Episode 1

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This inaugural episode features Dr. Linda Baker as a speaker and is guest hosted by Dr. Peter Jaffe. Linda shares her reflections on how understandings of child and youth experiences of intimate partner violence (IPV) have evolved over the last twenty years. She highlights three major areas of change as there is increased:

  1. Recognition that children and youth are not merely passive witnesses to IPV but rather they make sense of their experiences of violence based on their different ages and stages
  2. Understanding that children do not live single-issue lives and our responses to support children requires putting intersectionality into practice
  3. Practices to involve children as they have a right to be seen, heard, and considered in decisions that impact them

 

In moving forward to better support children and youth, Linda adds that it is critical to address systemic and structural violence, learn from leading community activists and scholars about applying intersectionality into practice, and increase investments in primary and secondary prevention.

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Guest

Linda-Baker.pngDr. Linda Baker is a Psychologist, Assistant Professor – Standing Appointment, and the former Learning Director of the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children (CREVAWC) at Western University. During her time with CREVAWC, Dr. Baker led the Learning Network and the Knowledge Hub. The Learning Network translates knowledge on the continuum of gender-based violence and the Knowledge Hub facilitates a trauma- and violence-informed community of practice with Canadian researchers and practitioners conducting innovative intervention research. She has over 25 years of experience in the mental health and justice systems, working with and learning from children, youth and families dealing with experiences of violence and trauma. Her direct service experience inspires and informs her research and commitment to knowledge translation through resource development and publications, knowledge exchange activities, and workshop presentations. Dr. Baker has co-authored numerous publications/resources related to intimate partner violence exposed children and families, including Walk Proud, Dance Proud: Footprints on a Healing Journey; Helping Children Thrive: Supporting Woman Abuse Survivors as Mothers; and Helping an Abused Woman: 101 things to Know, Say and Do. Her most recent work focuses on the application of intersectionality to research with and services for children exposed to IPV and the evaluation of IPV training programs. Prior to her current roles, Dr. Baker was the Director of the Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System (London Family Court Clinic). She participates regularly on faculty teams delivering Domestic Violence Institutes throughout the United States for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and Futures Without Violence.

Guest Host

Peter-Jaffe.pngDr. Peter Jaffe is a psychologist, Professor Emeritus, and one of the founding Directors of the Centre for Research and Education on Violence Against Women & Children in the Faculty of Education at Western University (London Ontario, Canada).  He has co-authored eleven books, 40 chapters and over 80 articles related to domestic violence, the impact of domestic violence on children, homicide prevention and the role of the criminal and family justice systems. For the past 30 years, he has presented workshops across the United States and Canada, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Europe to various groups including judges, lawyers, health, mental health professionals and educators. Since 1999, he has been on faculty for the National Council of Juvenile & Family Court Judges in the US for judicial education programs entitled “Enhancing Judicial Skills in Domestic Violence Cases”. He was a founding member of Ontario’s Chief Coroner’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee.  In 2009, he was named an Officer in the Order of Canada by the Governor General for his work preventing domestic violence in the community.  

Transcript

00:00:15:23 – Peter

Hello, and welcome to the first episode of this special podcast, Little Eyes, Little Ears, Centering Children and Youth in gender-based violence work. I'm Peter Jaffe and I will be your host today. This podcast is from the Learning Network at the Center for Research and Education on Violence Against Women and Children at Western University. This podcast was created to honor the significant contributions that Dr. Linda Baker has made to our centre in her role as Learning Director.

00:00:46:22 – Peter

You can learn more about this podcast on the Learning Network website. This podcast series is comprised of eight episodes and will be hosted by Linda as she discusses with various guest presenters ways to support children and youth in context of intimate partner violence. For today we're doing things a little differently as we shine a spotlight on Linda’s work, knowledge mobilization and centering children and youth voices.

