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Domestic violence marginalised & children’s needs compromised in the construction of children’s ‘best interests’ Dr Amanda Shea Hart.

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Presentation on theme: "Domestic violence marginalised & children’s needs compromised in the construction of children’s ‘best interests’ Dr Amanda Shea Hart."— Presentation transcript:

1 Domestic violence marginalised & children’s needs compromised in the construction of children’s ‘best interests’ Dr Amanda Shea Hart

2 Adverse effects on children from exposure to DV Possible long & short consequences:  Serious physical, psychological, cognitive, behavioral, developmental, emotional & relational problems  Poor life satisfaction, self esteem & future relationships  Disrupted tasks of childhood

3 Adverse effects on children from exposure to DV  Cumulative developmental effects  Predisposition to becoming violent later in life  Elevated physiological states ongoing hyperarousal & hypervigilance  Numbing/avoidance  Development of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder PTSD

4 Child victims of violence  For children, living with domestic violence requires negotiating, making sense of, and managing a number of complex and overlapping issues: the behavior of the abuser; the responses of, and impacts on, their mother and siblings; danger and risk to themselves; their emotions; and kin and friendship relations. Mullender, Hague, Imam, Kelly, Malos and Regan (2002, p.91)

5 Research on DV in family law proceedings  Alleged violence in 79% of adjudicated cases in FCA (AIFS 2007)  Violence an issue in 58% of 40 randomly selected child-related judgments (Kaspiew 2005)  Violence an issue at final hearing in 128 contact cases at Adelaide registry between (Shea Hart 2004)  Physical violence an issue in 67% of 91 child related judgments. At least one allegation accepted by FCA in over 50% of these cases (FCA 2003)

6 Examples of types of violence found to have occurred ‘stalked’ ‘harassed’ ‘foul language’ ‘threat to kill’ ‘dictatorial’ ‘head- butted’ ‘pulled from the car’ ‘broke [wife’s] ribs’ ‘poured lighter fluid on the wife and threatened to set it on fire’ ‘threatening and aggressive demeanor’ ‘convicted of assault’ ‘ruled the household with an iron fist’ ‘punching a hole through the door’ ‘threatening and intimidatory manner’ ‘obsessive about the wife and the children mixing with other people’ ‘wife was required to be extremely frugal with the housekeeping money’

7 Violence mutualised ‘extreme conflict’ ‘bitter conflict’ ‘bitter feud’ ‘fiery marriage’ ‘turbulent relationship’ ‘state of war between the parties’ ‘animosity between the parties’ ‘enmity between the parties’ ‘active denigration by both parents’ ‘hostility between the parties’

8 ‘Alienating’ mothers Mothers’ ‘hostile’ & ‘irresponsible’ attitudes ‘relentlessly undermining’ ‘slur the father’ ‘pernicious influence’ ‘selfish’ ‘quest for revenge’ ‘severely overprotective’ ‘grossly alienating’ ‘actively denigrated the husband’ ‘poisoned the child’s mind against his father’ ‘destroying [father’s] relationship with his children’ ‘deliberate…alienating conduct and strategies’ ‘callous disregard for [children’s] wellbeing’ ‘blinded’ to the ‘essential issues’ [for children’s wellbeing]

9 Children’s problems ‘frightened’ ‘emotionally fragile’ ‘disruptive’ ‘extremely upset’ ‘anger and hostility’ ‘confused’ ‘poohing her pants’ ‘disturbed sleep’ ‘impulsive moods‘ ‘depressive condition’ ‘hated life and wished to die’ ‘withdraws from unpleasant feelings’ ‘learning difficulties’ ‘difficulties concentrating’ ‘obsessed with [masturbation]’ ‘regular detentions at school’ ‘kicking, hitting, teasing and showing no remorse’

10 Normalising discourse  Children immature, incompetent beings not able to reliably express their own experiences & wishes  Children adversely affected by: exposure to conflict deprivation of relationships with their ‘loving’, ‘caring’ fathers irresponsible ‘alienating’ mothers

11 Child problematising discourse  Non-compliant behaviour ‘defiant’ ‘difficult’ ‘stubborn’ ‘resistant’ ‘uncontrollable’ ‘disrespectful’ ‘taciturnity’ ‘self-centered’ ‘enormous power and control’ ‘bad behaviour’  Acting out behaviour ‘bad tempered’ ‘unruly’ ‘misconduct’ ‘hostile’ ‘aggressive’ ‘glared’ ‘putting on a show’ ‘confronted’

12 Children’s improved wellbeing  Social & academic development ‘more able to state feelings’ ‘co-operative’ ‘fairly self assured’ ‘friendly ’ ‘excellent social interaction’ ‘communicative’ ‘outstanding school work’ ‘improved functioning’ ‘no longer receiving regular detentions at school’  Emotional, psychological & behavioural ‘functioning normally’ ‘peace of mind’ ‘more secure’ ‘managing life’ ‘markedly less anxious’ ‘stable’ ‘no longer requiring medication’ ‘feeling safe’ ‘progression into a normal state’ ‘less angry’ ‘improvement of depressive condition’ ‘nightmares have now settled’

13 Children’s best interests: Prioritize protection from violence 1. Centralize children’s exposure to domestic violence 2. Legislative reform - rebuttable presumption of no contact where violence is alleged 3. Ongoing education & training for social science and legal professionals on domestic violence and child abuse

14 Children’s best interests: Priorities protection from violence 4. Differentiated case management pathway  Early intervention & report to Court  Comprehensive individual child-focused assessment provided by experts in violence, abuse and childhood trauma  Risk/benefit analysis  Identify trauma symptoms, coping strategies, attachment patterns, special needs & views of the child  Identify patterns of coercive control & parenting practices of perpetrator of violence  Recommendations for Court case management, case coordination between jurisdictions & referral to therapeutic/support services  Conduct research to evaluate outcomes for the child and develop evidence based model of practice


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