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Institutional Abuse

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Institutional Abuse
This page is in preparation. Please help by pointing out inaccuracy, or areas that need clarification.

There is a strong link between all forms of Prejudice, Neglect & Abuse and the Social Stigmatism of Mental Health.

Firstly, a word to those who have suffered serious neglect, prejudice &/or abuse in any form, or degree, at any time in their lives. The abuses, prejudices and injustices that we feel, or 'experience', have eventually (rarely immediately) become very real and obvious to us. For some time, however, these may have felt 'normal' and we are made to feel paranoid, angry, insecure and incompetent, because of our natural, sensitive reactions to these experiences. This is often made worse by the reactions of 'significant others', who do not fully understand (or perhaps don't care) what is happening to us. Certainly the people who are 'abusing' us show this lack of understanding, but others, some quite close to us and many professionals, will also not fully understand these experiences, or their consequences, for lots of good reasons (as we will explain).

Once we are aware that these experiences are (in fact) unacceptable and are causing our feelings of distress, breakdown in health, etc., we can often then express these 'feelings' in simple, often quite emotional terms involving; tears, withdrawing, fear, shyness, self harm, silence, anger, depression and failure to thrive in some way. The words that we use, at these times, 'feel' like they are conveying our distress and feel like they are adequate to communicate with others. People's reactions may sometimes indicted that they have not heard, or just do not understand (or, again, do not care). Communication is a two way process, it requires active speaking and active listening. Skilful listeners will not only hear the words but will understand the emotions and the 'non-verbals' and come up with a closer understanding of you predicament. That is supposed to be the role of Professionals. They often fail in this respect, for many reasons that we will discuss here.

Those without these essential skills will often fail to get the message in full, even if they are really trying to. They are often working within institutions where managers lack the insight, courage and desire to improve prevailing attitudes, challenge bad practice, reflect upon their own skills and allocate appropriate resource and time. You will often see the limiting consequences in your approach for help. Your resulting frustration may even be seen as over sensitive, aggressive, paranoia and even manipulative. This is partly because of the frequent abuse of the 'victim' role, by abusive people and partly because of endemic prejudice and ignorance which has largely become institutionalised. Some people's failure to understand is because of their failure to appreciate the value of 'difference'. Their responses are prejudiced, just as much as they are in the case of colour, racism, sexism and other identified and appreciated forms of discrimination.

These prejudices and injustices are also similar to the more recently recognised prejudices and failure of protecting human rights, relating to; disability, beliefs, age and gender assignment, etc. To some degree, what form of response you get and the quality of support you get, is often a matter of chance. Approaching the right agency, or individual, for your particular problem, usually helps but if your problem, or needs, are complex this can seem impossible at times. Approaching other community agencies 'in the right way' also helps. We will try to assist you take the effective approach, but will also fight to open up the professional perspectives of all agencies involved. Getting any kind of service has become very complex and distressing, just as many of the community obligations and demand upon us; like tax returns, claiming benefits, obtaining emergency loans and getting a home (or 'Deposit Grants') when you are homeless, especially when in particular distress.

Our objective has to be; to pressure Service Managers (often called Business Unit Directors now) to understand that their policies, systems, processes and training strategies are often 'bankrupt' and disabling to those in real need and distress. We need to demonstrate that these services do not properly address 'informed choice', 'least restrictive' options, or 'best practice', or the latest government guidelines, to all professional, based upon the UN & EU Conventions on Human Rights and Disability Law (2008), etc. The most obvious problem is the 'gaps' and the tendency of one agency to displace the problem onto another agency, or onto the voluntary sector (which they inadequately support and frequently disable, by requiring them to apply the same disabling administrative processes). Central government must also take some responsibility for not making 'Managers' obligations clear enough, when interpreting Government Guidelines & Professional responsibilities.

These problems have often arisen because managers, and professionals they 'direct', are focused upon 'defensive processes', rather providing an urgent, proactive and professionally ethical service. Managers often fail to meet the ethical codes of their particular profession and prejudice the ethics of their professional staff. Fear has become an increasingly abusive form of curtailing internal criticism of services and limiting them operating beyond highly compromised restrictions, which are imposed upon professional's ethical practices, or upon recognised 'best practices' guidelines. In many ways, service Managers are in an apparent double bind. They are required to provide appropriate, quality services, but also protect the community purse. In fact the poor implementation of systems and the costs of regular reorganisations, has wasted much (more than half) of the financial and professional resources allocated to providing the services.

I also ask that those people who feel they have survived abuse and prejudice successfully, not to judge others who have not done so well. These experiences and circumstances are unique, the range of special, personal qualities (that otherwise are beneficial to us all) have been distorted and damaged by some of these experiences. The fact you have done so well does not invalidate other's apparent failure to do so. As I have said, there is still some measure of luck involved in 'surviving' abuse and prejudice. There are those who are naturally sensitive to this and they 'understand'. Unfortunately, many people (including institutions and some professionals) are actually slow and often resistant to this special understanding. I can (and will on the website) describe some horrific and distressing examples of how these responses (often with good intentions) can be demeaning, condescending, humiliating and substantially disabling.