00:01:16:01 – Peter

By way of background, Linda is a psychologist and adjunct professor and the former Learning Director of our centre. During her time at our centre, Linda has led the Learning Network and the Knowledge Hub. The Learning Network translate its knowledge on the continuum of gender-based violence, and the Knowledge Hub facilitates the trauma and violence-informed community of practice with Canadian researchers and practitioners conducting innovative intervention research.

00:01:48:19 – Peter

She has over 25 years -experience in the mental health and justice systems, working with and learning from children, youth, and families, dealing with experiences of violence and trauma. Her direct service experience inspires and informs her research and commitment to knowledge translation, resource development and publications, knowledge exchange activities and workshop presentations. I could go on as Linda has a very extensive CV, but I want to make sure to leave some time for her to talk today about some of her insights about this field.

00:02:24:15 – Peter

Linda, thank you so much for being here with us today.

00:02:29:02 – Linda

Thank you. I'm really pleased to be here, Peter.

00:02:33:02 – Peter

I want to start by asking you to tell us more about the resource that this podcast is named after and what resource means for you and your work.

00:02:47:04 – Linda

I would love to do that. My colleague and friend Alison Cunningham and I developed this resource, Little Eyes, Little Ears: How Violence Against a Mother Shapes Children as They Grow with funding from the Public Health Agency in Canada.

00:03:00:02- Linda

And we developed this resource back in 2007 and at that time we saw a need based on the work that was going on to capture and express that children, no matter what their age, are not passive witnesses to noise and the tension and violence that may be going on in their home. And we wanted to convey just how little eyes and ears don't miss much.

00:03:32:05 – Linda

They soak in the sights and sounds and resonate with the emotional tension, they may experience intense feelings that feel overwhelming, meaning they feel often confused, scared and to blame. And they're busy thinking about what might have caused the fight. And often they feel they did. And I use the term fight because in our work with children, we learned that's how they described intimate partner violence, the fight that between mum and dad.

00:04:03:21 – Linda

And they're often imagining what might come next and worrying and anticipating potential consequences. And in addition to that, we'd been doing work in our organization at that time. And along with you, Peter, actually to, to really show how children at different ages and stages might experience intimate partner violence and how it might shape their growth. So that was really the purpose of the resource, and we were just delighted with the response and uptake across Canada when we released the resource through the Public Health Agency of Canada.

00:04:44:05 – Peter

Linda, as you indicated, you've been at this a long time, and we've been at this together for a long time. And I wonder on your reflections about how the field has changed going back over the last 20 years. What do we know now about children and youth exposed to intimate partner violence? that we didn't know before?

00:05:06:12 - Linda

Well, just by way of some preamble, a bit. You know, Peter, I was thinking when I thought about this question and knew you were going to ask it, do you remember the real focus? You know, when we started, it was really increasing the awareness of the impacts of intimate partner violence on children. And I still remember being in case conferences with well-intentioned folks saying things like and perhaps myself saying them at times, you know, thankfully we don't have to worry about the kids.

00:05:40:18 - Linda

The dad’s abusive behavior was directed only at their mother or the children are too young to understand what's going on, so they're okay. We don't have to worry about them. And over time, learning from children and youth and adult survivors, we learned that children and youth aren’t just witnesses to violence. And they aren't just exposed in the way we might be if we were exposed to a cold, but rather they experienced the abuse occurring in their home.

00:06:12:21 - Linda

And I think that change in language really reflects the shift from a focus largely on adults in the family to recognize the presence of children in IPV situations. And as we listen to children and youths telling us, in their words, behaviors and drawings, we saw the importance of a developmental approach to understanding how children of different ages and stages make sense of their experiences of violence and how these experiences may shape their future development.

00:06:46:13 - Linda

So with that, I thought of three areas. There were many we could talk about, but three that I wanted to highlight that represent really significant changes in the field over the last 20 years or so. And the first is just understanding trauma, trauma- focused interventions and trauma and violence- informed approaches. And I think that research has helped us be really clear about the burden of adverse childhood experiences on children, and especially on later stages of development, including adulthood.

