The following blog has been written by a Domestic Violence Victim who I know. I have agreed to host the blog as a ‘guest blog’ in order that her story can be shared more widely. Sue Crocombe @shinybluedress
I was recently sent a link to an online petition created by Claire Webb who is asking for a change to ‘Stop Children’s Social Services Victimising The Victims of Domestic Abuse’.
The link and information to the petition set up by @cmwebb87
can be found here:
I read the background to Claire’s petition with interest and much of what she had to say resonated with me, both through my own personal experience with Social Services and through witnessing other victims’ experiences. Sadly what Claire has to say about victimisation of victims by Social Services is not uncommon. I hope Claire receives the required amount of signatures she needs to achieve her objective, however with not many people having heard of these issues being faced by Domestic Abuse victims I wonder how many will step forward to add their names to the petition.
There are also perhaps many people out there who don’t believe these problems exist, or if they do that the victims must have behaved in such a manner as to warrant the action taken by Social Services. It is for this reason that I have chosen to share my story with you, as had I not experienced my very own re-victimisation by Social Services, I too may have not believed it occurred.
When my Domestic Abuse was first brought to the attention of the police, they understandably contacted Social Services as we have two children who were living in the family home.
I remember my first visit from the Social Worker who had been assigned the case, vividly. Her opening remarks to me at the start of the interview were, “I don’t care about you or how you are being supported, that’s not my job. I am here to care for the children; that’s all I’m concerned about and that’s what I am here to determine”.
As the police investigation proceeded and the case developed, my history of being sexually abused throughout my childhood was uncovered. This information was in turn shared by police with the children’s Social Worker.
The Social Worker unquestionably believed my childhood sexual abuse had occurred and stated as much in her written case notes. However, she then went on to state that as a direct result of the CSA I had endured, I was undoubtedly suffering from mental health problems which made me incapable of being a responsible parent and therefore not able to adequately or successfully parent my children. She concluded that I had completely fabricated the allegations of Domestic Abuse and stated this was classic “attention seeking” behaviour on my part.
At no time during her short, individual interviews with both children did she ask either child if they had been abused by their father. The children both went on to disclose to police that they had been abused by their father. The Social Worker claimed the police never shared this disclosure of abuse with her.
At no point did the Social Worker ever meet with my husband (perpetrator) in person as he refused to make himself available for interview. She stated in her written case notes that she had left messages with extended family members for him to contact her and she had spoken to him via telephone when he phoned her office. During the telephone conversation she asked him if he had abused either me or the children to which he replied he hadn’t.
Based on this information obtained via a telephone conversation, the Social Worker stated that this was sufficient evidence to prove I was psychotic and had clearly fabricated the Domestic Abuse and that I had forced the children into claiming they too were abused when in fact no abuse had taken place. With this information to hand the Social Worker requested the children be removed from my care under a Police Protection Order (PPO) until a full mental health assessment could be carried out to determine the severity of my psychosis.
The PPO was granted and the children removed from my care. The Social Worker wished to place the children with an extended family member, even though the police had already identified this individual as being unsuitable due to their links with the alleged Domestic Abuse and the perpetrator. It was only when the eldest refused to leave the Police Station that a Police Officer insisted an alternative arrangement be made.
A PPO is issued for a 72 hour period, after this time the children should either be returned to the parent’s care or alternatively Social Services are required to apply to the Court for a Court Order to remove the children on a more permanent basis.
A Mental Health Assessment was arranged for me the next day. The MH assessment was carried out by a NHS Psychologist and a Psychiatrist. The assessment lasted 2 hours. Both the Psychologist and Psychiatrist concluded that there was no evidence whatsoever of psychosis and diagnosed me as suffering from C-PTSD, Depression and Severe Anxiety. They clearly stated I posed no danger to the children. The results of the assessment were faxed over to the Social Worker as well as given to her telephonically.
The Social Worker refused to accept the diagnosis and stated to my eldest child that it was irresponsible of the Psychiatrist to reach such a diagnosis and they were clearly incapable of carying out their duties as a Doctor.
The Social Worker ordered a second Mental Health Assessment to be carried out two days later. This was now entering into the 3rd day of the PPO and the 72 hours was due to expire within a few hours after the assessment was due to be carried out. I was informed that the decision on whether or not the children would be returned to me or whether a court order would be applied for depended on the outcome of the assessment.
I attended the assessment which was conducted at a different NHS hospital to the first assessment, by a different Psychologist and Psychiatrist. Again the assessment lasted 2 hours. Again they both concluded there was no evidence of psychosis and reached the same diagnosis of C-PTSD, Depression and Severe Anxiety. They also determined I posed no threat or danger to the children.
The results of the assessment were once again faxed over to the Social Worker and the Psychiatrist spoke directly with the Social Worker as they had been made aware that the result of the assessment would determine what, if any, further action was to be taken.
The Social Worker again refused to accept the outcome of the assessment. By this time the PPO had expired but she went on to inform me that a further assessment was needed and as this could only be arranged in another 48 hours the children would have to remain under the care of Social Services for an additional 48 hours.
I again attended the 3rd Mental Health Assessment. This assessment was at yet another NHS Hospital and carried out by yet another Psychologist and Psychiatrist. Approximately 20 minutes into the assessment the Psychiatrist stopped the assessment. They informed me that they felt it only fair to disclose that the Social Worker had written to them informing them that I was so psychotic that I had managed to manipulate my way through two previous MH assessments and that they were to be particularly on the look-out for this psychotic behaviour and prepared for my ability to manipulate them. The Social Worker also stated in her letter to them that she required them to reach a diagnosis of psychosis.
They went on to inform me that they found no evidence whatsoever of any psychosis and as such they felt it only fair to stop the assessment to inform me that they would be initiating a formal professional complaint against the Social Worker concerned. They informed me that the treatment I had received at the hands of the Social Worker was disgraceful and strongly advised me to seek legal advice to pursue legal action against Social Services.
I was given the option of continuing and concluding the MH assessment or stopping it at the point we had reached. I chose to continue with the assessment as I didn’t want Social Services to have any further excuses of keeping my children. The Psychologist and Psychiatrist reached a diagnosis of C-PTSD, Depression and Severe Anxiety and the conclusion I posed no threat to my children.
A statutory multi-agency meeting was held that afternoon and after 120 hours my children were returned to my care.
My story is sadly not that uncommon and I have encountered many victims who have faced re-victimisation at the hands of Social Services. The system certainly needs to change and far better help and support needs to be provided to the non-abusive parent. I have signed Claire Webb’s petition and perhaps after reading my story it will encourage many others to sign up too.