Infants, toddlers experience delayed reactions to domestic violence…

While some children are victims of violence in their homes, others are witnesses. Do not be misled by this distinction though. Being a witness does not make children less vulnerable to the consequences. Acts of violence and the emotions they produce—intense fear, anger, grief, a constant anticipation of the next terrifying incident—get imprinted in the child’s mind and expressed, sometimes not right away but eventually. In fact, the consequences might take a few years to show up.

megan Holmes authority on long term abuse of childrenMegan R. Holmes, PhD, Assistant Professor of Social Work at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, studies domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence (IPV). She explains that each year nearly five million children are exposed to IPV. They witness the acts of violence or the after-effects. They hear fights. They see bruises, lacerations, and broken bones. They navigate homes in disarray—shattered glass, overturned furniture. She adds that more than half of these children are exposed to severe forms of IPV. They witness a parent or other important caregiver being burned, choked, or threatened with a knife or gun.
Holmes explains that many research studies link exposure to IPV with a number of difficulties for children, including emotional problems such as depression and anxiety; academic problems such as lower intellectual ability and struggles with memory and concentration; social problems like loneliness and less competence with establishing peer relationships; and behavioral problems such as aggression and delinquency. In other words, children might internalize the effects of violence and suffer privately, or they might externalize the havoc and suffer publicly. Sometimes it’s both.
INFANTS AND TODDLERS
In her most recently completed research project, Holmes examined the long-term effects of IPV on children who were exposed between birth and age three (n=107) and compared the data with children of the same age who were not exposed (n=339). She chose this age  group because little is known about the long-term consequences of IPV exposure for the youngest witnesses.
“The earliest childhood experiences provide the foundation for later development,” she says, “and for success in school and in relationships with other children and adults.”
In her study, Holmes conducted a secondary analysis of data collected as part of the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being, which is a longitudinal study designed to assess the outcomes of children who have been reported to Child Protective Services as being victims of abuse or neglect. The study was funded by the National Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood (www.qic-ec.org). Some of the results from this study are being published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, which is in press.
Results: A Sleeper Effect
Holmes studied the long-term effects of IPV upon children’s prosocial skills, which include cooperation, responsibility, assertiveness, and respect. She also examined the long-term effects on aggressive behaviors, which include yelling, shouting, and hitting. Her analyses included five years of data and revealed that negative effects do not show up immediately. Rather, children gradually become more aggressive, especially between the ages of five and six. In addition, children exposed to severe forms of IPV (e.g., burns, choking, threats with a knife or gun) demonstrate prosocial deficits a year after the incident. Holmes refers to this as the sleeper effect. Many of these symptomatic behaviors arise as children enter preschool and grade school, when they start to socialize more formally with their peers.
ASSESSMENT & INTERVENTION
These findings have important implications for social work practice.When social workers learn that a child has been or may have been exposed to IPV, it is important for them to assess for the negative effects not only now but also over time, especially as the child begins to enter school. Likewise, when a problematic behavior shows up, it is important not only to assess for current exposure to IPV but also for
previous exposure—one, two, three, or more years earlier. Holmes adds that assessments need to include the age or developmental period when IPV exposure began as well as the nature of exposure, including duration and level of severity. Interventions should be targeted towards those children who are exposed when they are three years or younger and toward those who have experienced longer durations to or more severe forms of IPV. “Early assessment and intervention is necessary for supporting and promoting a future with more positive outcomes,” she concludes.
TEACHING & RESEARCH
Megan R. Holmes, PhD, joined the faculty of the Mandel School in July 2012. She teaches Foundations of Direct Practice and conducts research on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and its impact upon the children who witness it. She is currently examining the role of maternal warmth and sibling attachment as protective factors against the impact of violence exposure. Holmes was a recipient of a Society for SocialWork and Research Doctoral Fellows Award in 2012 and a recipient of a National Quality Improvement Center on Early Childhood Dissertation Fellowship from 2010-12. She earned her doctorate at the University of California Los Angeles.

