To return to The Freedom Programme website, click here
Freedom Programme online course - click here
Where is the Freedom Programme? - click here

Thursday 27 March 2014

A Survivors Story

My Family first became involved with children’s services in 1997. Until then the children had a very stable upbringing and home. I was engaged to their father and we were together ten years. He was director of a company and I was a stay at home mum to our son and daughter.  We had a good life, mortgage, holidays abroad, and nice cars. We lived as society said we should.
Unfortunately this all changed in 1997, things happened very quickly and the children security and stability went downhill. My partner worked a lot and I foolishly had an affair.  This led to my partner asking us to leave the family home. The children and I moved to a new address. It’s a very deprived area, somewhere you would never want your children playing outside. My new  partner soon became abusive before I knew it I was diagnosed with depression and on medication.  I tried to make friends around the area but this led to more trouble. The girl next door to me dealt in cocaine and it wasn’t long before I found myself taking a few lines of the drug here and there on an evening and weekends. I was also drinking a few glasses of wine. The emotional abuse I received from my partner was the worst. To be told you’re no good (along with a lot of abusive names) on a daily basis wears you down…you start to believe it. I lost all confidence and self esteem.  I tried to focus more on the children but this man did not like me showing my children affection. He would wait till they were in bed then spit in my face, lock me in the house and abuse me. Within 3 months I was addicted to cocaine. My alcohol intake increased too. I felt trapped, scared. I had nowhere to turn, no family, no support network. I was trying to pretend everything was normal. Looking back now its clear things were completely out of control. The children were at risk 24 hours a day but I was too involved in it to see it. Or when I did see it, I was too weak and afraid to do anything about it.
One night  after a heavy night I overslept and didn’t arrive to pick the children up from school. The school rang the children’s father and children’s services. They came to see me and I was so weak I could barely stand. The children’s father went for an emergency residence order and the children were removed from my care that day. I immediately felt hatred for social workers.
There are no exact words to describe that pain of having your children taken from you. It made it worse because the children really didn’t want to go. I called children’s services everyday begging them to return my children. I could not walk into their rooms…it was like I was mourning.  I felt I was given no support. It felt like I had nothing to live for anymore. I was so wrapped up in my own feelings and addiction that it didn’t even occur to me that it was in the children’s best interests to be in their fathers care.  I could only see my children twice a week for 2 hours in a contact centre. The end of every visit was so painful for all of us. It was heartbreaking. I would leave the contact centre and go to buy wine and cocaine to block out the pain. Then I would go home and not dare show emotion to my partner or he would start with the abuse. Every day was a living nightmare and the children have since disclosed how they used to cry in their beds night after night to come home. At one point my son thought I was dead because nobody had explained to him where his Mummy was or what had happened.
Whilst Children’s services were acting in the best interests of the children, why wasn’t I initially offered support or directed to specialist agencies?   I still believe if I was offered earlier intervention I would not have became so mentally low and out of control.
It was an Aragon worker who came out to see me about my rent that helped me. She came to core meetings and helped me to move  away from my partner.  I left in the middle of the night leaving most of my belongings behind and went to stay up North with my mum. I didn’t see the children for around 6 weeks. Eventually I was moved to another village. I started engaging with CAMH and the James Kingham Project. I was also recommended to complete all 12 modules of the Freedom Programme. I stopped taking cocaine and my drinking decreased. After passing a hair strand test it was eventually decided the children should be returned to my care.  This was a very happy time for all of us. Eventually children’s services stepped down.
I met someone else and Life was normal again for a few years. We had a baby in 2009 then out of the blue he left us when my daughter  was only 6 months old. He left the area and made no further contact. I started drink wine on a nightly basis with a girlfriend of mine just to help me cope relax and unwind. It wasn’t until 2011 that I noticed I had a problem. I had a mental breakdown out of the blue one day. I could not stop crying. I ended up calling an ambulance and they came out and took me to hospital where I disclosed I was drinking around 3 bottles of wine per evening. I spoke to a psychiatrist who confirmed I had had an acute stress reaction. This is when children’s services became involved again.  I was advised to start counseling, and was referred to CAN for a detox programme. I also met a new partner around this time. In hindsight I was not ready for a relationship but the prospect of being on my own was daunting. Again I think if I had more support in place I would not have entered into another relationship.
