Document 75833

The Coalition Caring for Kids was formed in 2002 with
members drawn from community and government agencies
who shared a passion for supporting children who experience
domestic violence.
The first project was undertaken with funding from the
Department of Communities to develop a CD ROM Seen but
Not Heard – Children Who Live with Domestic and Family
Violence. This was very successful and money from the sales
of the CD allowed the Coalition members to partly finance
the next resource. The following year, in conjunction with
Centacare in Brisbane and with some financial support from
them, the Coalition produced a book I Feel Scared When
Mum and Dad Fight. This beautifully written and illustrated
book is for use by teachers, friends and relatives with
children who live with domestic violence or conflict.
Women Helping Mothers Helping Children is our most
ambitious project yet and has been generously financed by
the Gambling Community Benefit Fund. This resource was
developed out of the recognition of the enormous difficulties
faced by women and children who have escaped domestic
violence. Parenting is complex enough but is made more
difficult by the effects of living in a violent and abusive
relationship. This resource aims to provide relevant
information to workers, mothers and the wider community.
There are five modules:
Module 1: An Introduction to Domestic
and Family Violence
Module 2: Domestic Violence and Children
Module 3: Working with Women in their Role
as Mothers
Module 4: Parenting After Separation
Module 5: Mother’s Book
The first four modules are resources designed for workers.
Module five has been written for mothers who are separated
and are parenting their children after surviving domestic
violence. Mothers may use this book alone or with a support
person. Sections of this book may be photocopied and used
to help with group discussion. This resource can assist
mothers in rebuilding relationships with their children.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Introduction
The members of the Coalition Caring for Kids would like to
thank all those who offered funding, voluntary or in-kind
support in the development of Women Helping Mothers
Helping Children, but particularly:
• The Gambling Community Benefit Fund for financing
the project
• The Advocacy and Support Centre for auspicing the
• The SWAN network for allowing the Coalition to utilise
CAPP funds held by TASC
• Ritamay Roberts Paediatric Speech Pathologist for
assistance with the Mother’s Book
• Cathy Mann for proof reading the entire resource
• Laura Cantrell for graphic design
• Shontelle Kenny for helping us through new Family
Law Legislation
• Staff who have worked above and beyond expectations
to complete the resource.
The current members of the Coalition Caring for Kids are:
• Adele Moon, Ozcare Manna House
• Marg Davidson, The Advocacy and Support Centre (TASC)
• Trish Sanson, Department of Communities
• Ann Alcock & Catherine Bessant, Domestic & Family
Violence Prevention Service
We dedicate this resource to all women who are
endeavouring to overcome the impact of living with domestic
violence and to provide a good future for their children.
The Coalition Caring for Kids
Disclaimer: The information contained within this resource manual focuses
exclusively on male violence against females. As current research continues
to indicate that over 90% of all domestic violence is perpetrated by men
against women, this manual has been developed to address the needs of
women who have experienced violence at the hands of their male partners.
This manual does not cover in detail the specific needs of women in lesbian
or transgender relationships however much of the content, suggestions and
additional references may be relevant to these relationships.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Introduction
An Introduction to Domestic
and Family Violence
Compiled by the Domestic and Family Violence
Prevention Service
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
What is Domestic Violence?
In 1997, The Australian Heads of Government agreed to this
definition of domestic violence:
• Domestic violence is an abuse of power perpetrated mainly
(but not only) by men against women, both in relationships
and after separation;
• It occurs when one partner attempts physically or
psychologically to dominate or control the other;
• Domestic violence takes a number of forms. The most
commonly acknowledged forms are physical and sexual
violence, threats and intimidation, emotional and social
abuse and economic deprivation.
What is Family Violence?
The broader term family violence is being increasingly used as a
better description of some people’s experiences. For example, it
better encapsulates not only the extended nature of Indigenous
families but also the context of a range of violence forms,
occurring frequently between kins-people in Indigenous
communities. These features are summarized below:
• Family violence may involve all types of relatives. The victim
and perpetrator often have a kinship relationship
• The perpetrator of violence may be an individual or a group
(as in group rape)
• The victim of violence may be an individual or a group
• The term ‘family’ means ‘extended family’ which also
covers a kinship network of discrete, intermarried,
descendent groups
• The ‘community’ may be remote, rural or urban-based; its
residents may live in one location, or be more dispersed, but
nevertheless interact and behave as a social network
• The acts of violence may constitute physical, psychological,
emotional, social, economic and/or sexual abuse
• Some of the acts of violence are ongoing over a long period
of time with one of the most prevalent examples being
spousal (or domestic) violence.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Forms of Domestic and Family Violence
Physical abuse includes directly assaulting a person, their child,
a pet or property and includes the use of weapons and reckless
Examples include:
• Pushing, slapping, punching, kicking, choking, biting,
shaking, and inflicting burns
• Using a weapon, e.g., belting, stoning, flogging with
a stick, spearing
• Destroying property or possessions, e.g., clothes, personal
items, furniture
• Being cruel to pets, especially in front of family members
• Dangerous driving of vehicles
• Locking people out of the house
• Overworking someone or keeping them from getting
enough sleep.
