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Supporting clients who are accused of perpetrating domestic abuse

3.1 Introduction

Welcome to this third and final training module on supporting clients who are accused of perpetrating domestic abuse. There are three domestic abuse modules and they are designed to be studied in order, from the first to the third. These modules are:

  1. Introducing domestic abuse
  2. Supporting survivors of domestic abuse        
  3. Supporting clients who are accused of perpetrating domestic abuse

Have you completed the second domestic abuse module, Supporting survivors of domestic abuse?

If you have not yet studied the second domestic abuse module, please do this before studying this second module. Go to Supporting survivors of domestic abuse.

Approximately 1 in 10 cases you deal with will feature domestic abuse. You will come across people who have experienced domestic abuse, perpetrators of abuse and those who have been accused of causing abuse. For some people, their experiences may make it more difficult for them to be involved with the court system, particularly where their case involves the alleged perpetrator of abuse. These training modules will assist you in feeling more confident in supporting clients in these situations.

Support Through Court do not want or expect volunteers to ‘diagnose’ domestic abuse or to become overly involved with clients. A three-step process for supporting clients where domestic abuse is a feature of the case is described later in this module.

Please note

This module deals with some sensitive issues including descriptions of domestic abuse. These training modules are not compulsory, but they are recommended. If you do not feel comfortable to start the module, or if you are affected by the material, or feel you are unable to undergo the training, then Support Through Court can help you. Please speak to your Service Manager when you are next in the office.

If you need immediate support over the phone you can call:

National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 200 247

Learning outcomes

This third training module will help you to support clients who are accused of perpetrating domestic abuse. For example, as respondents in non-molestation applications or child arrangements cases where the other party is alleging our client has perpetrated domestic abuse against them.

In this module you will learn about:

  • The importance of understanding domestic abuse
  • How to support alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse
  • How to maintain appropriate boundaries when supporting alleged perpetrators.

This module is one of a number of training modules to help Support Through Court volunteers when supporting clients. The modules all use the same case study to explore the different aspects of supporting clients effectively. We will be referring to this example as we work though this module, so it may be helpful to remind yourself of the facts now. You may want to open this case study in a separate window (use Ctrl + click on the link) so you can refer back to it when needed. Find out more about the fictitious Johnson/Smith family and their situation.

During the module you may come across terminology which is unfamiliar to you. Some words are hyperlinked to the Glossary, so by hovering over the word you will be able to see its definition.

Statistics around domestic abuse show that women are more likely to be victims of abuse than men. For this reason, during the module we will be using ‘she’ to denote the survivor of domestic abuse and ‘he’ to denote the perpetrator, as this is the scenario you are more likely to come across in your volunteering.

However domestic abuse can involve men as survivors and women as perpetrators, as well as abuse within same sex relationships. Support Through Court supports all clients regardless of their circumstances and so you may come across different forms of relationships in your volunteering. This training will assist you to support clients whatever their gender or sexual orientation and regardless if they are alleged to have abused or are making allegations.

Domestic abuse used to be called Domestic Violence and some people still refer to it like that. However, because physical violence is only one form of domestic abuse, these days the broader term Domestic Abuse is preferred.

Whilst thinking about terminology we use the term ‘survivor’ in preference to ‘victim’ as ‘survivor’ implies an active, creative, resourceful response (Women’s Aid, 2020). However, both terms can be used interchangeably, depending on the context.

Give your opinion

How would you rate your understanding of supporting clients who are alleged to be perpetrators of abuse, right now, before you start this module? Submit your answer.

3.2 Why is it important to understand domestic abuse?

In the first training module, Introducing domestic abuse, we defined domestic abuse , using the Home Office definition, as being:

“Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality. This can encompass, but is not limited to, the following types of abuse: psychological; physical; sexual; financial; emotional.”

We focused on coercive and controlling behaviour, where the perpetrator acts to exert power and control in the relationship through a range of abusive behaviours.

Activity 1

What types of coercive or controlling behaviour have you heard about, either in the first domestic abuse training module or in your volunteering at Support Through Court?

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Comment

Controlling behaviour involves the perpetrator removing the survivors’ ability to make choices for themselves and exercise their freedom to act in their personal, social, economic and political life. Examples might include depriving them of money, isolating them from friends and family or making rules about what they can and can’t do in their everyday lives.