Within weeks our relationship became volatile. I discovered he had a cocaine problem and we argued a lot. I noticed my son withdrawing and spending more time in his room. I always thought I could make it ok, that if my partner could just get help for his anger and addiction he would be fixed and we could be happy.  We had two years of children services intervention. The children were placed on CP twice due to our volatile relationship and the abuse that went on.  Again I attended the Freedom programme but because I was still involved with my partner I found it difficult to fully take onboard the impact domestic violence was having on myself and the children. I was also in the middle of deep therapy regarding childhood abuse when James Kingham closed down. This had a huge negative  impact on me and I don’t feel it was dealt with and closed properly. It just stopped abruptly. I then became pregnant but when my baby was born my partner used cocaine so I had to end the relationship. He would not accept it was over and would harass me at all hours, banging on the door, calling me names, threatening to report me to children’s services, smashing my property. I did call the police on many occasions but always forgave him. As suggested by Childrens serves   I did attempt to go for a non-molestation order previously and phoned the police 34 times in one month every time my ex showed up. However at conference it was said living in a home where the police are called out 34 times a month is not healthy for the children. I felt like I could not do right for doing wrong.
 It was during the most recent incident of my ex trying to kick down my door that something inside me clicked and I thought ‘enough is enough’.  My new social worker is very efficient and immediately gave me some helpline numbers one of which was national domestic violence helpline. Within two weeks my ex was served with a 12 month non molestation order.
I am now on my own with all 4 children and have been for 7 months .I am still alcohol free and am currently doing the Freedom programme again for the second time in 6 months. This time it has been invaluable to be and I have a great support network there. I now understand the warning signs of perpetrators and feel I am able to protect my children in a way I could not demonstrate before.  We have completed a lot of work with action for children which was fantastic. The children’s school attendance dropped when I split up from my partner as I initially found it hard to get up and cope in the mornings so we then started having FIS intervention. My worker  was the person to support me in court when I went to apply for the non molestation order.
Overall my experience with children’s services has been positive but there have been a few issues:
During this intervention we have had 5 different social workers which has without a doubt hindered the case being stepped down and closed. Each new worker has had to get to know myself and the children and the case. This is something the children have really struggled with emotionally.
The minutes we receive from meetings are always out of date and the punctuation and grammar is appalling. A recent report read a teacher had said my child had stated she had witnessed me drinking alcohol. The teacher denies all knowledge of this. This one statement in itself could be damaging. Names and dates of birth can be wrong, phone numbers disclosed where they shouldn’t be disclosed. Its not easy for the families who are sitting at home reading these reports about their lives, especially when some parts are simply untrue.
I have been a victim to receiving a letter from social services on a Saturday with jargon such as ‘legal planning meeting’ written. They are terrifying to read and your social worker isn’t there to find out what it means. These letters received on Saturdays could be detrimental to parents with addictions or anxiety problems.
With regards to my personal journey, I have to thank Pat Craven for creating the Freedom Programme. Being a victim of childhood abuse, I grew up to believe it was normal for men to treat women in such a way that I just accepted it. I had no idea the affects of living with domestic violence was having on my children or myself until I completed this programme.  I don’t believe social workers are properly informed about domestic violence and think it would be so beneficial if every social worker had to attend some group sessions and see firsthand what these women have to go through. Its so hard to leave the dominator but its even harder when you have children’s services telling you what to do in order to keep your children on top of everything else. Sometimes it can feel as if childrens services are saying you need to do X Y and Z but they don’t guide you or give you support. It can be a very lonely place being a single Mum with intervention.
The most difficult part of this is now facing the reality of the domestic violence my children have witnessed (two of them, all their lives) and the fact that all four of them will probably need counseling at some time in their lives.  I now have to work so hard to make sure the same patterns are not followed with regards to alcohol and relationships. 
I am grateful that there is such a service out there to protect our children if parents are not coping.

