Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel

Episode 21: Listening to the Voices of Children and Young People Harmed by Fathers Who Choose Violence: An interview with Professor Cathy Humphreys and Dr. Katie Lamb

August 20, 2020 Ruth Stearns Mandel & David Mandel Season 1 Episode 21
Partnered with a Survivor: David Mandel and Ruth Reymundo Mandel
Episode 21: Listening to the Voices of Children and Young People Harmed by Fathers Who Choose Violence: An interview with Professor Cathy Humphreys and Dr. Katie Lamb
Show Notes Transcript

For too long we have not listened to children and young people's experience of their father's violence. In their ground breaking research, Professor Cathy Humphreys and Dr. Katie Lamb interviewed children and young people about what they wanted to say to fathers who were violent to their families. This interview includes:  

  • one of the digital stories where a young person, in her own voice, shares her feelings about father and his behavior
  • Katie and Cathy describing their interactions with the young people and what they learned from them 
  • David and Ruth exploring with their guests how some professionals struggle with confronting fathers who choose violence with the lived experience of their children 
  • a discussion of how aboriginal workers used the the young people's digital stories to help men change. 

To learn more about the research discussed in this episode:

Website for digital stories

Journal article about key research findings

Lamb, K., Humphreys, C .and Hegarty, K (2018), ‘ “Your behaviour has consequences”: Children and young people's perspectives on reparation with their fathers after domestic violence’, Children and Youth Services Review, vol 88 p164-169

Journal article about ethical challenges which arose in the work

Lamb, K., Humphreys, C. and Hegarty, K (2020) “Research ethics in practice: challenges of using digital technology to embed the voices of children and young people

within programs for fathers who use domestic violence”, Research Ethics, 1-17 (Full text available at

Full Phd

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Speaker 1: [00:00:01] We're back, we're back. This is partnered with a survivor,  [00:00:04][3.8]

Speaker 2: [00:00:05] episode 21,  [00:00:06][0.7]

Speaker 1: [00:00:07] I know you got it. Episode 21 and we just did two back to back. This is our second episode in two days that we're recording. We're doing amazing interviews. And for people who are just joining us for the first time, I'm David Mandel, executive director of the Saban Center Institute.  [00:00:22][15.0]

Speaker 2: [00:00:22] And I'm Ruth Stearns Mandel and I'm the learning manager and the communications manager.  [00:00:26][4.2]

Speaker 1: [00:00:27] And this podcast partnered with Survivor is exploring. It's an intimate discussion, often times between Ruth and I. But but today and oftentimes now interviews with colleagues and friends from all over the world and and today we're  [00:00:42][14.7]

Speaker 2: [00:00:43] today we're bringing two people in under heavy lockdown from Melbourne, Australia,  [00:00:48][4.9]

Speaker 1: [00:00:49] and so I'm really pleased to be joined. We're joined by Professor Cathy Humphreys, who's a who's as a really good friend of mine and a colleague, and we get to do fun and important stuff together. So Cathy, welcome. Thank you. Thank you. And we've also got Dr Katie Lamb with us, and we've got both of them here because they've been working on a really amazing project. And obviously, people following statement together know about the importance of the intersection of domestic violence perpetration as a parenting choice and and and how we're looking at kids and how they're impacted. And Katie and Kathy have been doing this project, which is called Fathering Challenges Responsible, Reparative Responsive Parenting. You guys used all the R words we did where you're really looking at kids, you know, Kids Stories is part of the wider project that you're doing. But really look at kids stories and experiences of their fathers violence to to the mother in their family and what those young people and children wanted to say. I would say to fathers who are going through a men's behavior change program so that we're really excited to have both of you on here. And so what we're going to do, we're going to try something different, which is we're going to play before we start asking Cathy and Katie questions, we're going to see how we do, where we're going to put technology play one of the the young people's stories. And can you give a quick setup on this, Katie? Like just sort of because it's it's that first when you just say something a little bit so that folks know, yes, listen to  [00:02:39][109.8]

Speaker 3: [00:02:39] yes, this is a group of young people that I spent a week with at the Australian Center for the moving image. We worked, they developed three minute digital stories based on the experiences of domestic violence and their relationship with their fathers, and each of them made a three minute story about their experiences. And we're going to listen to one today,  [00:03:00][20.8]