Coercive behaviour involves threats, intimidation or humiliation, to harm, punish or frighten the survivor. Examples might include violent outbursts, shouting and swearing, belittling the survivor or threatening the children, to ensure the survivor behaves in the way they want and is frightened and powerless within the relationship.

Sometimes individual acts which make up a pattern of coercive and controlling behaviour can be difficult to identify, particularly for the survivor, who has become used to the behaviour and to the reasons given by the perpetrator for acting in that way. Often these reasons may be about caring for the survivor or looking after them.

In the first domestic abuse training module, introducing Domestic Abuse, we considered how we could use Duluth’s power and control wheel as a way of helping survivors (and those supporting them) to identify the different control tactics perpetrators use against them.

Hover over each segment of the wheel below to display the full definitions.

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In the first domestic abuse training module we also explored the losses and gains a survivor experiences when deciding whether to leave the relationship, or restart it. Understanding this can help you to support clients through being non-judgemental, identifying support for survivors and empowering survivors to make appropriate choices.

Activity 2

A difficult and potentially dangerous time for a domestic abuse survivor is where they are brought back into contact with the perpetrator through court proceedings, most typically divorce and financial arrangements or child arrangement proceedings. Why might this be a vulnerable time for a domestic abuse survivor?

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Comment

You may have thought of a number of reasons why this time could be particularly dangerous for a domestic abuse survivor. There will be some contact between the survivor and perpetrator due to the court proceedings and they will usually see each other at any court hearings. This may be an opportunity for a perpetrator to try and reconcile with the survivor so the relationship starts again.

You may also recall from the first training module that the perpetrator may also be unsettled by the loss of control in the relationship, particularly where a court makes a decision which the survivor has asked for. This may also provoke a violent response from the perpetrator.

Being aware of the potential risks survivors may face when leaving the relationship or being involved in court proceedings can help you to support both survivors and alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse.

As we work though this module, please remember the importance of understanding what domestic abuse is, the control tactics perpetrators use, why survivors might find it difficult to leave a relationship and the risks involved in court proceedings where domestic abuse is involved. This will help you to better support both survivors and alleged perpetrators. We will look at how to support alleged perpetrators in the next section of this module.

3.3 Supporting alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse

Support Though Court supports clients irrespective of allegations made about them. You will therefore come across situations where you are asked to support a client who is alleged to be a perpetrator of domestic violence. It is important for you to manage your boundaries appropriately, and to control any feelings of revulsion, either due to the allegations made against them or the way they behave in the court building.

For example, your reaction could lead you to be under-involved in their case, or not engage fully with their needs. As a Support Through Court volunteer, you are not there to judge, but to support all clients regardless of allegations made about them. However, if you feel that you are unable to support a client - for whatever reason - speak with your Service Manager at the earliest opportunity.

Activity 3

However, there are issues which might arise specifically when supporting a client who is an alleged perpetrator and we will now consider those issues and the care that is needed when supporting such clients.

Please watch this video from Respect and answer the following questions. Please note this video is aimed at healthcare professionals so there are some things that are discussed which may seem out of context at Support Through Court. Don’t worry about this.

Download this video clip.Video player: stc_respect_2020_vwr001_1080x1920.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

