12. Emotional AbuseThe definition doesn't actually say anything specific about what emotional abuse is. This really isn't good enough. Again, let's compare the wording with the equivalent wording from the London Child Protection Procedures. There, the definition of emotional abuse (para 4.2.3) is as follows
This category deals with the persistent or severe emotional ill treatment of a child, which has a severe adverse effect upon the behaviour and emotional development of that child. Its diagnosis will require medical, psychological, psychiatric, social and educational assessment.
It is accepted that all abuse involves emotional abuse but this category supersedes only when it is the main or the sole form of abuse.
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent effects on the child’s emotional development, and may involve:
- Conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person;
- Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction;
- Seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another;
- Serious bullying, causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children;
- Exploiting and corrupting children.
This as you can see is much clearer. it gives examples of the sorts of things that emotional abuse consists of, and so offers the staff much more in the way of guidance as to things to look out for. It is a matter for serious concern that the school's definition of Emotional Abuse is so thin, since the grooming of children for sexual abuse is most definitely a form of emotional abuse, clearly falling into more than one of the categories above, for instance "Imposing age or developmentally inappropriate expectations", and "Exploiting and corrupting children".
When I attended the sentencing hearing for Father David Pearce, and the details of his crimes were recited in court, it was perfectly clear that emotional abuse had been involved. And still the school has an inadequate and woolly definition, with statements concerning diagnosis all mixed in with the actual definition.
Why, even after all this time, is the school's definition so bad? There's a perfectly good definition, agreed by the experts of London SCB and available for insertion into the policy using a bit of copy & paste. It's not hard to do this right.
Let's go on the school's list of possible signs of emotional abuse.
Possible signs of Emotional Abuse:It would appear that since all abuse involves emotional abuse, then the possible signs of emotional abuse should be the same as paragraph 10. But they aren't.
- The child is developmentally delayed
- Inappropriateness of social responses
- Self mutilation
- Extreme passivity or aggression
- Truanting from School or running away from home
- Drug or Solvent abuse (either in the child or in its principal carer/s)
- Excessive fear of situations or people
- Social Isolation
- Pressure (possibly when carers are unstable emotionally or behaviourally)
The parenthetical notes all have the effect of tilting the perception of the reader towards a diagnosis of possible abuse in the home. No such diagnosis should be made or attempted.
Again, let's compare with the London Child Protection Procedures (para 4.3.16 to 4.3.18)
Emotional abuse may be difficult to recognise, as the signs are usually behavioural rather than physical.
The indicators of emotional abuse are often also associated with other forms of abuse. Professionals should therefore be aware that emotional abuse might also indicate the presence of other kinds of abuse.
The following may be indicators of emotional abuse:
- Developmental delay;
- Abnormal attachment between a child and parent (e.g. anxious, indiscriminate or no attachment);
- Indiscriminate attachment or failure to attach;
- Aggressive behaviour towards others;
- Appeasing behaviour towards others;
- Scapegoated within the family;
- Frozen watchfulness, particularly in pre-school children;
- Low self esteem and lack of confidence;
- Withdrawn or seen as a ‘loner’ – difficulty relating to others.
Again, the expert sources of information are easily available, but have not been used. And some of the signs have been defined in such a way as to enable emotional abuse to be diagnosed in almost anybody, by suggesting that he or she has engaged in "inappropriate social responses". That's a very nice accusation to be able to point at parents who complain that there has been abuse going on at school. We know that Father David Pearce did precisely that, though his allegation was of physical abuse, to cover up the fact that he was sexually abusing a child.