By Melissa Doherty, Trainee Solicitor in the Family Law Department
On the 27th November, Beth Woodward, specialist Family Lawyer, and I attended the MKACT domestic abuse course in Milton Keynes. It was a very insightful and eye-opening experience that we both were very pleased to have attended. The course was structured in a way that we were able to hear from a variety of speakers including Adina Claire, CEO of National Women’s Aid. We also heard from an academic perspective, by Dr Jane Monckton-Smith about cases when abuse sadly ends in homicide. One of the most powerful segments of the course was when we were able to hear from a survivor of domestic abuse. She reminded us all that the most important role you can play in the life of someone suffering from domestic abuse is to gradually empower them to take action to walk away towards a better life for themselves and any children. It is not pity or sympathy that victims require but the knowledge that they are able to get out and move on with their lives in the end that things will get better. The surviving speaker was an absolute testament to this.
We then attended two workshops. The first was about the perpetrators of domestic violence. The workshop was delivered to us in the same way as workshops delivered to real perpetrators of domestic violence who attend the “Fresh Start” Course. “Fresh Start” is a specialist domestic abuse prevention programme that works to address the cause of the problem. It aims to increase the safety of all parties involved in domestic abuse. It is accessible by both men and women including those in same-sex relationships. On the “Fresh Start” course, perpetrators are offered a structured group work programme as well as one to one services that aim to change behaviour by delving into the feelings, thought processes and beliefs which physically manifest themselves in domestic abuse. As attendees of the workshop, we were encouraged to consider and explore these beliefs. Perpetrators who attend this course will gain a deeper understanding of where their behaviours are rooted and will work with the course providers and others to change those beliefs and address those feelings and emotions.
In the afternoon, we attended a second workshop. The topic of this workshop was the impact of Domestic Violence on Children and Young People. This impact cannot be understated and not only leads to a multitude of behavioural problems for the children as they grow up but is also a contributing factor to children going on to be perpetrators of domestic abuse in their adult years.
Some of the effects domestic abuse can have on children are as follows:
I am pleased to part of a family law department that puts children at the centre of the work it does in helping families who are separating and which is keenly aware of domestic abuse and financial coercion. We work to ensure that clients are protected from this.
In the course, we were reminded several times that domestic violence gets worse when people are separating and in my own practice, I have seen the impact this can have on children and the best ways to work with parents to protect children.
Beth Woodward has extensive experience in working with victims of domestic violence and we are planning to make connections with the charity, Flag DV, to see where we can further assist and help those who find themselves in these extremely difficult life circumstances.
Visit our Meet the Team area to find out more about Beth's specialisms.