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Domestic Violence Professor Marianne Hester University of Bristol.

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Presentation on theme: "Domestic Violence Professor Marianne Hester University of Bristol."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Domestic Violence Professor Marianne Hester University of Bristol

3 Major problem faced by practitioners working with women and children: Different, separate, & contradictory ideas and practice approaches: Domestic violence Child protection Child contact

4 The presentation draws on the following: Hester, M., Pearson, C. & Harwin, N. with Abrahams, H. (2007) Making an Impact - Children and Domestic Violence. A Reader, 2nd Edition. London: Jessica Kingsley. Hester, M. (2004), ‘Future Trends and Developments – Violence Against Women In Europe and East Asia’, Violence Against Women, 10 (12):

5 Separate development of policies & services for domestic violence and child abuse Domestic violence – perceived as gendered, increasingly criminalised Child abuse – perceived a family dysfunction, welfare approach with de-criminalisation

6 Developing positive practice Supporting mothers to be safe Focusing intervention on violent men Multi-agency working

7 Different contexts – three planets Domestic violence: Child protection Child contact

8 Domestic violence planet Domestic violence: considered a crime (civil and criminal law); range of support violent male partner

9 Child protection planet Child protection: (public law) welfare approach; state intervention in abusive families; mother seen as failing to protect

10 Child contact planet Child contact: Residence, custody, contact (private law); negotiated or mediated outcome; good enough father

11 Life beyond three planets? Domestic violence: considered a crime (civil and criminal law); range of support violent male partner Child protection: (public law) welfare approach; state intervention in abusive families; mother seen as failing to protect Child contact: (private law); negotiated or mediated outcome; good enough father New initiative: Safeguarding Boards From April 2006

12 Domestic violence is... ….a serious crime

13 When does it begin? early on in relationship when relationship is made formal during pregnancy when the children are small ABOUT POWER & CONTROL

14 Escalation over time The abusive behaviour may escalate over time, …especially when women attempt to leave or in other ways assert their individuality and strength.

15 Continues after separation 33% of domestic violence is reported after the couple separate

16 the impact of domestic violence on children - research shows: that the domestic violence perpetrator may also be directly - physically and/ or sexually - abusive to the child; that witnessing violence to their mothers may have an abusive and detrimental impact on the children concerned; and that the perpetrators may abuse the child as a part of their violence against women.

17 Child abuse in the context of domestic violence domestic violence is the most common context for child abuse; male domestic violence perpetrators are more likely to be abusive to children and more extremely so; the more severe the domestic violence, the more severe the abuse of children in the same context; and children may experience multiple forms of abuse.

18 UK study on child maltreatment: Cawson (2002) in prevalence survey of child maltreatment involving 2,869 young people aged : Domestic violence was reported by 80% of victims of serious physical abuse, by more than half those experiencing intermediate physical abuse, and by 44% of those who were smacked regularly and suffered physical effects lasting a day or longer. Of young people sexually abused by parents, almost two-thirds came from families in which violence was constant or frequent. 88% of the young adults neglected in childhood reported violence between their carers.

19 L iving with and witnessing violence Children who witness domestic violence are at increased risk for maladaptation. (Kolbo, Blakely and Engleman 1996: 289) A meta-evaluation of 118 (mainly US) quantitative studies (Kitzmann, Gaylord, Holt and Kenny 2003) showed significantly worse outcomes to comparison groups of children who had not witnessed domestic violence. About two- thirds (62%) of child witnesses were not faring as well as the average child.

20 Domestic violence as a context for child deaths Saunders (2004) examined homicides of 29 children from 13 families killed in the context of post-separation contact or residence ( ): –Domestic violence was involved in at least 11 of the 13 families. –In five of the cases contact had been ordered by the courts.

21 Saunders (2004) concludes:  In several cases the children were not viewed as being at risk of significant harm’, even when the mother was facing potentially lethal violence. Some professionals had no understanding of the power and control dynamics of domestic violence, and did not recognise the increased risks following separation or the mother’s starting a new relationship. In several cases professionals did not talk to the children. Sometimes this was because the perpetrator prevented any meaningful contact with the child.

22 DV as context for entry to prostitution Living with domestic violence as a child: –running away from home –other vulnerability to enter prostitution

23 Impact of DV on children wide range of effects – physical, psychological, behavioural, social influenced by factors such as age, race, economic status, gender, disability, sexuality and children’s resilience children (even within the same family) may be affected in quite different ways

24 Different ages: Robbie, was obviously affected when his mother was being abused at home. His speech was badly affected, and this was even more apparent at the time of domestic violence incidents Jamie, his younger brother, was not so obviously affected by living in the same circumstances

25 A different family: Nigel, had particular problems relating to and mixing with other children, and often acted violently towards them Nigel’s younger sister Susan, was affected less obviously by living with domestic violence

26 Another child: An older school-age child, Albert (described by his teacher as “a very bright boy”). coped with the ‘out of control’ experience of living with violence by being quite controlling in his relations with others. This behaviour would become especially obvious at times of renewed domestic violence against his mother

27 Effective intervention

28 elements especially important in work with children experiencing domestic violence elimination of violence recovery work, treatment, or ‘talking to someone’ supporting mothers to be safe as a positive approach in child protection supporting the mother to be a well-functioning residential parent building on coping and resilience strategies

29 this recognises: the existence of violence, the impact of the violence, the need for a significant other, other protective factors

30 for children the barriers to talking about violence are: Fear of the violent man finding out Fear of not being believed Fear of being stigmatised Difficulty in talking to adults Not having anyone to tell Services not being available

31 Supporting mothers to be safe

32 a well-functioning residential parent and no more violence or parental conflict are especially important to the positive outcomes for children

33 Coping and protective strategies

34 Coping strategies: Diverting attention - Albert tried hard to minimise and thus contain his experiences of seeing his mother abused. His involvement in activities outside home, in particular football, played a central role in his ability to do so Switching off -A couple of the younger children had a very different coping strategy, which appeared to be to switch off completely, and to go completely blank

35 Teacher’s solution: The oldest one goes to school and reports to the teacher. Most mornings he has a little diary that he fills in himself, that's just for him. And if he wants to show it to the teacher he can. And it's often around 'I want to kill myself. My father beat my mom up last night.' Or, 'He went to see his girlfriend and he hit his girlfriend. He shouts at me. He plays rough with me. He hurts me.' So yes you do. (Health Visitor)

36 Effective interventions with children should include: empowering (rather than punitive) work with the mother validate and acknowledge children’s difficult experiences, and reassure them that they are not alone and not to blame long-term ‘therapeutic’ or other 'talking/ playing' interventions to help children make sense of their experiences support which takes account of children’s particular circumstances (cultural/ ethnic, age, disability needs etc)

37 difficulties, pitfalls and gaps in practice faced by practitioners working with children

38 Lack of understanding of the dynamics of domestic violence Lack of co-ordinated practice between agencies Lack of safe practice Referral Circuit Blaming mothers while ignoring violent men Avoiding violent men, and violent men as fathers

39 Conclusion – key issues the need to understand how domestic violence works, the specific experiences and needs of children, supporting the non-abusive (usually mother) carer and focussing on the violent perpetrator.


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