T&D Support Changing Relations With Rabbits In Headlights Project

Published 18 Jul 2023

Changing Relations

Thorne & Derrick support Changing Relations with their Rabbits In Headlights Project. This will be a further development of the book, Sometimes it Hurts, but focused this time on developing a bank of creative tools around the stories to give professionals who work with children and young people a “way in” to a potentially tricky conversation.

A little more about the project in the words of Changing Relations Managing Director Lisa Davies.

In piloting our book in July 2021, young people told us they enjoyed the content and felt that it “100% should be delivered to schools and to training teachers.”

Where does this insight come from?

Our writer, Bridget Hamilton worked together with children and young people from Creative Youth Opportunities who shared a range of experiences, from neglect and poverty to conflictual parental divorce and domestic abuse. The young people shared ways in which different adults responded to them, and, whilst some are responding with empathy and engagement, creating space to hold the difficulty of some young people’s home lives, unfortunately this was not the experience of all of our young people.

And the image of Alfie really stuck with us: a young lad holding a set of challenging experiences, realising that the adult he was faced with at school could see a hint of that challenge, but was not able to hold a space to bring it into the open. What message would Alfie take from this encounter? That his circumstances were too much for a grown up to handle? How would this make him feel?

We know from our work with tricky themes over the last 10 years that a feeling of shame emerges when young people sense that their experience can’t be discussed. But this isn’t Alfie’s shame. And what we’d love is for him to know it’s not his fault, it’s not just him, and he doesn’t have to bear the weight of his experiences alone.

Those whose experiences shaped the stories of our book told us: “It makes you feel like you’re not the only one when you go through it.” and “It could make people understand and be more kind.”

We know – and are grateful – that specialist services exist to support children and young people. We’re also very conscious that these services are only for young people referred into them. There can be a waiting list and educational professionals may face young people presenting with difficulty in the here and now, before the young people they are supporting are able to access specialist support. We also know that without domestic abuse necessarily being talked about openly, young people might not immediately identify themselves as experiencing this, or in need of support. For example, in writing the foreword to our book, award-winning campaigners Luke and Ryan Hart, who themselves experienced domestic abuse as children, shared that:

“We believed our emotional pain meant we were weak kids, rather than that something was wrong in our home…we felt we should have been able to cope…that it wasn’t dramatic enough to bother others with. We needed to hear others’ stories of domestic abuse before we could begin to make sense of our own. This awareness will spark conversations that help young people connect the dots…and get the help they need. We’re always asked when’s the right time to talk to children about domestic abuse and the answer is as soon as possible.”

In a review of our book, Lancet Child and Adolescent Health cites that “In the UK, 1 in 7 young people have been affected by domestic abuse at some point during their childhood, but they rarely have opportunities to discuss their experiences.”

This is where our new project development comes in. We’re absolutely delighted to have developed a partnership with Durham University social work lecturer, Dr Nikki Rutter, to support us in shaping tools, training and resources to empower teachers to open much-needed conversations with children & young people. We’re also hugely grateful to have received funding to support this work from:


What will our project involve?

It’s hugely important that we continue the principle of foregrounding children and young people’s voices in shaping resources aimed at supporting them. We’ll be working with schools and community partners across Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe and Shildon to recruit a group of young people to be our YOUTH CREATIVE ACTION GROUP to support the new phase of development. They would create the brief for our illustrator Tamsin Rees and plan the creative activities they think would help their peers navigate the stories.

We will:

  • Develop a bank of creative resources & support processes around the 6 stories in our book to give young people chance to engage in the story as a step to bridging conversation with the supporting adult who identified them as needing help.
  • House these resources in an interactive website where teachers & youth workers could download the relevant resource & story to use with the given young person.
  • Create audio book versions of the stories, where if, for access reasons, the young person preferred to be read to, they could select this option.
  • Create a series of 6, more illustrated, picture book versions of the 6 chapters within the book to ensure the content is accessible to primary aged children.
  • Test and refine the content with schools and youth groups in Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe and Shildon, supported by a Durham University Research Assistant.
  • Hold a conference to share the outcomes of the test phase.
  • Provide whole staff CPD to schools and groups in Bishop Auckland, Newton Aycliffe and Shildon to give their staff confidence to use the resources developed.

This is a really timely project as the domestic abuse bill that passed through parliament during the pandemic made children and young people “victims of domestic abuse within their own right.” Now is the time to acknowledge this; to overcome our discomfort in bringing this difficult topic into the open; and to widen the pool of those ready to reach out, signpost young people to specialist support and offer supportive conversations whilst they await referrals for that support.

If you’re interested in what we aim to achieve with this project, we’d love you to let us know. Drop our Managing Director a message ([email protected]) and stay tuned for further updates.