Much of what I write here (and on the website), is dedicated towards generating a greater 'professional' understanding. It is to explain these 'corrupted' experiences, in terms that convey meaning to those who have not 'experienced' significant abuses (in the form that we have), or who have reacted in ways that 'protected' them better (but sometimes to other's disadvantage). People are different, have differing personalities and understand social experiences in different ways. Usually, no one way is more correct than another and each can make a valuable contribution to families, communities and cultures. At different times and under different circumstances, these different personal qualities come into their own and most people are able to call upon these potential 'beneficial qualities', in varying degrees, to support & protect themselves and others.

These 'abused' qualities I speak of here are not due to 'weaknesses', as popularly believed. They are actually due to grossly undervalued 'strengths', which in other circumstances we are happy to value and can often personally appreciate, especially in times of need. This site is dedicated to improving the public understanding of the cause and affects of prejudice, neglect and abuse. These problems are often written off as a consequence of particularly 'abusive' personalities (and sometimes the 'inadequacies' of the victim). This understanding is inadequate. There is much more, far ranging evidence of the underlying neglectful and abusive character of our society. We are all susceptible; influenced by media, political correctness and quasi liberal, as well as paternalistic attitudes. Not a popular view. Get used to it - its is evidenced.

The following Section is being re-written for the purpose of explaining Institutional Prejudice & Abuse. The Feature can be found, in original forms, else where.

Towards a better Institutional, Professional and Media Understanding:

We have tended to become increasingly reliant upon 'experts' to make decisions for us and to take necessary actions to solve personal and social problems, along with legal & economic problems. Life has become quite complicated and often appears to be beyond out knowledge and understanding at times. This complicated institutional system of experts has largely arisen because of the 'commercialisation' of our lives. The Industrialisation and commercialisation of our daily activities, and the means of sustaining ourselves in particular, has directly caused the dispersal of our normal family and community networks of support.

Urbanisation and social fragmentation, leaves each of us relatively isolated. Each new family rebuilds itself in a relatively alien cultural environment. This is especially in terms of the body of experience and local expertise, that once made up natural extended families and communities. Of course, we don't want to go back to the good old days. These modern developments have their benefits, but we have lost significant control of important parts of our lives and cultures.

Some paramedical practices, 'alternative' therapies, community care initiatives; advice and help lines and internet resources, are trying to bring back many of these natural human skills. Done well, these initiative can re-empower us and giving us some measure of control and responsibility for our lives. Done badly, we just end up with another bunch of experts that we become dependent upon. Actually, the basic personal, social and economic needs are quite simple. Most people are quite capable forming natural cooperating groups, sharing and doing much of the personal and health care for themselves.

Basic Nursing is a refined form of good, old fashioned parenting and house keeping, so is child care, child rearing and child minding, care of the elderly, the frail and the disabled. The 'old ways' were never perfect, but there was usually someone in the community that just had the knack to get things done and sorted. Well, that is precisely where the original professionals got their ideas and skills from. In fact, they still do, along with a bit of creative thinking (research). Most psychological, social and medical inventions, which have given us the most benefits, are the result of careful observations of what people tend to  quite naturally, do well.

We have lost many of the higher social skills and much of that cultural knowledge and become somewhat more dependent. We have been telling professionals of these dependency risks for some time, but those more clever than us believed they knew better. Many still do believe this, but are starting to panic. There is not enough cake to go around, in a social system that has become de-skilled and disempowered. It is commercial and institutional systems, that have complicated our lives and made them more stressful. There are exceptions; like the technical improvement of critical social-environmental infrastructures and medical research & development, but most ordinary social and medical care is pretty well a professional extension of good social & domestic skills and insights.

In order to get institutions and professionals more 'on-board' and responding more appropriately to the various ways that people express their experiences of dependency, abuse, prejudices and neglect, we have to provide clearly evidence, sound, rational arguments. Professionals need these as the basis for justifying investment of time and diminishing resources and to change the attitudes of managers. It is not enough just to campaign on an emotional basis. This often gets dismissed and devalued, for reasons that I can explain (else where). We also need to give clear evidence, rationales and guidelines, why some institutional approaches are so poor at solving the persistent problems.

This does mean that some of this material can seem overly complicated. This formal presentation is necessary to show that current ways of thinking are often in error. We have to prove that, like it or not and then provide rational alternatives to viewing and understanding the problems and thereby provide possible solutions.

Treating the long term consequences of serious forms of distress and trauma (by clinical interventions in 'mental illness') can be helpful, but is also quite disabling, if there is not an equal commitment to recognising & acknowledging (and separately dealing with) the 'social causes' of these problems. Not adequately recognising the social causes, and not appreciating the 'beneficial aspect' of what are often seen purely as clinical 'pathologies', means that the fundamental problems are often assumed to reside within 'the person'.

These are often seen as 'organic' failings. This view is not only abusive (it devalues), it is unsubstantiated, other than by the logic of outmoded and unproven 'classification system', which often fails to identify the true underlying problems. It frequently leads to misdiagnosis and to serious, unreported, mistreatment.

The most dramatic example of this kind of 'psychiatric' thinking can be found in American Psychiatric Text Books of the 1970's. Prior to the 1970, people caring for children and adults with learning difficulties, responded to their felt responsibilities the best they could, often with poor professional advice and very limited 'quality' support. The only real alternatives were long stay Special Hospitals (similar to those in the UK and else where).

