I am the founder of the charity Kaleidoscopic UK which provides peer support nationally. We are survivors of child and adult domestic abuse in different forms providing threshold free, open- ended support and recovery for children and adults subjected to any form of abuse at any point in their lives. We educate services through the eyes of survivors and deliver prevention programmes for all.
As a toddler I was removed from domestic violence due to multiple assaults on me. He was sentenced to prison, due to good behaviour released early and returned to our family home, I was removed. I might not remember the abuse although I bear the physical scars, it certainly impacted my future.
Sadly, my sibling who remained was not so lucky and was murdered aged just 7.
I ended my cycle in an adult relationship, abusive in all forms with children being part of this cycle. Following convictions of my adult perpetrator and with interventions/ orders, believing he had changed I was in the cycle repeatedly. After the last physical incident I was given the option by social services to choose my children or him as I couldn’t have both and they said they would remove my children unless I did x,y,z.
This made me realise the reality, I was a child removed and knew that Impact and vowed I would never have that happen to me yet here I was!
I chose my children and yes, I would make that decision a million times over…BUT what people do not realise is how abuse continues in different forms post separation commonly using children or services to do so. I jumped through all hoops and completed short term interventions.
With children severely impacted by what they had seen and been subjected to most might assume (like I did) along with most of our clients, that children must by now in the UK have the support they need to effectively recognise and recover from abuse. 1 in 5 children are subjected to abuse (an average of 6 per classroom) with 21% of the UK adult population according to ONS data recorded as abused children.
Sadly, this is still not the case! Support for children is nationally either non-existent, patchy, short term or not appropriate for the individual child. Survivors are told that “what their children need due to how impacted they are is too expensive to fund”. Some report their children minimised or not believed and if the victim parent tries to help voice the abuse it can be excused as ‘parental conflict’ or them being an overanxious parent.
Most parents can’t afford the identified/ needed support for their children, many are treated as a human ‘pass the parcel’ yet left to manage by themselves feeling victim blamed and scrutinised by services.
Children DO NOT witness domestic abuse, they LIVE, BREATHE and NORMALISE it, yet we have no effective infrastructure in place to prevent, identify or support them!
Children are now recognised as victims ‘in their own right’ under the Domestic Abuse Act 2021 after being the forgotten victims for far too long.
First to petition for mandatory training of Judiciary in family courts, we were delighted to see mandatory training of domestic abuse included in the bill although sadly later withdrawn. Family courts make life changing decisions for children- victim/ survivors daily and many without any training of domestic abuse and its impacts. Perpetrators also use ‘parental alienation’ as a tactic to minimise the abuse/counter act it. Most clients reporting services did not represent their children’s voices, needs or wishes effectively.
The lack of provision for children during and after abuse is the reason Kaleidoscopic UK was founded in 2019. The viewpoint through a Kaleidoscope (kaleidoscopic), turning a lens creating beautiful colours and patterns from broken pieces is to highlight that although abuse has long and short-term impacts, children with the right, individual support can recover and thrive.
Too often our services think that removing children or leaving the abusive relationship is enough, or children can be written off as broken/damaged. This should never be the case; all children deserve to be encouraged and supported to reach their full potential especially after abuse.
Reports suggest from survivors that ‘by and for’ services like ours are found to be the most helpful/supportive yet they remain the least funded. We would love to see a ‘package of provision’ across the country that provides equity for children subjected to abuse with many different options including peer support as there is no one size fits all.
Abuse usually continues long after the relationship ends for the whole family and often gets worse when leaving, as can the impacts of trauma.
Sadly, children in our systems showing trauma responses, some that are developed for self -soothing and safety unconsciously are often misunderstood, overlooked and instead of being supported are punished. With in-depth education for those supporting children plus developing ongoing, holistic, trauma informed support for the individual child this could be different. We could break the cycle!
As individuals, services, and society we could and should be preventing, protecting and supporting, creating robust infrastructure and healing pathways for all subjected to any form of abuse and educating those around them how to reach in and best support.