I am so eager to spread the word about this programme and give people the knowledge they need. I want to help in any way I can. Am I still able to train with Children's services still involved? Am I able to train with a criminal conviction?  (which I received as a result of DV). My daughter is still young but this training will be invaluable to me in the near future. I want to build up as much knowledge and training as I can and do something in the DV field.  

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday 20 March 2014

New Programme for Young People

Help young people get relationship smart!

Escape the TRAP has been developed in acknowledgement of the rising numbers of young people identified as being vulnerable to teenage relationship abuse. There is now a wealth of statistics focused on the prevalence of teenage relationship abuse and itsimpact on the wellbeing and mental health of young people, particularly girls, who find themselves victims of such coercion and control. 

Escape the Trap, is a new eight week programme for young people which aims to uncover the reality of teenage relationship abuse and support those experiencing such coercion and control, to identify their partners behaviour and navigate their way to making healthier relationship choices. There is a strong emphasis on sexual coercion and the use of social media and how such experiences can make young people feel about themselves.

Developed specifically for young people
Designed for groups or one to one
Adaptable to run in any youth setting
Accompanied by the Escape the Trap Workbook
Led by trained facilitators

Escape the Trap is a simple, straightforward and accessible group programme, useful to practitioners working in schools, PRUs, youth offending, therapeutic services, young peoples support services including teenage mothers, 12+ integrated teams and specialist domestic abuse services. It can also be used one to one with the accompanying workbook.

Part of Escape the TRAP has been adapted from The Freedom Programme and Pat Craven has encouraged and supported the development of this programme for young people.

If you are an experienced Freedom Programme facilitator, you can attend a one-day training in Escape the Trap. Non Freedom Programme trained practitioners are required to do a three-day training.

Cathy Press has 17 years experience working as a therapist, clinical supervisor and trainer specializing in domestic and sexual abuse related issues. Cathy runs facilitator training in Escape the Trap and Whos in Charge? and has been a Freedom Programme facilitator Trainer for 10 years.

Contact Cathy for further details got to:

Email:    or    M: 07966 592632

Lovely article by Hannah Gall

Lovely article by Hannah Gall
"The scars don't have to be visible to hurt" says 34-year-old Milly as she reflects on life with an abusive husband. 
"I went on The Freedom program assuming I will be surrounded by abused women with black eyes but they were all like me, scarred on the inside" she recalls. "They showed us a picture of a "good man" and "a bad man", I looked at the characteristics of the "bad man" and was shocked to recognise my husband. I ticked so many of the boxes; him telling me what to wear, obsessively watching my every move, asking 101 questions every time I stepped out of the house, never taking no for an answer."
The realisation that she was blind to the degrading reality for so many years proved particularly troubling, "how could I not see the abuse going on in my own life?" she asks in dismay, "I was in my own little bubble, had the kids, I guess because he stopped hitting me I thought the abuse had stopped".
Just separated from a sexually and emotionally abusive husband, Milly took local authority's advice and attended The Freedom program, a course that goes beyond empowering victims to also help perpetrators better understand abusive behaviour, thus breaking the painfully destructive cycle.
Milly tells me how her husband would skilfully use disguising flattery to maintain control, "he would not let me wear jeans" she explains, "but he wouldn't say I forbid you, instead, it would be softly worded and spoken, more like "you know I don't like you wearing jeans, Princess" or "it makes you look fat, Princess"
Through the Freedom program Milly recognized "the bully" and the methods used by such men to exercise control over others.
"He wouldn't let me go out with my family and friends but again, in a crafty way, he would wait until I get to my parent's house or a friend's and call with some silly excuse about him needing something urgently from the house and I would have to go and fetch what turned out to be a false alarm. He would just suck the joy out of any outing by interrogating me about who I was with, where I went, what we did until you just didn't feel like going anywhere anymore"
"What has actually brought the relationship to an end?" I ask
"He first hit me when I was pregnant with our first child and I didn't do what he told me. We split up but when we got back together my dad warned him that he will have my father to reckon with if he did this again, he didn't hit me again until years later when my father was dying and I spent a few agonising days with him in hospital, literally watching my hero dad fade away. Heartbroken, I called my husband to ask that he would bring the children to the hospital so they can say goodbye to granddad. He got them alright but for some bizarre reason told them they were going on a fun surprise outing, they got to the hospital all confused and baffled. My oldest managed to tell my dad he loved him and he replied with "I love you too son" before he passed away. I was devastated. I somehow made it home, sorted out the children and went to bed in tears. He came wanting sex, I made it clear that I didn't want sex that night but he would not take no for an answer.
I found the courage to confront him the next morning and said "you really hurt me last night" when he grabbed me by the throat ready to hit me when our teenage son appeared from behind him and stopped him. My husband turned around and struck my boy, that was the point of no return for me, seeing my son on the floor, hurt."
Looking back now, Milly can see the sexual exploitation clearly, "I see now that he forced himself on me but at the time I just thought he had a stronger sex drive than me"
A few years on, Milly still catches herself doing things the way her former husband liked them done. "I can now see the extent to which I adjusted myself over the years to accommodate him, I even had to watch myself during the school run and not chat to other mums because I knew he would quiz me about it..I remember we were at a party once and I was dancing. He came to me and said I should stop because "everyone's laughing at you", I never danced again. it was eighteen months after he left that I went dancing for the first time".

