Florida is to become the first state in the United States to recognise child to parent violence – a form of domestic violence when a child or adolescent causes physical, psychological or financial damage to gain control over a parent.
The Florida legislature passed FL House Bill 1199 unamimously on Wednesday April 3rd.
The bill is to be signed into law by Governor Rick Scott on July 1st.
The news was celebrated by Alice Flowers, a local campaigner since the violent death of her sister, Rosemary, at the hands of her own son in 2013.
Rosemary Flowers had reported suffering domestic violence for years, starting when her son was just 12-years-old. Her family claim that police and social services did not always take her complaints seriously because the perpetrator was her son: a dependent.
Florida’s reform will require law enforcement to undergo special training on how to handle child-to-parent abuse, and start tracking child-to-parent abuse as a specific category of domestic violence.
Lagging Behind: The Situation In The UK
Child to parent violence remains a stigmatised and under-reported form of violence within the fields of youth justice, policing, and criminology, particularly in the UK.
In fact, the UK is still lagging behind developments in both the US and Australia – where I first heard of the issue from a social orker while reporting for the Herald Sun newspaper in Melbourne in 2012.
If you’ve never heard of it, you’re far from alone.
As I found from speaking to victims in Melbourne and London, the overriding fear of being labelled a weak parent by others often prevents parents – overwhelmingly single mothers – from speaking out.
Figures differ for how prevalent this kind of abuse is, but a Parentline Plus (2010 ) survey revealed that the helpline received 22,537 calls from parents who were being abused by their children between June 2008 and June 2010.
Meanwhile, PAARS remains the only UK charity directy tackling child to parent abuse. Based in Enfield in north London, it’s run by the inspirational Joe Lettieri, Ayse Adil and Karen Hunter.
I spent several months with the PAARS team and the families they work with for my 2013 long-form radio documentary – Child to Parent Violence: “A constant battle with no-one to turn to” – which was subsequently cited by the University of Oxford Law Faculty.
If after listening you have any further questions, Holes In The Wall is a fantastic UK resource collated by former social worker Helen Bonnick.