00:07:32:15 - Linda

And so we know that evidence links adverse childhood experiences such as IPV and coercive control and child abuse to trauma and in turn to poor health outcomes in later life. Now, I think it's always important to mention that, of course, not every youngster who experience says violence within the home is traumatized by it. And certainly some youth display no adjustment difficulties in the clinical range.

00:08:02:21 - Linda

And I often think it's like a great analogy is if three people are in a car and there's a horrific car crash, one may experience trauma, another may have some traumatic stress symptoms, and a mother, another may experience no trauma symptoms at all. However, this does not mean that one individual was not affected by the crash, but rather the traumatic incident did not result in trauma or other emotional or psychological symptoms and adjustment difficulties.

00:08:40:20 - Linda

And I think with respect to trauma, one of the important advancements has been the development of trauma focused and focused interventions for children who require this level of intervention.

00:08:56:11 - Linda

And unfortunately, this isn't available or accessible to all who would benefit from such an intervention. But we know that many children experience violence and other traumatic incidents in their home or communities, and they do not come to the attention of formal services. And I think one of the most exciting developments is to see the growth of trauma and violence- informed approaches to all sorts of settings where children find themselves recreational programs, schools, sports programs, health services, courts, settlement agencies.

00:09:38:00 - Linda

And these approaches help ensure that services and programs understand trauma and recognize trauma symptoms, and that they understand the impacts of trauma and violence on people's lives and behavior. And they work to create emotionally and physically safe environments, which is so important for everybody, but especially for children and youth who have experienced violence. And they foster opportunities for choice, collaboration and connection.

00:10:14:14 - Linda

So they're really trying to involve, engage and listen to children and work with children, and they bring a strength based and capacity building approach. So that's really the first development that I wanted to highlight.

00:10:35:14 – Peter

Linda, when you talk about trauma and our recent understanding of trauma and trauma informed responses, it strikes me that there's very different realities for children based on the context of their lives.

00:10:50:08 – Peter

And I wonder if you could talk a bit about, you know, understanding trauma from an intersectional lens and the different realities.

00:11:01:08 – Linda

I think that that's, again, another really important development. Peter, And the application of intersectional approaches to the work. We understand in such a more vivid way that there's so much going on in children's lives. They do not live single issue lives and understanding and addressing experiences of intimate partner violence and other forms of violence for children requires putting intersectionality into practice.

00:11:35:06 – Linda

I always remember that there would be times when either as the support person, I was focused on what I thought was most salient to a child's situation. It related to violence. Or often I would hear from their mother what they thought was most salient. Then you'd spend time with that child. And what was most salient in the child's life through their lens often was not what the adults, including myself, had focused on or thought would be the most salient.

00:12:19:18 - Linda

So sometimes when we were completely focused on the violence, the child was really worrying about being left out at school because of their disability or the racist violence that they in their family experience and fearing that they couldn't tell anybody about the violence because people already felt so badly about their parents and their family. So, I think in just a couple of decades, we've gone from focusing on getting people to just be aware of children's experiences when they're living in a home where there's intimate partner violence or and possibly child abuse.

00:13:00:13 - Linda

Too often there’s an overlap, to centering that on the child and centering the child and taking the time to understand the context within which they live. And as we are very aware, intersectionality was born out of Black feminist activism and scholarship, and we think of names like Kimberlé Crenshaw and Audre Lorde, and it has helped us understand the heightened risk of structural violence that a child and a family may experience due to their social identities, things like the race theory, their sex, their ability.

00:13:43:13 - Linda

So we now have this understanding that a child's experience with intimate partner violence or any other violence in the home, if we don't consider that larger context, and especially the interacting effect of oppressive symptoms that produce unique forms of marginalization for the child, their family and their community, then we're not really understanding the intimate partner violence and the impact it may be having on them because it doesn't happen in isolation.