COLIN FITZGERALD:
My name is Colin Fitzgerald, and I'm the service development manager for an organisation called Respect. Respect is a national charity working in the field of domestic violence. And we run two help lines, one for men who are using abuse towards their partners. We also run a male victims helpline, and we also work with young people around violence in intimate relationships or towards their parents.
By focusing purely on the victims, there's a danger that what we don't do is we don't hold perpetrators to account for their behaviour. And also, we kind of put sticking plaster over things. So it means that we might do some excellent work with the victim, but if the perpetrator then goes off to be in another relationship where he goes on to be abusive again, then we haven't really done our job.
And one of our jobs should be to hold these men to account for their behaviour and make sure that they're not out in society using violence again, because the impacts of that upon them, their partners, and ultimately their children is going to be huge.
There's no type of person that abuses. So we know abuse takes place in a number of contexts men to women, women to men, and also in same-sex relationships.
There are women that abuse their male partners. When you start to see a disparity is if you factor in homicide, sexual violence, levels of injury, and incidents of four or more. And then you start to find a disparity, with the vast majority of perpetrators being male and the vast majority of victims being female.
I think sometimes it's quite hard for people to negotiate what's happening in a relationship and work out from a professional point of view who's doing what to whom. A good question to ask is not who started the violence, but who ended it. Another good question to ask is, who suffered the worst injuries? And the final question to ask, really, is, who's in fear in terms of what's happening in the relationship?
No. There's no evidence to suggest that violence and abuse happens in one community more than any other community.
No. Alcohol and drugs doesn't cause people to be violent or abusive. So even if they have been violent when they've been intoxicated, there have also been times where they've been violent and abusive where they're not intoxicated.
Most of the support for perpetrators in the UK comes from domestic violence perpetrator programmes. And if people are particularly interested in those, the thing to really do is phone Respect's helpline. And what we would do is we would plug people into the programmes that are local to them.
When men go on to programmes that conform to national standards and complete those programmes, the vast majority of those men stop using violence. The vast majority of their partners will report feeling safer. Sexual violence was completely reduced. And women, in conversation with the women whose partners attended those programmes, what those women were reporting was that they felt a greater chance to be independent and behave the way that they wanted to behave.
There are some things to look out for. Some men will talk about the fact that they've used violence. You also get some men who will present at, for example, their GP's with a mitigating issue. So they'll present saying that they've got an issue around depression or anxiety. Or sometimes what will happen is you'll have an appointment with a client, the female client, and she'll turn up for her appointment, but she'll be accompanied by her partner, and her partner will insist on coming into the meeting with her. And then when you're asking her questions, he'll answer on her behalf.
No, I would advise against confronting them. But I think also what we should be looking for is opportunities to have discussion with them and to hold them to account for their behaviour.
It slightly depends on the context in which you're working with them, but if you're a professional and they're your client and you're getting some inkling that there might be something happening, then it's certainly worth asking some followup questions. Has he got any concerns about his behaviour? Where are the children when arguments are taking place? What is it about the arguments that's concerning him? Has it ever reached the point where he's laid hands on his partner?
Probably what he'll want to do is tell you an awful lot about how his partner is behaving and how that's making him feel. And if you can, you want to try and ease him around a little bit to talk about how he's behaving and what he thinks the effects of that are on his partner and also his children.
By all means, be empathic, but the one thing you don't want to do is collude with their behaviour. So if they're telling you that something that they've done-- and they might be telling you about a hard situation-- you don't want to turn round to them and say, oh yeah, I can't imagine why you'd want to do that. You really want to be clear that the behaviour isn't OK, but actually, with some help and some support, that they can get around that.
End transcript
 
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When discussing the relationship perpetrators may deny, minimize and blame. They may present as having a sense of entitlement, particularly in regard to women. This is often called ‘male privilege’. They use a variety of common excuses to explain their behaviour such as drugs and alcohol, mental health, stress or childhood experiences. They can come across as plausible, sensible and charming.

When supporting alleged perpetrators, remember the advice given in the second domestic abuse module ‘Supporting Survivors of Domestic Abuse’. The same process applies when supporting alleged perpetrators.

First check legal aid eligibility (can they provide evidence of domestic abuse perpetrated against them?). Then help with the immediate issue they have come to see you about. What can they do without a solicitor?

Focus on their case and help them to understand where the domestic abuse fits in with the decision-making process of the court. Finally, consider if you can signpost them to other organisations who may be able to help.

3.4 The importance of maintaining appropriate boundaries when supporting alleged perpetrators

There are some common behaviours or experiences volunteers report when supporting alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse, which we will discuss below. Being aware of these will help you to support clients appropriately by maintaining appropriate boundaries. By this we mean being clear about what you can and cannot help clients with, and what you will and will not say. Understanding these guidelines will help you support clients appropriately whilst being aware of possible risks to yourself and the other parties involved in the court proceedings.

Activity 4

By signing in and enrolling on this course you can view and complete all activities within the course, track your progress in My OpenLearn Create. and when you have completed a course, you can download and print a free Statement of Participation - which you can use to demonstrate your learning.

As a volunteer when responding to counter allegations (particularly where there is the possibility that they are fabricated by an alleged perpetrator, be careful not to offer the following common (but problematic) responses.

