it could then free up

the court’s time to deal with domestic

abuse cases and the safety concerns

around child contact. I think there is also

a real need for support groups for

separating parents, where they can come

together in a mutually supportive way,

looking at coping strategies and not just a

place to slag off your ex.

R: I understand that and particularly if

you are isolated from family and friends it

can be such a tough time. There are some

groups on FB that seem to me to be giving

a lot of friendship and support to parents

who are feeling bereft or anxious about

their children being away from them. You

hear parents saying they feel lost, they

don’t know what to do. And I have seen

many parents who are further down the

line give lots of very good practical tips

and reflections on how they coped. There

is some support out there but again if you

are struggling it can be hard to reach out.

I am certain there should be more.

M: Especially if you’ve been isolated and

are finding that your confidence and selfesteem

are at rock bottom.

“You should not feel unsafe in your own home.”

A lot of the mums who contact me are

worried sick when their child goes away

for contact with dad and the thing is that

many actually don’t think their child will

come to harm but they still have the fear

and the anxiety and also the loneliness

when a child has staying contact and they

don’t really know what to do with that

extra layer of anxiety so the whole

weekend, for them, is in a heightened

state of worry and distress, on edge and

not being able to relax and that is a really,

difficult state of being.

I think that if there were support groups

in place, for parents who were apart from

their children, that have the focus on that

parent, you know, do something

nurturing for that parent. If a parent’s

whole life is around their child and then

add in separation, single parenting and

possibly even family courts, it’s really

easy to lose your identity.

R: It’s a tough process and if you end up

in court, particularly as a litigant, there is

a whole new layer of stress. I have seen it

so many times, being in a court room,

people in black cloaks whizzing around,

huddles of people deep in conversations,

the legal process itself which can be

baffling even for us and we have been

working in it for years now. And worst of

all you’re going into a room with a group

of people whom you have never met and

who are highly qualified and who are

going to make decisions about your

children who they don’t know.

M: It's a very intimidating space and I

don't think that is recognised enough -

especially for a litigant in person. Lawyers

talk a different language and you don’t

understand what they’re saying, or you’re

so distressed at the time that you can’t

take it all in, so you invariably lose out

during the process.

Making The Invisible Visible


“One of the reasons we set up the Green Phone

initiative was to give free access to accurate legal

information for victims of domestic abuse. ”

R: It’s so difficult. One of the reasons we

set up the Green Phone initiative was to

give free access to accurate legal

information for victims of domestic

abuse. If someone doesn’t understand the

legal process or wants to know what they

can and can't do they can now call one of

the professionals listed in our directory

who are displaying a green phone symbol

and have a consultation with them at no

cost.

101 Questions Answered About

Separating With Children

is available is available as a paperbook

and an e-book.

It can be purchased from the OnlyMums

and OnlyDads websites and also Amazon.

Getting the right information can be very

empowering and is crucial when we are

talking about children at risk.

OnlyMums

www.onlymums.org

OnlyDads

www.onlydads.org

Green Phone initiative

www.thefamilylawpanel.org/

categories/1

Family Law Panel

www.thefamilylawpanel.org/

categories/1

Support though Court

https://www.supportthrough

court.org

Making The Invisible Visible


More magazines by this user
Similar magazines