These became renowned for their abusive and dehumanising care, to such an extent that their conduct was challenged through the Bill of Right (USA Constitution) and United Nations Charter. Parents who persevered with the direct care with little support, or complained about the treatment provided, were often described (by Psychiatrist's) as 'Partial or Inadequate Psychopaths' for their efforts.

There are other significant 'failures' of this nature. The 'psychotic' reactions to serious physical & protracted personal, family and social trauma; the abuse of drugs (drug induced psychosis); toxic reactions to medications; the effects of some serious infections and cultural shock, at critical times of life development, are often diagnosed as Schizophrenia.

The treatments and care strategies are then inappropriate for the person and can cause more problems than they solve. When the person realises that their treatment is inappropriate and stop it, they are often under great pressure to resume. If they then get the support they really needed and manage better, they are usually recorded as a 'misdiagnosis'. This happens a great deal, in my own professional experience and the statistics do not reflect this. This is abuse by neglect.

The initial insight of those who have been abused, over an extended period, is often dismissed as 'emotional' and 'irrational'; as we may well expect to be, because of the frustration of trying to explain the disabling realities of abusive and neglectful relationships and circumstances. This is all understandable but very frustrating, and it seems to fit most people's initial experiences of disclosing any form of abuse; but this is only a small part of the picture.

As we gradually gain confidence, a cooler, more controlled, rational and assertive disclosure can be dismissed as 'passive aggressive'; seen as evidence of 'over reaction'; or even of an invention (or re-invention). The problem is, Institutions and Professional Agencies, are very powerful somewhat blinkered in their thinking on these matters. If it happened - Our advice is to stick with it.

It is society, through it's professional representatives, attempting to make the issues palatable (mostly unconsciously); by 'intellectualising' (theorising), or 'remaining 'clinically' detached and supposedly 'impartial'; especially if there are contradictory accounts within a relationship. We all know the classic 'abused child' imagery. People naturally sympathise with the plight of a mother, or a child, in clear and apparent distress. It reaches the heart. As does a 'dishonest' portrayal of the 'victim' role. The expressive, vulnerable image, of itself, draws people in, even when it is 'acted' out as part of an advert, a play, a film, or as a scam to cover up the 'real' circumstances of abuse (Abusers can be good at this). To get help you are expected to play 'victim'. This is the 'required' role. You first have to show signs of being 'defeated' to get help.

There are more 'unsympathetic' consequences and 'images' of the effects of abuse, than there are 'sympathetic' ones. Images of adult males in distress, the 'mentally distressed', or 'angry' presentations of men, women and children, or the 'criminal' reactions to perpetual abuse, are often treated as a nuisance (but there are exceptions). Mostly, the underlying abuses and resulting institutional failures, are often neglected, which results in further personal distress and more serious social consequences.

The abuses that 'exhibit' in this way, are usually those perpetrated under persistent fear, intellectual and emotional undermining (mind games), prejudice and the limited insight of of most professionals. Angry and bitter expressions, by those whose abuse, and consequences, were less 'attractive' to society, or whose presentation is not classically 'vulnerable', do not elicit social or professional sympathies, or appropriate professional consideration (This is evidenced on the Website).

It is difficult, sometime, to distinguish the 'angry abused' from the 'abusers' on the surface (abusers are usually more subtle though). There are clear differences and professionals often fail to recognise them - because of the social prejudice they incorporate in their professional and institutional attitudes. This prejudice comes from the person's limited, or biased socialisation, which can be quite positive in the main.

Having had limited experience of abuses, or more significantly; having been subtly abused and then incorporated these attitudes and behaviours into professional thinking; it is often difficult for professionals to understand a person's anger. In fact, the standard, rather 'middle class', perspective on anger is actually quite 'divisive'. If you express righteous anger, especially at the previous failings of institutions and professional practice, you are very unlikely to get a 'professional' service that is beneficial and reflective to your needs.

This outcome of conflict between abused and professional, is usually because the initial 'polite' and subsequently less 'vulnerable', increasingly 'angry' presentations of abuse were ignored, or dismissed for years. The reasons why people react to disclosures of abuse, neglect and prejudice in these ways, is very interesting.

I have experienced these same kinds of institutional prejudices and the subsequent dismissals, or inadequate justifications for bullying, even when clearly evidenced, recorded & witnessed. It has significantly affected my own health and wellbeing and that of many others that I have witnessed and supported, over the years. Even friendly, or professional, Counsellors & therapists, will often suggest we put these things behind us and 'let go' the issue, before it eats away at us. This is fair comment, but the 'clinical' approach can also hide the 'social' character' of abusive behaviour: It is 'in our heads'; a very 'clinical' view, not addressing the social problems.

The most difficult forms of abuse and neglect are those that have been 'sanitised' in the ways described. Much of the sanitising is in the form of concepts like; efficiency, cost effectiveness, prioritisation, meeting criteria, remaining detached, not getting involved, not taking sides, in the person's best interest and a host of other rationalisations.

These original ideas were introduced for good, sound reasons, but like so many things, they can become corrupted in their over use. Mostly they are used as an excuse to 'ration' services, often at considerable increased costs. One of the dynamics of the 'institutionalising process' is that professional, who become managers of services, incorporate many of these concepts to justify, or to cover up inadequate services and failures. Reorganisations are another 'failure' mechanism that has considerable cost implications and very little benefit, as particularly evidenced over the last 50 years of so.