Speaker 1: [00:03:01] and this is a real young person and it's their voice, but it's been modified so their voice can't be recognized, correct?  [00:03:10][8.3]

Speaker 3: [00:03:11] Yes. Yeah. So it's been digitally altered. So sound a tiny bit robotic, but that's to protect the privacy of this young person who is still a young person.  [00:03:18][7.2]

Speaker 1: [00:03:19] All right. So we're going to jump right into this and then and come back to to Catherine Cady in a in a couple of minutes.  [00:03:25][6.1]

Speaker 4: [00:03:27] My phone is the one thing that I feel keeps me safe. It means that when you do something to me, the second person to help when I saw you and I was so scared, you asked me to leave my phone in the glove box, you said I would need it. What happened last time? I remember that day, so clearly we were out for lunch. I was trying to express my feelings. All that would come out once hate you got up and sent me the facts. You took my phone. Your creator. I couldn't call anyone. I thought it was happening again. Luckily, before you took my phone, I sent a quick message to mom that you stopped me, and after that, I didn't want to see you. What do you want to say? Someone who physically and emotionally had to? So when you tried to do it again yesterday, I said that I said, I don't really like you. I would rather spend my weekends doing something else the same saying, he said, That's OK. You just don't even want to spend time with someone who hurts me emotionally and physically. It still makes me upset that you don't make an effort to beat him. I shouldn't have to feel unsafe considering you were meant to be there for me. It was time when I was so used to come and go. Sometimes you would be that. And then you would. Why I was a little kid. I didn't understand you started drinking and you album. Glad I saw funny. You didn't think I saw it, but I did. I serve. I serve a lot more than I wanted to split up. And at that time, I didn't much do one. But now I do. And I was getting hard emotionally, physically by the race, and I got my phone to contact you, to talk to you. Now my phone has become something it shouldn't sound like I need to keep myself from. And. But you.  [00:05:25][117.6]

Speaker 2: [00:05:27] What a powerful story.  [00:05:28][0.9]

Speaker 1: [00:05:30] What about the story? Yeah, and I when I listen to this before the, you know, the first time I just listed the first time the other day. And the thing that jumped out at me was the importance of her phone for it right now. Obviously, the story is somewhat built around that. And and and I remember a professional in a meeting saying to me coming in and they have been working with the survivor and there's a mental health professionals. And they were so upset that she, after she'd been told that she was focused on her computer and that he'd broken her computer and and what was wrong with her, that she was focused on this inanimate object instead of the things the professional thought she should be focused on. And what really struck me was that if you just listen to the stories like this. It's the phone or the computer has meaning it's significance, practical, emotional significance, and I think professionals just gloss over that stuff oftentimes and ignore. These things, because they think it's not the way young people or adult survivors should be thinking or focusing their energy, right?  [00:06:41][70.9]

Speaker 2: [00:06:42] Yeah, I also think that we discount the ways that we project bodily autonomy onto objects like bones, communication vehicles, anything that gives us that sense that we can escape or reach out to the outside world to gain assistance or help or save our sense of sanity. And that's often triangulated by perpetrators intentionally to create that instability and to create that sense that there is no safety. Right?  [00:07:18][35.9]

Speaker 1: [00:07:19] You know, so clearly, clearly we've been impacted by this. So we, you know, you know, we both find the value in this. Can you describe what inspired you to do this research and why it is so important to listen to the voices of children impacted by domestic violence perpetrators?  [00:07:36][17.0]

Speaker 5: [00:07:37] And so I guess I'll I'll start by answering that and then pass to Katie. But where it started was we were starting to get very concerned about the huge focus on women and their children, which had been always my focus for 15 years of working and researching in this area about feeling that actually we were missing something really important, which was that the fathers didn't go away. And in fact, the fathers remained either psychologically or actually in children's lives for all their lives. And so thinking that there's a project here that we really needed to explore. And so we actually got about 20 different organizations and three government departments together and got funding for a large program of work over three years. And so we were looking and we called it fathering challenges as you introduced it. And within each frame where we had men's behavior change programs, we had mainstream fathering programs, we had Aboriginal healing and recovery programs. And with each of those, we tried to have a program of work which was about the practitioners, a program of which is about men. Pregnant women are program to work about children because, you know, we were showing that children of 50 per cent are victims of violence, and we haven't been really addressing the way in which the fathering issues are just as important to them as the other issues are for the adult survivor. And so that was one bit. The second bit was that the Luke Batty Foundation had been established at that point by Rosie Batty, who was a key advocate in Australia for domestic violence, and her son, Luke had been murdered by his father. And so she had a foundation and a little bit of money, and we went to Rosie to say, we think there's a project here that could be done around children and children's voices. So she helped fund the digital storytelling. And then the third piece of the puzzle was, you know, you can often have a terrific project, but not the right person there at the right time. And Katie just happened to come along wanting to do a Ph.D. right at the right moment. And we had a scholarship for her so that and she liked the project or she developed the project. You know, we had a vague idea and then it was one of these projects that emerged and we didn't know what we were doing really. When we had a we had a research question, basically, and then things emerged and developed into that. So Katie, you want to say anything more about that?  [00:10:30][172.7]