00:14:20:06 - Linda

It happens within this broader intersecting interest framework. So I think one of the things that has been most positive about this is that this framework and approach explicitly challenges the inclination, whether it be explicit or subtle, to assign blame for inequities, especially to the family or community or to individual shortcomings, rather than recognizing the systemic nature of such issues.

00:14:59:22 - Linda

So, it's a framework that has benefited children in those ways, but it's also benefited those who are helping children in that it's become part of the reflexive practice for practitioners to help them explore their own identities and how the power and privilege or lack of power and privilege they have associate with different identities may impact their work with children, youth and families. So, I think it's been important in that area too.

00:15:35:01 - Peter

So, Linda, you're talking about some major changes, you know, over the last 20 years related to trauma. And then you just described about the importance of having an intersectional analysis. The thing I still worry about and wonder about and I’m interested in your observations on this changes the extent to which, you know, we're starting to overcome children not being seen or heard.

00:16:00:22 - Peter

That is to what extent, as we have this awareness that children actually have a voice and rights in terms of talking about their lived experience and then getting the support they need and they deserve in this context. So, what do you see happening in terms of children's voices and children's rights?

00:16:21:22 - Linda

Well, I think we were all so excited. If we go back to 1989 when, you know, our world leaders at that time adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, just an amazing human rights treaty.

00:16:36:07 - Linda

That was I think to this day, more countries signed on than quit more quickly than any other treaty, any other convention on rights. But I think as we learned and the older I get, the more I realize that while those things are absolutely critical, it takes longer for us to translate, absolutely innovative and critical conventions like that into everyday practice.

00:17:13:03 – Linda

And I think that when it comes to children's rights and working with young people, that approach and that recognition has been really facilitated by trauma-informed approaches and strengths-based approaches. But if we stop and think about what it means at its core, if we truly embrace our rights approach, it means that children have, as you said, the right to be seen, heard and actually considered, their opinions considered in decisions that impact them.

00:17:55:23 - Linda

And I think that I've come to think of this as you cannot whether you're a clinician, a judge, a police officer, you are a teacher, you cannot do what's best for a child or a youth if you don't take into consideration what the child or youth thinks is best and I just think that that's so critical.

00:18:25:12 - Linda

And yet, we're still working on making sure that that is the way we do our work. And I think the other piece, when we think of children's rights and why it's been so exciting and also with trauma informed approaches and strengths- based, is that to understand those approaches is to accept and recognize that children and youth have agency again, that they're not passive witnesses to their own lives and to what's happening in their families.

00:19:02:22 - Linda

And so, when we work from this approach, then we understand and see the importance of recognizing the child and youth voice and their resilience in informing what happens to them, but also the development of programs to support them as well as in research. So those are major and exciting developments.

00:19:30:05 – Peter

Linda, it strikes me that although there is exciting developments, as you indicated, and I certainly agree with you, at the same time, on a day to day basis now, we still have many people don't understand how children have actually been impacted by intimate partner violence.

00:19:46:19 - Peter

And I'm curious as maybe going back a step. But, you know, I'm curious, from your work with children, how have you seen them impacted by exposure to intimate partner violence?

00:19:59:03 - Linda

And it's such a such an important question. And I like the way you worded that question, because I think sometimes and I've been guilty of this myself, you think, okay, we've done that piece of education, or we've increased that awareness check.

00:20:17:11 - Linda

And it depends on so many factors as to what a child's experience may be, including the severity and duration, just as an example of the violence, their developmental age and stage, but also the protectors and supports that are built into their environment. And I thought it might be helpful just to share an example, and I've worked with the family years and years ago to cover identifying factors, and they wanted me to share this.

00:20:55:17 - Linda

Their story with people so that it would help others to understand at least how some children may experience intimate partner violence. And this was a family of three children, three girls, and the oldest daughter was in her upper teens and she experienced the violence against her mother through all her developmental stages right up till the family left her father, who was harming them again in her latter teens and her role in the family, she protected her younger sister.