Freedom showed Milly how to "gain back self respect" and assert herself. "This could never happen to me now" she says with confidence as she remembers a much loved childhood clown she has kept but "he just didn't like it and through away, I just went along with it at the time but now I wouldn't tolerate the slightest hint of controlling behaviour, I would never let a hurtful remark slide by now because I have learnt that the line between that and full on abuse is very thin".

Sunday 9 March 2014


From 'Living with the Dominator' by Pat Craven and Jacky Fleming. 

Early Bully
He may go quiet for a short time. This could be a ‘sulklet’, he will not explain why. He may stare or glare or have our ‘Bully’ smile, which means he is smiling with his mouth and glaring with his eyes.
He may be aggressive with others. Perhaps he may bully bar staff or waiters. He may use all the body language of the Bully. Watch out for tapping fingers, folded arms and swinging feet.
If we express an opinion with which he disagrees he will not let it go. He will railroad us until we agree with him. He may assume the crotch-thrusting position.
He may tell us very early in the relationship that he would never hit a woman. Why would he need to say this at all?
Early Jailer
Many of these tactics are very hard to recognise unless you have done the programme or read the book. Many of us would see them as the face of true romance.
We want to visit a friend and he insists on dropping us off and collecting us. He may genuinely be trying to protect us from the elements or he may be making sure we are where we say we will be and there are no men there.
He comes on too strong, wanting to see us every day. He buys us a mobile phone to ‘make sure we are safe’. He telephones and sends texts all the time. When he calls he asks where we have been and who with.
He calls round late at night unannounced. He does not want to socialise with our friends. He may try to sow seeds of doubt in our minds about our friends. For example, he may ask: “How well do you know Sharon?” “Why do you ask?” we may say? “No particular reason,” he may reply. This will leave us with an uneasy feeling about Sharon. He has implied that he knows something we do not.
He will tell us that we do not need to work. He tries to persuade us not to go to work by suggesting we have the odd day off to be with him. He uses phrases like ‘together for life’ and ‘always’.
He tries to monopolise our time. He makes exhaustive plans, which involve being with him all the time. If we tell him that we usually go out with our friends on Thursday nights he will ‘forget’ this and arrive with surprise tickets for an expensive show or film. We then do not want to disappoint him, so we miss our night with our friends.
Early Headworker
He will tell racist, sexist or homophobic jokes. He does not use our name. He calls us ‘love’ or ‘babe’ or ‘princess’ or refers to us as his ‘bird’. He puts us down in front of others but always uses humour to do it. He makes sexist remarks about women generally. He will criticise other women in front of us. He will also praise their looks or figures to us.
He stands us up or arrives late. He will be generally patronising and may begin to play mind games in the first two weeks. We feel uneasy but ignore it.
He may make insulting comments about our appearance under the guise of a compliment. For example: “You would be really attractive if you were slimmer!”
Early Persuader
He will try to make us feel sorry for him. He may combine this with the Jailer tactic of buying the surprise tickets. He will try to persuade us to do something we do not want to do. An example of this could be to persuade us to eat or drink something we do not want.
Early Liar
This Liar may tell us he has a failed relationship. He will have a sob story about a horrible woman who took all his money and now will not let him see his children. He will not use her name. He may call her ‘the ex’! He will accept no responsibility for any of this and will blame his former partner for giving him a bad time.
He may tell us he is insecure and has low self-esteem. He may tell us he is the victim of domestic violence.
