Every now and then a book comes along that makes me want to grab a loud hailer and wear a sandwich board displaying it’s cover with “READ THIS NOW, PLEASE” printed across the front. I would stand outside our denuded public service ‘hubs’ and chant non-aggressively and if I had the cash, give out free copies. Helen Bonnick’s new book Child to Parent Violence and Abuse, A Practitioner’s Guide to Working with Families is one of those books. If you work with families who talk about or even allude to controlling, abusive, or aggressive behaviours directed towards them, by their child or a child they are caring for, then this is the book those parents need you to read.
I first met Helen some years ago in a cafe near a London train station. We had connected online and decided to meet in person to talk face-to-face about her professional desire to explore what was then a hardly reported on phenomenon and my experience of it. It was still a time when social media was a useful way of connecting with others and sharing complex and difficult information without fear of attracting further abuse. Helen’s work and her website www.holesinthewall.co.uk draw heavily on much of that information sharing and reminded me how much I had learned and how much support I’d received from others during that time.
Helen’s book is well-written and clear and yet complicated, is practical and yet doesn’t give easy answers and is compassionate and doesn’t apportion blame. ‘We need all of us,’ she writes, ‘the whole family, parents and professionals to work together, if we are to stand any chance of bringing about change.’ It’s hardly a radical statement and yet real life experiences are littered with blame and taking sides and accusations and investigations. There are good reasons why. Violent and abusive behaviours can drive us all into opposing corners, if we’re not careful. What Helen does so well is explain how we can work together and the information that all professionals need when working with families.
Headings such as ‘Difficult parents or difficult situations?’,’Parents are retraumatised by the helping professions’ and sections on building trust and safeguarding get to the heart of the matter. The reality of violence within the home, perhaps still taboo is laid bare as are the all too frequent and ill-fitting and simplistic responses. But this book isn’t just about ‘awareness-raising’, it’s about professionalism and processes and practical solutions and continuous improvement whilst recognising the pressures that all of us are labouring under.
Living with constant and terrifying violence and abuse from a loved one who isn’t choosing to behave in such a way and trying to get anywhere close to explaining how that is, is like trying to report from the war zone of a foreign country, while gunfire drowns out your voice. Many of us are rendered mute. We are desperate for advocates who know the terrain and who can translate for us. Helen is a brilliant translator-advocate who can bridge the sometimes aching divide between families and services. BUY HER BOOK NOW. Please.