This primarily motivation for institution managers, operating in this way, is to illegitimately retain 'power & control', while some of that power is increasingly being legitimately disseminated to the service user (customers / clients patients). There is little evidence of this 'empowerment' effectively happening and the resulting frustration creates much of the anger and lack of cooperation, that professional's are experiencing.

The psychology underpinning these behaviours and attitudes are well understood and have been around, in various forms, for some time. The 'Pecking Order' syndrome is a famous but largely forgotten one. I am not surprised it tends to be forgotten and dismissed. It is very primitive behaviour and can be recognised in many bullying and abusive situations in humans. More modern, credible and polite psychological concepts like; 'projection' and 'displacement' and 'paranoia' collectively explain this 'social', behavioural tendency.

If you 'feel' 'powerless in a particular situation and there are inhibiting, or abusive pressures on you to deal with what appear to be irresolvable problems & conflicts; there is a natural tendency to pass the pressure along, or down the chain in some way. This is sometimes inaccurately used to described how the Abused becomes the Abuser. Attempts to pass the responsibilities back 'up' this pecking order, to where the 'power & resources' are being retained (or constrained), is usually met with considerable resistance.

This is even the case where there are supposed 'channels' for doing so. This usually results in significant neglect of duty, bullying and other serious abuses. Economic, quasi-legal and quasi-psychological excuses, are often used to justify the resulting inaction, or the neglectful & abusive actions. These arguments are often well structured and plausible but are rarely consistent and substantial; a characteristic of corrupted (dishonest) institutions.

Any stand, or reasonable action, against the abuses of power in these ways, is often seen as emotionally driven, or 'political mischief' and this 'excuse' is used for issues to be ignored, or else marginalised. It is sometimes even described as conspiratorial. In fact, it is a required and necessary arrangement, based upon researched evidence, as the best means of organising any public services and the most appropriate processes for resolving problems and conflicts that arise.

It is established as government policy and incorporated within the Conventions on Human Rights and the Law. It is only when these 'channels of complaint and suggestions' are miss-used and become incorporated into the corrupted structure of the institution, that the conflicts worsen and result in further, compounded abusive behaviour. Hence the analogy of a 'Pecking Order', similar to that observed in chickens (and animals - including humans) in distress.

The following Section is being re-written for the purpose of explaining Institutional Prejudice & Abuse. The Feature can be found, in original forms, else where.

Copy Cat Failures:
Copy cat reorganisations of Services and Institutions usually fail to resolve the problems that they have been experiencing. The problems continue and often worsen, in spite of 'modelling' on best practices found else where, and despite 'appearing' to follow the guidelines established, often as a result of repeated failures in the provision of services. The reasons for these failures are explainable and actually simple to understand. Changing and renaming the 'structure' and 'processes' does not change the underlying attitudes and misunderstandings. More often, the changes are undertaken on duplicitous basis, saving money being a key feature. Staff usually resent and become distressed at these changes, which often impact upon the established good practices as well as the bad.

Any Institution that fails to bring its staff along with the changes and fails to gain their confidence, runs the risk of 'alienating' them. Even attempts to retrain staff, without their adequate understanding and full appreciation of underlying principles, often makes things worse. The argument that 'all our professionals are adequately trained' (in some important respect), is sometimes used as an excuse for not proceeding with a complaint, or grievance further.

Training, of itself, does not necessarily change attitudes, remove prejudices, or even ensure the acquisition of appropriate skill and insight. It can lead to convincing mimicry, by indifferent and sometimes, even by abusive professionals. The obviously inadequate professional is no real danger to service users (hopefully). At least they are identifiable. It is the subtle, knowledgeable, incompetent, dishonest, negligent and abusive professionals and managers, that present the greatest danger to service users.

Just to take one representative professional example. To teach, with in-depth knowledge of the subject, but no teaching skills; or acquiring good teaching skills, without knowing anything of the subject, are both poor positions to start from. The former may be a good resource for those that teach and the latter may be a good mentor for those that know their subject quite well. Knowing how to teach and the subject being taught, has to be the best teaching style for most situations.

Knowledge, for its own sake, in any service profession, is not a good basis for practice alone. There have to be the underlying skills, appropriate attitude and ethics, by which to effectively implement that knowledge. The acquisition of high level social skills and appropriate attitudes, like those of teaching and social work, are often relatively more important, being transferable to other subjects, disciplines, organisational structures and professional objectives (these are the generic public service skills).

The inappropriately introduction of changes, or changes introduced for the wrong reasons, without adequate consideration of the above issues, often gives rise to 'cliques' of aggrieved staff, and managers, who sometimes will act against the Institution's declared changes to objectives, methods and purpose. This is often by 'interpreting' new policy and practice guidelines, in accordance with their particular, historically established, attitudes and practices.

These are the 'spanners in the works' described by Professor Elliot Jacques in his (xxx). For example; in prioritisation of identifying the needs of the child, the needs of the family are often neglected. Alternatively, prioritising the needs of the family can sometimes be shown to be detrimental to the child's immediate needs and risks. The correct laid down procedures may be followed in each case but the outcome can lead to a failure of duty in either case, because of 'prescribed' prioritisations.

Good professional practice takes a balanced and equitable account of, and integrates the needs of children, parents, wider family, carers and vulnerable adults, sometimes recognised as an extended part of the identified problems and also part of the potential resolution. This is not always possible without some legal recourse but legal recourse is never the 'least restrictive', or 'best practice' option, especially for the longer term needs of any child (or family).

