Protective behaviors on trial in Mayo

Resource type: News

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A community in the far west of the Republic of Ireland is the focus of the first trial in the country of a program designed to help children and young people cope with the experience and consequences of domestic violence.


The Mayo Children’s Initiative, which draws on US “protective behaviors” strategies was launched at Ballyheane, on the outskirts of Castlebar, last week, by the CEO of the Barnardos charity in Ireland, former Irish Labour Part adviser Fergus Finlay.


Among the dozens of children’s initiatives he had been associated with since he took the Barnardos job, and the dozens more addressing domestic violence, the Mayo project was the first in which the two were so directly connected, he said.


“The majority of children who witness violence experience nightmares, spend a lot of their time afraid and blame themselves.”


“We know that violence against a mother can undermine the relationship between her and her children. Children who struggle to understand violence in their homes can often be as willing to blame the victim as they are reluctant to blame the perpetrator.”


Chief funders of the Mayo Children’s Initiative are The Atlantic Philanthropies. “An initiative that directly addresses the needs of children is profoundly important. This goes further than creating huge public interest. The Atlantic Philanthropies always demands results. Its only interest is in finding something that works and making it spread,” Fergus Finlay added.


“The Atlantic Philanthropies makes a real difference. There is a real potential to develop a set of interventions here that will have an all-Ireland effect. This is a real exercise in leadership and I look forward with keen interest to how this project proceeds, and I’m particularly interested in the Protective Behaviors Program being brought in from the US.”


Protective Behaviors is described as an anti-victim training process that provides a prevention method against violence and physical and psychological abuse.


It originated in the US in the 1970s in the insights of a school social worker, Peg Flandreau West, into patterns of behavior, which suggested that the victims of abuse – emotional, physical, sexual – suffered in silence, sometimes for long periods, before seeking help.


The development and design of the Mayo initiative is based on the recommendations of a 2006 study for Mayo Women’s Support Services, Listen to Me! Children’s Experience of Domestic Violence by the Children’s Research Centre, Trinity College, Dublin.