Please introduce yourself in two sentences (no pressure!).
Hello, I am a retired Detective Superintendent from Avon and Somerset Constabulary, am a French speaker and have a Jack Russell called Lily.
How does dealing with young victims of abuse differ from the way you would handle cases involving adults?
Young victims can often be children under the age of 18, who may not understand what is right and wrong . You need to build trust and confidence with them to be able to uncover the abuse, and prioritise their safeguarding at all times.
Abuse is about power and control
“Bright Lies” portrays the difficulty the police have in dealing with cases of abuse. What would you say are some of the biggest challenges facing the police in these types of cases?
Children are very innocent and if someone makes a fuss of them, buys them presents, makes them feel special, when they have a gap in their family around this issue, they may not want to tell you about the abuse. There is also the power and control element that the offender holds over the child, for example a threat to someone they love, or a secret that they cannot break or something bad will happen.
What are your views on David, who in the book abuses Emily through isolation and extremely controlling behaviour – would you say this pattern of behaviour is typical of abusers?
Yes sadly, in my experience I dealt with men like David who target lonely single women to abuse their children. Mostly, the victims are young girls, but let us not forget that boys are abused in this way too.
Are there warning signs that we should look out for if we suspect ourselves or someone we know is suffering abuse or domestic violence?
Children who are withdrawn , bed wetting in smaller children, sexualised behaviour with other children – these can all be signs. With Domestic Abuse, injuries that are hidden, long sleeves, polo neck jumpers, also that are explained as falling down stairs, hitting a door and are frequent. Then there is financial and emotional abuse, which are harder to spot.
As a country we are beginning to pay more attention to domestic violence and abuse, with the UK passing the Domestic Abuse Bill earlier this year, and services such as the Paladin National Stalking Advocacy supporting victims. How do you think this will change how the police and courts deal with abuse cases?
The more national and media attention these issues get the better. There also need to be courts and juries that understand these issues together. In my opinion, we should be supporting victims more at court, allowing more video evidence so the victim does not see the offender. People need to understand that abuse happens in homes and relationships, not always the stranger that jumps out from behind a bush!
Breaking the pattern
In the book, Jack comes from a broken home, and has witnessed horrific violence in his own family, which has a huge negative impact on his own behaviour. Would you say this is common for children who have suffered in this way?
Yes, sadly I do agree with this, particularly Domestic Abuse as there are no boundaries or healthy relationships seen as a model. The child knows no other way and thinks it is normal until someone says it is not.
Finally, now you have retired, you are also an avid reader. What kind of books do you like to read? Apart from “Bright Lies”, are there any that you’d like to recommend?
I love reading, mostly away from police dramas as I have dealt with it for 30 years! I enjoy autobiographies, like Michelle Obama and the prime minister of New Zealand’s new book (I hope to get that for Christmas!) as well as Leanne Moriarty and Jodi Picoult’s fiction.
If you have concerns about abuse or stalking, here are some useful services who provide help and support in the UK:
Report a stalker or seek advice – https://www.gov.uk/report-stalker
Advice for children – https://www.childline.org.uk/
If you are concerned about a child – https://www.nspcc.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/
Domestic abuse helpline – https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk/find-help
Meet Marie Wright at the online launch of psychological thriller “Bright Lies” on Monday, 23rd November.