supporting recovery from domestic abuse
The Cedar approach is all about supporting recovery and supporting women and their children once they have left the constraints of abusive and controlling behaviours. We know that Cedar supports recovery by addressing areas where abuse has eroded a sense of safety and affected the ways in which a mother and child communicate; Cedar also makes it clear that responsibility for abuse lies with the perpetrator.
By using a group work model, Cedar uses peer-support to address specific issues, such as secrecy, shame and isolation, that are often associated with domestic abuse. It provides children with access to support services that address their own needs and experiences. Children’s support is linked with support for the non-abusing mother and nurtures this relationship; it directly addresses the attack that domestic abuse can represent on the mother-child relationship. Cedar aims to strengthen this relationship and therefore fosters sustainable support for children. We know that Cedar achieves the following things:
Children and young people learn that their experience of abuse was not their fault and that they were not alone in their experience. This learning helped them to build self-esteem and see themselves and their lives differently. The positive and relaxed group atmosphere, together with the structured curriculum and range of activities on offer, helped children and young people transform their understanding of domestic abuse and reduced self-blame.
The transformation that mothers had undergone in group was multi-dimensional: listening to their peers, they realised that abuse had not just happened to them and this reduced self-blame and isolation. Their perceptions of themselves, as both women and mothers, changed.
Cedar teaches children and young people strategies to recognise their feelings and to deal with their anger. The programme gives children and young people and mothers a language to talk about their feelings and experiences through varied creative and playful activities. It makes good use of visual images and memorable metaphors, which aid communication, in group and at home.
Children and young people do have greater knowledge of safety planning and support, although this needs to be more tailored to each child’s individual circumstances. The issue of children’s safety and safety planning should be on the agenda throughout the 12-week programme. Mothers need more guidance on how to talk with their children about their safety plans.
The reduction in self-blame helped to calm family relationships through a new shared understanding of domestic abuse which made sense of the past and opened up ways of talking and relating to each other. Children and young people were happier, coping better at home and in school and more able to talk to their mothers. For outcomes to be evidenced even more strongly and sustained in the longer term there needs to be a consistent focus on the building of the mother-child relationship, throughout the programme.
Feedback from Cedar graduates – mothers, children and young people – was positive and compelling. A clear message from them is that family relationships have been restored as a result of Cedar and that they have a much more positive future outlook. There is a sense that they have regained their ‘space for action’ as they reclaim a sense of control over their own lives. They mention improved physical and mental health; better performance in school; and improved family relationships.
Find out more about what Cedar does
We understand more now about domestic abuse and its effects on us and our children. We learned that it wasn’t our fault.