 Early Badfather
As we have mentioned, our Badfather will probably not have contact with his own children. However, he will start to try to use our children to control us. He may, very quickly, make himself indispensable. He will provide financial support, practical help and treats for the children.
This is very hard to resist if we have been struggling to manage time and finances on our own. Once established, he may subtly begin to dispense discipline. He may ask: “Do they always stay up so late?” He may say: “You should not let them speak to you like that!”
Early King of the Castle
He will begin to choose our clothes in very subtle ways. “You look lovely in that dress, but have you ever thought of wearing blue?’’ He moves in with us too soon. He often achieves this by leaving things at our house.
In the King of the Castle chapter we have identified how he gradually manipulates us into doing all the household tasks. The King of the Castle also controls all of our lives and takes over our house. He may offer to do everything for us initially. It is then a short step from there to not allowing us to do anything.
For example, if we go shopping for groceries and we select a particular loaf of bread he may take it out of the trolley and replace it with another. If we vacuum the carpet or wash the dishes he may do these jobs again claiming that we have not done them properly.
The DIY Merchant. He starts doing our DIY as soon as he meets us. He will call round and say: ‘’I’ll be round tomorrow with my tool box to fix those shelves.” Before we know it dado rails have sprung up all over the house! He can then come round and rip them down if we try to end the relationship.
Early Sexual Controller
He may move too quickly and want us to do things which make us uncomfortable.
He is not actually communicating with us if we do have sex with him.
He is irresponsible about contraception. He refuses to wear a condom. He is married or in another relationship. He may grope us in public.
These warning signs will come in clusters. They will not just exhibit one sign but will display several at a time. We will have noticed more than we realise. We then feel uneasy but ignore it. Women who have considered these warning while on the programme say they then take those feelings of unease very seriously.
So, if our new partner exhibits clusters of such tactics, it may be time to recall our Fairy Story and say to ourselves:“I don’t fucking think so!”

Saturday 8 March 2014

Clare's Law

WAVE DV Centre spoke about Clare’s Law today on BBC radio and Breakfast TV

They report :
‘8 out of 12 of survivors who use our centre said were helped by were supported to end the relationship based on info shared’.

‘It was a pleasure to meet Clare Woods father Michael Brown today He is an inspiration!’

‘Clare's Law won't work for everyone however it is another useful tool in the battle to protect women and children from abuse.’

Thursday 6 March 2014

Freedom Programme for Men

Chris from WAVE DV Centre is now able to accept commissions from Local Authorities to provide two day courses for men who want to become better partners and fathers. I am delighted that she can use her fees to provide the Freedom Programme to women survivors. 
Here is an extract from the Men’s Manual which available on Amazon.


How to set up the course

I have produced this manual in response to requests from hundreds of practitioners who have asked for a different approach to working with men who use violence against women. 

I am Pat Craven a former probation officer who ran perpetrator programmes for Merseyside Probation Service between 1996 and 1998. I concluded that the programmes could have been much more successful if they were run in a very different style and by a different agency which was not subjected to the same constraints as a statutory body. 

Imparting rules and instructions. 
Everyone who attends is instructed to procure a copy of ‘Living with the Dominator’ and ‘How Hard Can It Be...?’. They must complete the written course before attending and bring their completed copy to the event. 