Sexual abuse in this context involves adults only as sexual
abuse against children falls under child protection concerns.
Examples include:
“He made me have sex
with him three times a
day. I didn’t realise that
this was an abnormal
A Filipino woman
• Trying to force someone to have sex or take part in sexual
acts against their will
• Forcing someone to have sex against their will
• Using an object, penis or other part of the body to penetrate
a vagina, mouth or anus without permission or consent
• Hurting someone during sex
• Injuring sexual organs
• Forcing someone to have unsafe sex, i.e., without protection
against pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases
• Forcing someone to take their clothes off or remain naked
against their will
• Being made to pose for pornography or being made to look
at pornography against their will
• Being forced to watch, observe or take part in sexual
activities, voyeurism and exhibitionism
• Criticising sexually or issuing sexually degrading comments
or names
• Sexual harassment.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Verbal abuse is the use of derogatory language such as
continual ‘put-downs’ to highlight a particular part of a person’s
being. The perpetrator may focus on the person’s intelligence,
sexuality, competence, body image or capacity or worth as a
parent, partner or member of the family or community. Verbal
abuse is closely related to emotional abuse.
Examples include:
• Using words or phrases such as stupid, brainless, “you’re no
good at anything”
• Attacking a person's confidence or self-esteem by denigrating
the person’s cultural practices or isolating the person from
friends and depriving them of essential personal items
• Intimidating behaviours
• Threats to harm or kill a person, children, relative or pet
• Threats to destroy property or possessions
• Harassment.
Emotional / Psychological
Verbal abuse can have the same effect as emotional/
psychological abuse leaving a person feeling that they are to
blame for the problems in the family or in a relationship.
Examples include:
• Making constant comparisons with other peers in order to
lower a person’s confidence, self esteem and self-worth
• Laying blame on a person for anything that happens
• Refusing to engage with a person in joint activities
• Withdrawing from a person by refusing to speak to or to
acknowledge them.
Economic abuse involves the unequal control of money/finances
in a relationship or family.
Examples include:
Making a person dependent upon the perpetrator for money
Taking a person's money
Making a person ask for anything he or she needs
Demanding that a person live on impossible amounts of
housekeeping money and then abusing him or her for not
being able to do so
• Threatening family members for money.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Social abuse and isolation is a common tactic used to separate
the victim from friends and family who may be able to offer
support. This can be particularly common for women in rural
and remote areas who already have limited access to
transportation and telephones.
Examples include:
“He always used
to make fun of my
family and call them
names. After a while it
became easier just not
to mention them in
conversation if I didn’t
have to.”
• Not being allowed to contact, visit or see friends or family
• Not being allowed to plan or attend social events or move
around socially
• Not being able to make telephone calls without permission or
• Being prevented from learning or speaking English or other
languages that improve (or mask from the perpetrator)
communication with others
• Having limited or no personal freedom
• Not being able to make or keep appointments, for example,
with a doctor, without permission, supervision and/or in the
presence of the perpetrator
• Having limited or no decision-making role in the family.
Spiritual or cultural abuse is when power and control is used to
deny a partner or a family member their human, cultural or
spiritual rights and needs. It can also include using the religion
or culture as an excuse to commit particular abuses to justify
the behaviour.
Examples include:
Denying access to cultural land, sites or family
Denying access to cultural or spiritual ceremonies or rites
Preventing religious observances or practices
Forcing religious ways and practices against a person’s own
• Denying a person their cultural heritage.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Indigenous Women
In an overview paper of research and findings, the Aboriginal
and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner (2006)
noted significant deficiencies in the availability of statistics and
research on the nature and extent of family violence in
Indigenous communities. The information that was available
suggested that Indigenous people suffer violence, including
family violence at much higher rates than other Australians.
Although the situation has been apparent for at least two
decades, there has been little or no identifiable improvement.
Other studies have identified higher rates of homicide in
Indigenous communities. Many of the incidents result from
domestic assaults and many involve alcohol.