Colluding with the abuserThis is problematic as collusion may embolden the perpetrator
Minimising or excusing his behaviour, or blaming it on the survivorThis is problematic as it is in effect taking sides and adopting a non-neutral stance
Offering ‘anger management’ solutions or programmesThis is problematic as domestic abuse is not due to anger issues; as we have learnt through these training modules, it is a systematic crime which is often due to issues around power and control
‘50:50’ responses where the survivor and perpetrator are equally blamedThis is problematic as it implies an unhealthy relationship rather than one where domestic abuse is involved
Reframing the domestic abuse into ‘family conflict’This is problematic as it implies the 50:50 response referred to above
Seeing the perpetrator as the survivorThis is problematic as if the perpetrator has persuaded you, they may be encouraged to obstruct the process believing they will get what they want

Find out more

To find out more about how some perpetrators may present as victims, go to this information.

3.5 Supporting Steve Smith as an alleged perpetrator of domestic abuse

We are now going to look for the final time at our case study, the Johnson/Smith family. Remind yourself of the family and their situation.

Jazmin has applied for a child arrangements order in respect of Chloe. When the application for a child arrangement order is sent to Steve, he comes into the Support Through Court office to seek advice on what he needs to do next.

Steve tells you that Jazmin has made unfounded allegations about him being violent towards her in order to extort money from him through child support payments. He alleges that the injury to Jazmin was caused by her drug dealer as she owed money to him. He says that he provided everything for her and the children but that whatever he did was not enough for her.

He says that Jazmin struggled to parent the two children and used drugs and alcohol around the children. He says he had to look after the children as well as work to support them and so he is worried about her looking after Chloe. He is angry that he does not know where his daughter is living and that he has not had any contact with her since Jazmin left three months ago.

He then goes on to say that Jazmin was very volatile and emotional and would shout, scream and throw things when she did not get her own way. He spoke about being hit by items thrown at him. He says he worries that Jazmin is not fit to care for either of the two children and that she may pose a risk to them due to her violent behaviour and drug use. He wants his daughter Chloe to live with him. If this does not happen immediately then he wants contact with her overnight whenever he is not working and to know where they are living with Jazmin.

He repeatedly says that he knows he will not get a fair hearing as the courts will take the side of the mother, particularly given the untrue allegations she has made. He also is worried about the cost of proceedings.

Activity 5

Thinking about how you will respond to Steve, please answer the following questions. There is one correct answer to each question.

1. How would you respond to his allegations of violence from Jazmin towards him?

a. 

Say how sorry you are to hear this and ask for further details to include in his statement.


b. 

Suggest relationships can be difficult and things can easily get out of hand.


c. 

Explain how the court will take allegations of domestic violence into account in the child arrangements order and ask whether he can provide evidence of Jazmin’s violence.


d. 

Tell him he is a liar and that statistically he is more likely to have been violent towards Jazmin.


The correct answer is c.

Answer

The correct answer is explain how the court will take allegations of domestic violence into account in the child arrangements order and ask whether he can provide evidence of Jazmin’s violence.

Feedback

The other responses either collude in his allegations or are judgemental.

2. How would you respond to Steve’s concern about the cost of proceedings?

a. 

Explain that he might be eligible for legal aid if he can evidence domestic abuse and is of low income, signpost him to a list of Legal Aid Family solicitors or go through the Legal Aid Checker with him online.


b. 

Explain he can represent himself and explain how the proceedings will run.


c. 

Suggest he should think about paying for a solicitor as Jazmin will probably be eligible for legal aid due to her allegations of domestic abuse.


d. 

Sympathise with his situation and the fact that Jazmin has put him in this situation.


The correct answer is a.

Answer

The correct answer is explain that he might be eligible for legal aid if he can evidence domestic abuse and is of low income, signpost him to a list of Legal Aid Family solicitors or go through the Legal Aid Checker with him online.

Feedback

As he has made allegations of domestic abuse, he may be eligible for legal aid if he can evidence the abuse and his income is below the financial limits.

3. How would you respond to Steve’s anger about not knowing where the children are living?

a. 

Agree that this appears to be part of the lies Jazmin is making about him.


b. 