Remembering our simple maths: both sides of the equation have to balance. The professional's job is not just to follow prescribed procedures and institutionally determined, generalised priorities. It is to make constant judgments, based upon the evidence collected and then prioritise according to this evidence; of often competing needs and risks, peculiar to each situation.

Pre-set prioritisations of professional practice are often a failures of the Institution, attempting to 'tie down' professionals within tight budgets, or seeking to reduce risks of being 'seen to be negligent'. This has often resulted in volumes of policy, attempting to prescribe just about every professional action. It often is used, but more often interpreted, as a way of providing a 'standard' of service. What usually happens is, the service is 'averaged' down, or reduced to the minimum level that institution can be 'seen to get away with', unable to respond adequately to individual needs and risks.

The 'professional discretion' of staff is often restricted to 'stressful' levels, where staff are required to compromise professional judgment, in order to attend to fiscal constraints and administrative procedures that are designed to 'protect the institution'. This 'dynamic' interaction of conflicting demands detrimentally affects individual staff, the institution and eventually the service user.

In addition to any 'prescriptive' directives for practice, there are assumed, or interpreted criteria for prioritisation of services, by managers and professionals, based upon their interpretation of this avalanche of Institutional policy. This often results in further failures of 'duty'. Sometimes this happens out of professional naivety, but it is more usually in response to institutional pressures; sometimes explicit and open, but more often divisive and reactionary.

Lets be clear here; It is the professional assessment that should set priorities, in each particular case and at any particular point in an intervention, in the best interests of the child and wider family. Professional supervision is provided to help ensure that this is in keeping with 'broad policy' which is kept consistent with legislation, human rights and ethical practices.

Prescriptive policy is an indication of the institutions failure to recruit &/or appropriately supervise, train and support competent professionals, capable of making competent assessments and take effective and appropriate evidenced based decisions that meet all the 'human rights' based guidelines for practice.

The following Section is being re-written for the purpose of explaining Institutional Prejudice & Abuse. The Feature can be found, in original forms, else where.

The More Technical Arguments (Bare with me):

Society, especially in the form of its institutions, seems only able to cope with these problems in intellectually manageable 'bits', where there is incontrovertible evidence & demonstrated professional credibility. This is because of the underlying 'bullying' character of our culture. Professionals are made to feel 'isolated', if they do not 'tow the line' and go with the prevailing, fashionable, 'institutional' view.

If they operate ethically and thereby appear to risk 'being wrong', by taking a more 'critical' & human perspective, they are often chastised. This then sets the expectations for everyone. There appears to be difficulty in critically interpreting any evidence disclosed and greater difficulty in understanding the 'natural' consequences of the perpetration of these abuses (or identifying the shams/scams; which indicate serious problems of their own).

This tendency is partly explained by individual feelings of guilt (people do exhibit and observe these more minor abusive tendencies daily, in their own lives) and partly due to institutional resistance to acknowledging the problems; because of possible 'blame' (culpability) in recognising and acknowledging the failures to meet these complex needs, risks, neglects and failures.

There are well established theories of individual and social 'psychology', which explain many of the 'enigmas' of individual behaviour and group, social, or institutional reactions. These mostly justify following the 'status quo' (caricatures of good practice), usually with flawed logic and frequent prejudiced interpretation of the more 'obvious' evidence. Unfortunately there is very strong resistance to changes in attitudes, even in the light of this modern evidence.

This more considered approach requires more time and can be inconclusive, if not skilfully undertaken. Institutions currently require definitive answers, whether accurate, or not. Like modern courts, they are interested in summary justice, achieved by the most economic means. In the case of the modern forms of 'summary' court justice, there is strong pressure, from many defence solicitors, to get clients to plead guilty, if the evidence, a person's character and social status, is likely to lead to a guilty verdict.

The argument being that the sentence would otherwise be more severe. These judgments are not made explicit, but there is no doubt of the implications, if one observers the legal process. There are few incentives (other than ethics) to ensure a client provides a truthful, just and completely credible answer, which can be supported by competent legal argument.

Legal aide is limited and real justice is now very costly. In addition, frustrated expressions of innocence and contentious challenges of justice, (often having been provided inadequate support), is usually identified (unjustly) as evidence of guilt. This is an example of discriminatory and abusive justice. It arises out of institutional prejudice, the same form that was identified in terms of institutional racism.

The same prejudice and injustice can be seen in respect of many institutional dealings with people exhibiting mild learning difficulties, mental health, or alcohol and drug problems. Untutored and over simplistic interpretation of behaviour and lack of appreciation of the differing motives and  expression, affect the judgments made about individuals. This can even affect vulnerable people who (perhaps inappropriately) respond to inappropriate, indifferent, unjust and humiliating responses to their distress, created by these indifferent and dispassionate forms of  service provision.

There is clearly a professional deficit in identifying the difference between belligerently antagonistic behaviour and the 'reactive' distressed behaviour, of those who have been abusively dealt with, or who are felt to be unjustly treated. The idea that all people are equally culpable, based upon their assumed intimidating behaviour, whatever the abusive, or discriminatory level of treatment, or the evident mental capacity, is incompetent and an institutionally 'blind' form of prejudice.

