There is a litany of family horror stories dominating the media. They really are so awful, no embellishment could ‘improve’ them for the media.
Today,it is the British father who abused his daughters, who fathered nine children by him. They were pregnant by him, between them, eighteen times. This almost competes with the Austrian man, except, these two girls were not imprisoned in a sealed sound proof cellar, as the Austrian girl was. They and their children were not physically hidden from the world, they were visible. Yet,the world around them could not and did not help them.
The official enquiry report talks of the father as a controlling man with Jekyll and Hyde behaviours, who moved his family SIXTY times to keep authorities at bay. Those movements and traits would not be unusual in such a case. With all those moves, of course, there were bound to be systemic failures, the father would have known that. Joined up communication between local community service disciplines is in its infancy, it has yet to come of age and expand beyond limited borders.
There is another feature which will remain a potential future weakness. Unless there is joined up management expertise, critical evaluation and support to front line workers in the multi-disciplines, who, undoubtedly, will have contact with seriously dysfunctional families, all kinds of abuse will still go unchallenged. This means good training has to be instituted at all levels and that there is access to reliably knowledgeable legal specialists.
Workers who stand alone, who are steadfast in their concerns, have had their concerns stifled and dismissed; “It’s the flavour of the month”, for example. When proved correct,if it hasn’t already happened, life in the office has been made difficult, if not impossible. Management guidance and knowledge and support has often been less than satisfactory. It is no wonder the medical, educational police and social work services have been paralysed, unable to make appropriate responses.
It is an indictment on our services that very often, it has been a case of an individual worker personally taking risks to raise awareness in order to obtain an intervention. This manner of working has to stop.
There will always be abusive situations that slip through the net, unfortunately. It is impossible to provide 100% safety and security. However, there is a desperate requirement to ameliorate what there is, for service structures to accommodate hearing and listening and be prepared to investigate issues and to challenge.
The media and society have be more sympathetic and supportive to investigative process and interventions. The legal framework has to be less binding, clearer and more responsive.