00:21:41:00 - Linda

She helped them tune out from the violence. She described putting them between her legs and playing video games and turning up the video games or going to other parts of the house, hiding them. And when her mother was hurt repeatedly, she really took on a caregiver role in terms of meals, in terms of getting to school and all of those kinds of things.

00:22:09:19 - Linda

She also experienced the same kind of demeaning about her body and the degrading of her physical appearance when she became a teenager that her mother was experiencing in terms of the abusive words and coercive control that her father was using and so I think one thing that she really was clear about that in helping her children, her sisters, be safe, that she had a sense of power and some semblance of control in a situation where she really didn't have much control when the family was not with the father and the final separation had occurred and the children were beginning to believe that they could not be hurt or harmed by him.

00:23:14:17 - Linda

Then the difficulties started of another nature. She really struggled with the loss of her role as the caregiver for her younger siblings. She didn't agree with the way her mother kept the apartment and the meals she cooked, so she was really struggling with, Well, now what's my role? And she ended up leaving the home and she left school, early school.

00:23:43:12 – Linda

She described it as it just wasn't relevant when she thought about what her family was coping with. How could she take seriously the stuff that was going on in classes and she was working two part time jobs to earn money for plastic surgery because she had internalized the demeaning and degrading comments about her body that her father had made throughout her adolescence.

00:24:16:12 - Linda

And just by way of contrast and much briefer, her middle sister, she was quiet. She watched carefully and she tried to predict when she thought her father's violent behavior would escalate. And she described immense anger over what was happening to her family and her dad's use of violence and what she called meanness. But she described burying this anger inside, and she shared her greatest fear or what was salient to her was that this anger would someday erupt and that she would hurt somebody and that she would be like her father.

00:25:02:08 - Linda

And she could explain that the reason she thought this and worried about this was because she thought her dad experienced things very much as she did, so that what his father did was very much what her dad had done. And she coped largely by excelling in school. She made this her major focus and it was the area she felt she had some agency over and some control over.

00:25:34:16 - Linda

But the littlest one she benefited the most from the protective actions of her sisters, and she didn't understand why her mother and sisters didn't want her to ever see or them to ever see their dad again. She says he just behaved badly and he won't do that anymore. And she made sense of his violence at her developmental stage and from her experience as he was angry then and that everything would be okay as long as they all did exactly what he told them to.

00:26:12:22 - Linda

So while not using words like coercive control, she certainly understood would that in order possibly to not experience the abusive behavior they needed to do exactly what he was instructing in ordering them to do? And so she describes missing the house they lived in, her bedroom, and all her toys. She didn't like the tiny apartment they all lived in now.

00:26:45:21 - Linda

And I use this example because these three children were in the same family. They were different developmental ages. They lived where the same situations and experiences of violence were happening. But how they made sense of them and how they impacted them were all very different.

00:27:11:21 – Peter

Linda, that's an amazing example because it also reminds us not to oversimplify the research and what the impact is and how it can evolve over time and very differently for different children in the same family. I was going to turn to two broader questions just in the time we have left, and you and I could probably go on for 8 hours and not cover everything we like to cover, but I had a couple of big questions.

00:27:41:19 – Peter

One is, you know, how does centering children and youth impact? How do we have this centering, this impact, how we do our work in the gender-based violence sector? Like how does it how does it help and support us?

00:27:56:09 – Linda

You know, I think bottom line, centering children and youth in gender-based violence work ensures that we don't overlook them.

00:28:07:09 – Linda

It ensures that we see them and we hear them and we respond to them. I think in addition and something that's been so important in your work and I know in my own work with children, it's that seeing them and hearing them, that's an essential part of risk assessment and safety planning for children and their non abusive parent.

00:28:39:18 - Linda

And I think too often when we weren't centering children, we may do risk assessment and safety planning and not involve the children, not here from the child's perspective, what they're worried about and involved in safety planning. So, I think that's a huge piece of why it's so essential that we center children and youth in gender-based violence and centering children and youth and gender based violence.