This institutional prejudice and abuses are more evident now than I have observed in past, more intuitive forms of professional practice . This can be partially accounted for by my previous lack of awareness, but there is also no doubt, as evidence in my operational research, that this character of institutional and professional attitude is both more prevalent and a more generalising, discriminatory feature of modern professional attitudes (at least in terms of manager's regressive, prevailing attitudes).

And so it is in the 'social policing' areas of Child Protection and Mental Health. We have to live with this for now, prepare and present evidence best we can, then fight our case at every opportunity, convincing institutions (and individual professionals) of their errors of judgment.

Unfortunately, the various institution's modern objectives are to come to the most convincing, credible conclusion, efficiently and at minimal cost in time and effort (mostly because of limited resources). To this end, institutions lay down very specific and often quite inflexible processes, meant to be 'catch alls' for potential problems and risks. Unfortunately, this (along with work pressures) also blinkers the professionals perceptions, causing them to miss important evidence that does not 'fit' the chosen criteria. This evidence would have had them seeking a different resolution.

The tendency is understandable, but does not ensure the most just and reasonable outcomes, required by our various ethics. The consequences can be shown to be more costly and producing more entrenched problems for the future. We see the more dramatic results of these inadequate 'processes' in the media coverage of 'failures' of duty & of care.

Most injustices and errors do not get the media attention, especially if they do not result in a death, or more serious physical abuse. Even less the case, if the abusive incidents, errors of judgment, or neglect of service, are perpetrated against individuals and groups that do not conger up such natural sympathies.

 This includes those who refuse to present as 'pathetic' victims, that is; caricatures of what an abused person should look like and behave like. Some Rape 'Victims' sometimes have difficulties with institutions, for not responding in the usual way people are lead to expect. The same is true for all forms of abuse, disability, and delayed recognition of bullying and neglect.

The following Section is being re-written for the purpose of explaining Institutional Prejudice & Abuse. The Feature can be found, in original forms, else where.

So, where are thing at now:
Domestic violence towards children and women has been more successfully addressed in recent years. It has provided some relief, of course, but much physical and serious psychological & emotional abuse still remains, undiscovered for years. Abuse towards men is grossly underestimated and very poorly addressed, including the effects upon their children.

Why? We will explain. Racism is a particular form of abuse. Its most obvious forms (relating to colour) have been challenged and the Law now protects the most public forms of abuse. There still remains subtle prejudice and substantial institutional prejudice, especially towards those who are 'less credible witnesses' to it; expressing themselves with anger, exhibiting mental ill health, or with limited social insight for any reason.

Similarly, Sexual Discrimination towards Women has been challenged in areas of most popular interest; politics, employment rights and family. There has been some success for the more 'vocal' and those which generate the most public sympathy (news worthy). These compensations have sometimes made women's social reactions more like those of abusive men.

Others, who are less vocal and generate less 'sympathy', continue to suffer prejudice, discrimination and actual abuse, in all areas of social experience, including their dealings with institutions. Institutions are prejudiced against the less vocally competent and less 'sympathetic' presentations of abuse. Political correctness often used as a weak excuse.

Discrimination and associated abuses, towards people with 'disabilities' has significantly improved, particularly those with physical and sensory problems. I remember times in the 1960's where the discrimination of professionals was so bad that people with severe physical disabilities were 'stopped' from having normal emotional and sexual opportunities and experiences.

They were often institutionalised in 'homes'. By the 1970's the beginnings of 'normal' expectations were established for people with 'Learning Difficulties'; following their discharge from 'long stay special hospitals'. I was involved in the incredible struggle to get their basic human entitlements met. The struggle goes on, some still fall through the gaps with tragic consequences and little social or media sympathy.

In recent years there has been an increased awareness of 'Bullying' at school and still more recently, in the workplace. Bullying had long been seen as a natural part of childhood development, by many professionals and some parents. This is the result of a confusion between natural childhood tendency towards 'horse play' (establishing relative dominance - hopefully adequately supervised by adults) and their more inappropriate 'learned' attitudes and behaviours, generated by significant 'abusive' adult behaviours, in their presence. This includes parents, teachers, other professionals and celebrities of various kinds. Need I say more - e.g.: Alcohol & other 'acquisitive' adverts do work, why pay for them otherwise.

Sadly, modern academic understandings fall short of the insightful recognition of the causes, management and (at least partial) elimination of bullying. Attempts to contain bullying at schools is often curtailed by misguided belief that the abused and the bully must confront each other, almost on equal terms.

Much as it is important that the abused need to have the opportunity to confront bullying and the bully needs to be confronted by their effects; how, when, where and why this is done is very dependent upon the character & confidence of the abused and abuser. The priority is to supervise and contain bullying of all kinds and at all levels (including by professionals - they can and do set the bad examples).

The same is true of bullying in the workplace. This is far more prevalent than may first be assumed. Much 'aggressive' management is, in fact, bullying in character. It undermines and reduces productivity & quality of output. It has been the subject of Dickens and others in more recent history.

This 'style'  is now popularly portrayed as TV 'entertainment'; with programmes like 'Big Brother', 'Hell's Kitchen' and The Apprentice'; giving the impression that to get results it is necessary to beat the less able into failure, or to play one lot of 'competitors' against the other. Clever, advanced social skills and all for young people's amusement and advancement. So busy competing they all fall behind in the employment race.