Explain that the court has made a procedural order to withhold the address but that this will not affect the main hearing of the case and is something he can ask the court to look at again during that hearing.


c. 

Explain the order was due to the significant allegations of violence made by Jazmin and is unlikely to be changed as her allegations are credible and serious.


d. 

Sympathise that it is difficult for a father not to know where his child is living.


The correct answer is b.

Answer

The correct answer is explain that the court has made a procedural order to withhold the address but that this will not affect the main hearing of the case and is something he can ask the court to look at again during that hearing.

Feedback

The other responses are either judgmental or collude with Steve.

4. Steve asks how he can prevent Jazmin from having a child arrangement order as he wants the children to live with him. Do you:

a. 

Explain there is no point in challenging the application as the courts will usually prefer the mother, particularly where allegations of violence are made.


b. 

Suggest he needs to make an immediate application as the children may be at risk of harm from Jazmin and show him the forms to do this.


c. 

Explain which forms he needs to complete to defend the application and what will happen next.


d. 

Suggest he sees a solicitor as it is a complex case due to the counter allegations of domestic abuse.


The correct answer is c.

Answer

The correct answer is explain which forms he needs to complete to defend the application and what will happen next.

Feedback

You need to help him with the immediate issue at hand, as you would for any other client. There does not appear to be any evidence provided by Steve that the children are at immediate risk of harm and this may be a tactic to use the child arrangements application to further harass and intimidate Jazmin.

3.6 Your volunteering and supporting clients who are alleged to be perpetrators of abuse

Activity 6

Thinking about what you have learnt about supporting clients who are alleged to be perpetrators of abuse, please complete the following questions.

By signing in and enrolling on this course you can view and complete all activities within the course, track your progress in My OpenLearn Create. and when you have completed a course, you can download and print a free Statement of Participation - which you can use to demonstrate your learning.

Give your opinion

How would you rate your understanding of supporting clients who are alleged to be perpetrators of abuse, after completing this module? Submit your answer.

3.7 Conclusion

This module has helped you to understand how to best support alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse in your volunteering with Support Through Court.

In this module you have learned about:

  • The importance of understanding domestic abuse
  • How to support alleged perpetrators of domestic abuse
  • How to maintain appropriate boundaries when supporting alleged perpetrators.

You have now completed the three domestic abuse modules. They were:

  1. Introducing domestic abuse
  2. Supporting survivors of domestic abuse
  3. Supporting clients who are accused of perpetrating domestic abuse

Congratulations on completing the three domestic abuse modules. You can come back to these modules to refresh your memory or to find relevant information at any time.

Support Through Court have a suite of training modules which you can complete so please do take a look at the other modules available. You can study these in any order. They include:

Give your opinion

Well done, you have completed this module.

How much will this module, supporting clients who are alleged to be perpetrators of abuse, help you with your volunteering? Submit your answer.

3.8 Modules 1–3 knowledge assessment

This knowledge assessment contains 10 questions. The pass mark is 80% and you have unlimited attempts at the assessment.

This assessment counts towards your digital badge and Statement of Participation.

Go to the Modules 1–3 knowledge assessment  now and gain your digital badge.

References

Women's Aid (2020) The Survivors Handbook, [Online]. Available at https://www.womensaid.org.uk/ the-survivors-handbook/ (Accessed 16 January 2020).

Acknowledgements

Grateful acknowledgement is made to the following sources:

Every effort has been made to contact copyright holders. If any have been inadvertently overlooked the publishers will be pleased to make the necessary arrangements at the first opportunity.

Important: *** against any of the acknowledgements below means that the wording has been dictated by the rights holder/publisher, and cannot be changed.

266485: 3.1 Support through court logo: Support through court

273319: 3.2 Controlling behaviour: Adapted from Artem Furman / Alamy Stock Photo

271083: 3.2 Duluth power and control wheel interactive: 'Duluth wheel of power and control’, Domestic Abuse Intervention Program (DAIP), https://www.theduluthmodel.org/wheels/

269565: 3.3 Respect logo: Used with permission of Respect

266472: 3.5 Steve: tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Video and Audio

271652: 3.3 Respect video ‘Working with Perpetrators of Domestic Violence’: Used with permission of Against Violence & Abuse (AVA) and Respect