So, it’s June 2011

So, it’s June 2011, and it’s time for Sydney’s annual special needs educational review, and Education doesn’t talk to Social Services, and I get invited to the review. So I am in a room with Sydney for the first time in over a year, and I get to see first hand, up close and personal, the devastating destruction of the emotional abuse inflicted on her for her mother. I almost didn’t recognise her, her face was so hard and twisted, I just wanted to sob for her. She was so hard and tortured, and spoke with a different voice, my daughter was gone…

Her mother sat inches away, to intervene in the event she crumbled and couldn’t keep up the front that had been drilled into her… She had been instructed never to look at me, but she couldn’t resist. The man that had loved her since her birth was right in front of her, and she just couldn’t shake the deep knowledge that was buried in her that she was always loved by that man and always would be. She repeatedly got the poke in the side from her mother each time she looked over at me, but she just couldn’t help herself…

At the end, she told the group how much she was looking forward to her next stage at school, the lie was impossible to hide…

My First Christmas not speaking to Sydney

So, I have my first Christmas in 13 years not just not being with Sydney, but not even speaking with her.  For a father, that is not something to contemplate…  But the judge had just ruled against her mother taking Sydney from me forever, so I had the hope of fighting for another day…  Social Services then brings some new people into the mix, seems that the ones we deal with keep getting fired for incompetence.  It has now been 2 years since Chanel 4 did the documentary on Social Services in Woking, and nothing seems to have changed much….

Or at least I thought, it was about to get way worse…

Still no reason, but I finally get to go to Sports Day

In the mean time to all this, I stand as a Conservative Councillor here in Frimley Green, Surrey; and get elected.  I go back to court to demand that I be able to go to Sydney’s school events, and Social Services demands that I must not have any contact with her.  They fail to produce even remotest whiff of evidence to suggest I am unsuitable, and then the judge finds out that I am an elected member of Her Majesty’s Government, and starts to dig in a bit about this supposed threat I pose.  Surprisingly, it is found that I bear no threat to Sydney, and that social Services has been wrong about everything.  Does anyone care?  Well, you already know the answer to that one…  But, in May, I get to go to Sports Day, yeah!!!

I was put forward to stand by some marginal people in  the Conservative Party, and when I went to the selection interview, they were less than enthusiastic about this dual national loud mouthed American on their doorstep.  So, they said fine, you want to stand?  Then go stand in Frimley Green where we’ve not won in 24 years and the closest we’ve ever come was losing by 356 votes in the previous election…  So, I did, and the rest is history, I won by 128 votes, and now they have me for 4 years.  Although the History was almost very brief.  Sydney’s mother Meg and her buddy Michele go to one of the County Councillors with a large dossier of dirt they’d prepared, that he took straight to the party and election commission.  Unfortunately for them, quite a bit of it was from paginated bundles from the Children’s hearings.  You see, those are sealed, and not for distribution to anyone, much less the press.  Of course the lawyers who received the stuff packed it up and sent it back.  And that of course was that…

But the weirdest part was that running for office here, as well as anywhere else is a pretty public affair, didn’t she notice???  You would have thought…

Social Services then joins in the fabrication

So, going to court right after Christmas was the single biggest shocker of all the court appearances I had been to up to that time.  Social Services had continued their investigation, and made a wide series of interviews in support of what was supposedly best for Sydney.  Now they , by court order have to have this report for you a week ahead of time so that you don’t waste the time of the High Court with irrelevant or stupid questions.  And when do I receive it? 30 minutes before…

So, the report contains a wide range of interviews with people I had never met, and who had no idea who I even was.  I have no time to defend against it, refute it, or even ask any substantive questions about it.  Not only did Social Services not care, they said it was not relevant.  All recommended that I be cut off from Sydney.  And why?  Because they felt that is what Sydney needed.  And the Judge?  She says she has to go with what Social Services say.  So, now I am not going to be seeing Sydney for another 3 months, and Social Services and Meg are all high 5ing each other outside the courtroom, “they won”…

Was there even the slightest whiff of evidence to support any of this?  Not on your life, not then and not since…  I protest it all, but to no avail, no one cares that Social Services can just walk in, take your child away, invent the grounds for doing it, and actually do it…  And then the horrible truth sets it, it’s really over and there is little I can do about it…  So, men, if you are at this point, stop blowing smoke up your skirts, it really is over, and they really can do what they want.  You say this could only happen in a 3rd world country?  Wrong, it happens here every day…