The most successful organisations have very fair and positive management attitudes (while they remain open to new ideas, development and advancement). They have good employee selection criteria, adaptive & 'inclusive' forms of employee induction and motivational and reward based methods of management. These are often the most successful companies.

Many have better quality health care and safety practices than local health and local authorities (who usually spend more on this). They also have clear, unambiguous processes of discipline, which they are usually less required to use. Companies like Microsoft, Intel, HP and Virgin are some top examples who value skills and are not 'risk averse'.

Others organisations have quite neutral, or ineffectual styles, adequate for their purpose, but are therefore prone to bullying within the workforce &/or management, examples evidenced in my experience are; the Postal Service, some Social Care Agencies and many Residential & Nursing Care institutions (and their Service Purchasers).

Still others (far to many, including important Health Social Service, Housing and Policing institutions) have very poor selection criteria for the jobs in hand, miss-fit between mission statements, objectives and policy, unstable organisational structures, inflexible & inadequate employee induction and aggressive, institutionalised, punitive, or  'micro managed' managements styles.

These organisations produce some of the most inefficiently organised services and some of the most stressed staff, with the highest rates of poor employee / manager health, high absentee rates, with some of the highest levels of early retirement on health grounds. In commerce and industry these organisations tend to fail and eventually get replaced by new blood. In social institutions and the long established commercial organisations, that have become 'our institutions', they tend to prevail and persevere at the expense of their staff and managers. High staff turnover , frozen posts and poor professional replacement rates, perpetuating the institutions persistent failure (in service user terms), while meeting 'statistical' requirements, as a Government and policy priority.

The cost to the individual's health, families, communities and social resources, is substantial and yet fear and prejudice, instilled into these rather 'Neanderthal' style organisations and institutions, means that each employee and manager fears to be seen as weak, a winger, or not up to the job, etc. The attitudes and behaviours could be forgivable, in the short term, if they could be shown to be effective in the longer term, or shown to result in consistently improved services. The opposite is clearly evident, time after time. After countless reorganisations and consolidations; The same dedicated types, meeting the same misguided institutional requirements, in expertly defined terms, neglecting the basic institutional objectives.

I have long term direct observations of this repeated, cyclic process and more recently; direct personal experience of these disabling and unhealthy institutional effects. The same effects that result from any other 'abusive' situations: Reduced self esteem; conflict with ethical & moral practices; anger; frustration; emotional distress; disruption of family life; reduced positive effect in critical areas of life / work; poor physical health; reduced care and attention; increased accident rates and errors; reduction of competence; collapse of health; increased criticism for personal failures; further reduction of self esteem, reduced psychological, emotional and physical health, reduced work efficiency. Burn out & Break Down.

OR; Take the advice of abusers, those resigned to the current order of things, and/or intimidated friends & more cautious colleagues: Face the fact that these issues are not winnable; they are bigger than us, no one will believe you, or take any notice; no one really cares anyway; you are just being too idealistic; just let the 'abusers' get what they want & repair/recover best you can; keep your head down, let go the issues; protect your position  (however sad and degraded); your first obligation is to yourself and your family; protect your mental & physical health best you can; try and make it be someone else's problem (pass it on). And so we often do, if we loose focus on the real issues and vocational purpose.

Eventual, in taking this approach, there is resignation to the circumstances: loss of hope for improvement; accommodation to the practical, pragmatic realities; justification for short term fixes and making do; fear of speaking up, or standing against the unjust, neglectful and abusive practise; shying away from any outspoken criticism; avoiding being associated with anyone pointing the finger. Bring the newcomers 'into line' before they rock the boat and put them (and us) in the spotlight, we will then all pay for it in the 'abusive' reactions. Eventual, with the loss of original vocational and institutional purpose, we are then associated with the neglect & failures, through the neglect of the duty of care (as is frequently seen to happen).

Many of these characteristics of abusive management styles and employee 'spanner in the works' type reactions, were identified when research was more independently funded, by committed individuals, within Universities and relatively independent Research Institutions. Professor Elliott Jacques and his research team at BIOSS (Brunel University) sensitively undertook quite challenging 'Institutional' research, with the cooperation of all forms of Social Institution, Commerce & Industry, Armed Forces and Trade Unions, etc. Even then they required the tacit cooperation of the institutions that were being researched. When these were genuinely interested in the outcome of unbiased, 'open' research there were fewer problems. These days, commissioned research is 'managed'; concerned with media image rather than substance.

Most institutional research, these days, relies upon the research brief being determined by the institution, or interested government agency. Unfortunately, modern research funding is usually through the very institutions that are being researched and the research brief is effectively determined by the research funders, including the Government initiatives. Funding by drugs companies fairs little better. There is little independent, 'open' research possible by 'high profile' agencies and funders. The more independently minded and more 'searching' researches often have to rely upon less well resourced and credible funding options. It is for this reason that I have followed Professor Elliott Jacques example, undertaking 'operational research' while working in some real capacity, within the institutions, or in close association with them.

The following Section is being re-written for the purpose of explaining Institutional Prejudice & Abuse. The Feature can be found, in original forms, else where.

Personal Experiences of Abuse and Institutional Ineptness:

My own serious physical abuse and sexual molestation as a child, along with my enforced observations of the serious physical abuse of my Mother and my Brothers and Sisters (I was the eldest of 11), had a very strong influence on me. For some reason, probably because of my belief that this experience was somehow 'normal' and a determination to understand why this could happen, I found myself asking quite serious questions, even from as early an age as 6 years (yes - find this quite incredible now).