00:29:09:23 - Linda

That doesn't mean we decenter the adult victim or that we don't work to intervene with adults who are behaving abusively to their partners and to their children. But it means we also must center children. And again, when we center children, we acknowledge their agency, and we can truly be open to seeing and hearing how they have engaged or disengaged with what is happening in their family and to them.

00:29:51:06 - Linda

So, it enables us to support and strengthen their resilience and resistance and to develop individualized supports, in addition to some of the wonderful group interventions that are available.

00:30:09:06 – Peter

Linda, today, and during this podcast, you reflected on how far we've come and what we've learned and I’m curious about what your hope is for the next 20 years. Where would you like to see the field 20 years from now in building on some of the incredible changes that have been made to supporting children, youth exposed to intimate partner violence?

00:30:31:23 - Linda

You know, when I hear that question, I think the way you find our centre and all the marvelous programs, initiatives like the Learning Network is you put into your search, learning to end abuse. And when the centre came up with that as the way to find them and as part of the mission of the centre we were thinking yes, about, of course, violence within families, intimate partner violence, parent to child violence.

00:31:10:23 - Linda

But we were also thinking about structural and systemic violence. And I think I'd like to just start that question in sense of the biggest picture, it means if we're really going to make progress and continue to move the field forward, we have to continue to address the inequities that affect children in their families. We talk about basic needs.

00:31:42:01 - Linda

There are still children in Canada and families that have a scarcity of housing or shelter, even, let alone housing, and are precariously housed and lack access to nutritious food and do not live in safe situations. So I think that we can never lose that big picture and I think that has to be, again, one of the prongs that we're working on, the levels that we're working on as we move forward.

00:32:24:09 - Linda

You know, we talked about intersectionality. I think it holds great promise, as some of which has already been realized. But, you know, when you do a search of the literature on intersectionality, one of the most common descriptions, descriptives is complexity. And I hope in the next decades that we do need to deconstruct and find a way to learn from leading community activists and scholars working in communities who have been marginalized.

00:32:59:01 - Linda

How we can best build capacity and understanding about applying intersectionality into everyday work, and that it becomes part of what supervisors build into supervision and training and more broadly in advocacy efforts. So, I think those are really two and I'll just end with one final and there's so many, but I can only share three of my dreams for the future.

00:33:35:07 - Linda

But I, I really think that we need greater investment in primary prevention that's for all children, because we know so many children are dealing with adverse adversities and less than ideal situations and secondary prevention where we're coming up with ways to benefit youngsters who are at greater risk. And if we bring an intersectional approach to that work and that that work meets children and youth where they are in schools and community organizations, their sports facilities and the public health centers, then I think that we will begin to reach more.

00:34:26:16 - Linda

And I think that that holds great promise, especially as we build in child and youth voice in actually developing and informing those programs and providing feedback about what may be working from their perspective and what isn't. And so really, you know, we've seen marvelous advancement in terms of services or adult women that have experienced intimate partner violence.

00:35:01:17 – Linda

And we see that through the shelter networks in the organization and at a national level, with Women's Shelters Canada and at the provincial and territorial levels. And I really believe we need to invest in an infrastructure similarly to support children who are experiencing intimate partner violence and, other forms of violence, and that the investment would support individual services, but they would also help with the linking of these services and the organizing of them to provide support for the people providing those services and supports to children.

00:35:45:15 - Peter

Well, Linda, I hope that your wishes come true. It's very inspiring to hear about the future and what's possible and I think there's a great foundation to build on the work that you and many of your colleagues have done. So, thank you so much for your insights. Thank you for your contributions, advocacy and your commitment to centering children, youth in gender-based violence work.

00:36:14:23 – Peter

You've contributed so much to this area, and for our listeners, please stay tuned for our next episode. It will be hosted by Linda. Look out for an email from the Learning Network to see when the next episode is available. In the meantime, please take care and goodbye.