Speaker 3: [00:10:31] And I think I think it did just come together. Timing was perfect. My background was in criminology. I'd worked in corrections for a number of years, but more recently I'd been working in our Department of Human Services, working in a range of programs around vulnerable children. So I already had that real passion for both sides of the fence. I had worked with adult victim survivors, so the project was perfect for me, but really covered those those really key areas that I was already really interested in. And I was pretty keen to to get running the digital stories with something I had tried with other young people in, on and on the project. It worked well, so I thought we might be able to apply it to this work, which turned out to be quite effective.  [00:11:09][37.9]

Speaker 1: [00:11:11] Well, it feels like a really important piece of work. And Kathy, you know, it's I agree with you that there's there's huge gaps in in the work and in the literature about men who choose violence in their relationship to their kids. And, you know, and the importance of being I really look at it as being an ally to those young people and children and to the adult survivors to explore this area and. I think a lot of times people are afraid, somehow we're we're colluding or excusing the violence somehow or they're uncomfortable with the area, but they don't know how we're how we can be allies to young people or children if we don't tackle this, this topic and I I remember talking to a refuge manager years ago, we're talking about things like fathers and kids relationship with their fathers were abusive. And what she said to me was. We don't talk to young people in our refuge about their fathers, we act like out of sight, out of mind that somehow when their refuge door closes, he stops existing. And she said to me after we talk for a while, she says, we're going to start asking young people how they feel about their fathers. But the gap between it just had never crossed our mind before that he was the bad guy. We're saving you from this person. We're going to act like he's not important to you. And even in this story, you know, the young person really shares the complexity of our feelings. You should. You were supposed to take care of me, even when you turn your back on me. It hurt because I wanted something from you. You know, I wanted to have a relationship. You, that was good. And you. You feel her all her contradictions and her pain and our. It's right there.  [00:12:56][105.2]

Speaker 3: [00:12:57] And you could.  [00:12:59][1.4]

Speaker 5: [00:13:01] I was just going to say just just rafting off what David, just say, you know, we're clearly going to speak that when I developed just did a lot of the research and action research project with mothers and children in refuge and with workers called the Talking to My Mum project. You know, I'd spent, you know, a couple of years working with women and children about how we could develop activities that were inclusive of being able to help them talk with their children about domestic violence. Because we know that that's the thing that counts not workers to to children, but children talking to their mums. You would think, you know, like there were 22 activities in each book. Now you would think there was only one activity in terms of what the what they reflected on and what they talked about with me after doing the activities. And that was the activity that says talking about my dad. And mothers said, if we can talk about this, we can talk about anything it was. They need a lot of preparation for that talk. But actually, it was the most important activity in the book. So just reflecting exactly what you're saying, they do.  [00:14:12][70.4]

Speaker 2: [00:14:13] Yeah, I think we have, but we have a wall of silence in in essence around speaking about men as parents who are violent. And it's it's supported by a family court system that silences adult survivors and tells them they can't talk to their children about the violence of their parents or else they're in danger of being charged with parental alienation. And it creates this crazy making in children's minds because every adult in their life is completely silent about the true experience that they're having. And I think that children are the most silent victims that we don't. We often don't believe them. Systems discard their evidence as being potentially not truthful, and we then tell their survivor parents who is not violent, that they can't speak about the violence of that family member. And that creates a disassociation in the mind of the child that says, Well, this all must be OK on some level. If nobody's asking me how I was harmed by it and  [00:15:29][75.9]