During the next few years, including periods of time I spent in 'Care', I also spoke with and consoled, other children who had experienced distress in their family lives and during their periods in care. I and they met Carers who showed great sensitivity and insight, usually managed by those with less sensitivity and often psychologically & emotionally (and sometimes physically) neglectful attitudes. Sadly, my own and others, experience of professional interventions were often inadequate, uninformed and frequently inept. Sometime they were ignorantly, or blatantly abusive.

This has been my experience in personal life and my work, ever since. There is something about the evolution of 'institutions' that tends to dehumanise people, even the best of them. There is a strong institutional pressure, maintained mainly by inadequate middle managers, to hide the shortfalls in service. To manipulate resources and assessments, in order to give the impression of meeting needs of the clients, patients, service consumers, etc..

Keeping waiting list short and efficiently meeting the needs of those who 'qualify' by the nature of their vocal competence and their, critical, or crisis level of need, belays the neglect of the needs of clients, patients, citizen, customer, consumer and who seek help prior to reaching critical state. Further more, we are meeting these belated needs, using administrative systems that require as much as 50% and often as high as 80% of allocated professional time. This actually reduces the effective input to clients, patients and other service consumers.

The following Section is being re-written for the purpose of explaining Institutional Prejudice & Abuse. The Feature can be found, in original forms, else where.

The Survivors of Abuse and Institutional Neglect:

Such experiences as ours are more extensive than most people recognise, even those who have been abused in some way. We will show that the usual professional assumptions about the nature and circumstances of 'abuse' are inadequate, time after time. The character of abuse has been institutionalised, it is part of our culture and we are 'educated' to tolerate some level of 'abusive behaviour' and to believe that this is not challengeable. It is, in Law, but institutional prejudices and ignorance of the nature of abuse, often disables effective action.

Our cultures and communities play a significant part in creating and perpetuating neglectful and abusive situations and personalities. This misunderstanding is often because of fundamental prejudices, perpetuated by 'relative', professional ignorance, sometimes produced by ill conceived, but more often by completely misunderstood interpretations of 'good ideas' and what are often called 'model' practices. Society establishes 'stereotypes' of abusers and victims. Unless either, or both, fit the 'stereotypes', the abuse often has little credibility.

Professional understanding has slowly improved over the last 30 years, but these is still a fundamental misunderstanding of, and refusal to acknowledge, the cause and effect of abuse. As many of you will know, the consequences of abuse often remain unresolved for many years and the professional responses are often inadequate, condescending and often 'disabling'. It is impossible to obtain the insights and knowledge by formal training alone. The supposed 'irrational' and 'emotional' accounts are quite credible, some of the 'rational' ones flawed, or false.

There will be others who, like myself, have discovered the more fundamental causes and effects of neglect and abuse, and have further developed a more insightful perspective on our cultures and communities. Undoing the damage is difficult but is achievable. This has been demonstrated by 'good' community projects (often initiated by those who have had problems themselves). These projects are sometimes 'copied' by well meaning professionals, some succeed because of the insight they gain, others fail (with consequence for us all) because they were poor copies.

Intellectual and academic insight can be valuable in helping understanding, especially for those who have gladly not had these experiences. Especially where they help towards a greater understanding of the nature of 'cause and effect' and the means of overcoming, or resolving the consequences in 'constructive' , life enhancing ways. This requires a more 'open' understanding that is currently the norm. We seek to remedy this situation. There is, however, substantial professional and institutional resistance to this, for reasons we explain.







This Document is still at some stage of development. You are invited to respond and comment on its content and its logic. If you return to the document at a future date, you will be able to see its continued development, hopefully reflecting your own and others commentary.

I thank you, in advance, for any contribution that you make. Please also feel free to visit and contribute, in any valid way, to these and other social issues, through our Forums. There is also a Chat Room and protected Chat Space for more serious group discussions and individual counselling. Please feel free o use this space for your legitimate activities.


Although you will see very few reference to other formal writings in this document, I acknowledge general recognition to the discussions and debates that I have had with students, practitioners and clients over the years. Most of the ideas and theory has evolved through this rather pragmatic process (operational research), rather than any formal reading.

If any content of this document describes concepts, theory, or ideas that have been established else where, (prior to my writing, either here or else where - in part or in full), I acknowledge their entitlement to claim them as their intellectual property for financial purposes, if they can evidence this. I also reserve the right to retain them as my intellectual property, with due recognition to those who have made direct contributions, including other writers, should I identify such a past influences.

Other than this, I invite you to share and copy any content, to the benefit of intellectual debate and the benefit of individuals and groups, without restriction, other than it be used for constructive purpose, in the wider context of my writing.

Should you wish to use any material presented here 'as is', I ask that you then make reference to myself and the web site. The 'Reading Date' would be a useful 'publishing date' for the Current Edition. 1980 is the core publishing date for most of the basic ideas and theory (unless stated otherwise).

This 'Reading Date' may be an important part of this 'reference', as the document (by its 'internet fluid' nature) will be constantly changing and this may affect meaning and interpretation, for those following up on such a reference at a later date.

Thank you for your cooperation.

TRC. eMail: terry.couchman@visitweb.org




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