The letter I send to trainees when the event is confirmed includes a timetable and  a list of the rules. A template of the letter is available at the end of this manual. However at the beginning of the weekend I always restate the rules as I will describe in the instructions on how to facilitate session one.

The Gender of the Facilitators. 
They can be either women or men. They should have experience of facilitating the Freedom Programme. They do not need a man to be present so he can be a ‘role model.’ Women facilitators give a message that women do not need a man to help them. However I have trained several men who understand the programme and they are also eminently suitable.

If a couple are still together, female partners should not be excluded. They should be in the room and be able to watch how he is reacting. They are the only people capable of assessing if he is learning anything or is changing. They are not only watching their own dominator but they are watching other men who are sitting in a group with him who are visibly changing. This is also has the additional advantage of bringing the men’s shortened version of the Freedom Programme to women who may not otherwise have a chance to attend the women’s programme. 

Many other women who have already completed the women’s programme then bring their abusers to the men’s weekend as a condition of allowing him to stay in the relationship. Many men in this situation often agree to attend the weekend in the belief that they need not take it seriously and can get away with paying lip service to it. 

Measuring outcomes. 
Six  out of 10 women who accompany their abusers tell me that the men have changed for the better. Four out of ten report no change but regard the event as a success because they can now make informed decisions.  Another way of evaluating success is to count what percentage of couples who attend have their children returned from the care of the local authority. 

Unlike the women’s programme the men’s programmes should not be for a few hours a week. They are much more effective if compacted in to 2 days. This means they do not return to society in between sessions and have all their beliefs reinforced every time. 

Facilitators should never write reports for courts or social care. They cannot assess if he has changed or not. They also have a vested interest in seeming to have succeeded and often get funding just because they say a man has changed. In other words women can be put at risk by facilitators who write such reports. The only person who can assess whether the man has genuinely changed is the partner who is watching him interact with other men in his group. 

It is essential never to run the programme without sufficient men. It cannot work because success depends completely on the men learning from and informing each other. If there are not enough and the facilitator is actually telling the men what to think the programme will fail. They can only learn from each other. If the programme fails it will reinforce their behaviour instead of challenging it. 

Facilitators need the flexibility to cancel a programme if too few turn up. I never confirm an event as viable until I have at least twenty five couples as I know from experience that only around half of them may turn up. The minimum number should be sixteen men plus their partners. 
Always be prepared to cancel the weekend if too few attend and always make this clear to everyone who books a place. 

I welcome observers but I insist that they join the groups. We are all anonymous and no group member must know the identity of another unless they are the partner who came with them. 

Trainees must behave or leave. Court mandates are self defeating. What is the point of a man attending because his solicitor can appeal against his removal? If he gets away with abusive behaviour it will reinforce his belief that abusive behaviour is acceptable because it has worked again. It is crucial that when I facilitate of this programme I have freedom to set my rules and to enforce them. 
I will not change my rules to attract funding or meet guidelines set by other agencies. 

No personal information
Don’t let the men  talk about themselves. They all sincerely believe that their victims force them to use violence. The men who come to my programmes arrive expecting me to help them cope with this horrible woman who forces them to assault her. If we allow them to air their very distorted views we are colluding with them and putting women in danger. 

If anyone does not keep my rules I ask them to leave. If they refuse to go I will not continue and I close down the programme. I tell everyone to leave and ask those who really want to be there to leave their contact details with me so I can invite them when I arrange another date. 
Usually when the miscreant has left everyone else remains and we continue with the programme. When I expel anyone it usually results in excellent cooperation from everyone else. 

Some accuse the Freedom Programme for Men of endangering women. They imagine a situation where a man can become so enraged by the programme or indeed by being ejected from the group that they attack their partner in revenge. This betrays a lack of understanding of the way abusers behave. 

When an abusive man commits an act of violence it is always planned. So in this situation he may have decided to be ejected from the course so he can blame her for insisting that he attends. They do not just ‘lose it’ and attack their partners. 

Monday 3 March 2014