Family violence and other violent crimes are widespread in
many Indigenous communities. In 2002, one in five (21%)
Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over reported that
family violence was a common problem in their neighbourhood
or community. Survey respondents reported family violence as
being a community problem much more in remote areas than in
non-remote areas. It was also more frequently reported as a
community problem by people living in overcrowded dwellings
(ABS, 2002).
For Indigenous women, their experience of family violence is
not only related to their gender, but they also experience
discrimination and racism because of the colour of their skin.
Women with Disabilities
Women with disabilities are, according to government records,
one of the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in
Australia and they are often forced to live in situations in which
they are vulnerable to violence (Frohmader 2002). It is
important to recognise that women with disabilities may
experience abuse from personal carers as well as intimate
partners. While women with disabilities are at greater risk of
abuse, the abuse may also be the cause of the disability.
Specialised information regarding women with disabilities can
be found at and at .
Women from Culturally and Linguistically
Diverse Backgrounds
Women who are new to Australia are not a homogenous group
of people. They are an enormously diverse group from many
countries, races and ethnicities, speaking hundreds of different
languages and represent the entire spectrum of religious,
political and philosophical beliefs. In addition to this, every
person is a unique individual, responding in his or her own way
to the cultural and political influences around them and are in
turn shaped by their own life experiences.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Included in those life experiences is the manner in which people
from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds may have
entered Australia. Women and children from diverse
backgrounds who seek assistance and support in relation to
domestic violence may have arrived in Australia as refugees,
immigrants, asylum seekers, or temporary residents. They may
also be unlawful non-citizens, or second generation migrants
whose parents came to Australia as immigrants or refugees.
Additional information about working with women from a
culturally and linguistically background is available from the
Immigrant Women’s Support Service, .
Incidence of Domestic Violence in Culturally and
Linguistically Diverse Communities
“One night he came home
in a foul mood and my only
crime was to ask him to
put the girls in their
bedroom. I knew what was
about to happen. This was
enough to set him off, and
he blamed me because I
had asked for it.”
It is well documented that women from culturally and
linguistically diverse backgrounds are greatly disadvantaged in
accessing information, services and justice. Research by Patricia
Easteal indicates that although it is widely accepted that
violence affects women across all cultures and socio-economic
backgrounds, there is evidence that women from immigrant and
refugee backgrounds are more likely than non-immigrant
women to be murdered in domestic violence. They are also less
likely to access services, or to receive appropriate support from
those services, when they seek to leave a violent relationship
(Easteal, cited in Aldunate 1999).
An Argument versus Abuse
Domestic and family violence involves the disempowerment
of a person such as a partner or a family member. Domestic
and family violence is not like having a heated argument.
Generally an argument occurs over a disagreement or different
points of view in regard to a certain issue. In the context of an
argument, frank and often heated discussion can occur in a
climate of respect and equality.
In an abusive relationship, the abuser uses tactics aimed at
achieving control and dominance, denying his partner the right
to express her point of view freely and independently. An
abusive partner would seek to ‘win’ the argument by coercing
his partner through intimidation, to give in to his point of view.
The essential difference is the use of power and control by one
person against the other in order to achieve dominance. There
is no equality, and often veiled or real threats of violence are
involved (Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and
Islander Affairs, Fact Sheet One: What is Domestic Violence?).
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Common Behaviours by Men who use Violence in
their Intimate Relationships
Every woman’s experience of domestic violence is different
although there are common behaviours of men who use
violence. The following diagrams may be helpful for women to
see the extent and nature of the violence that has been
committed against them. The Power and Control Wheel was
developed by women in Duluth, USA, who had been abused by
their male partners and were attending women’s education
groups. The table following this wheel provides more detail on
some of the behaviours listed on the wheel and was developed
by Bancroft and Silverman (2002).
Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Common behaviours:
The primary, overarching behavioural
characteristic achieved by criticism, verbal
abuse, financial control, isolation, cruelty,
etc. May deepen over time or escalate if a
woman seeks independence.
The overarching attitudinal characteristic of
abusive men, a belief in having special rights
without responsibilities, justifying
unreasonable expectations (e.g., family life
should be focused on his needs). When his
needs are not met he feels wronged and
justifies violence as self-defence.
Selfishness and
An expectation of being the centre of
attention, having his needs anticipated. May
not support or listen to others.
Contempt for women as stupid, unworthy,
sex-objects or housekeepers.
Seeing a woman and his children as
Confusing love
and abuse
Explaining violence as an expression of his
deep love.
A tactic of confusion, distortion and lies. May
project the image of himself as being good
and portray the woman as being crazy and
statements and
Saying one thing and doing another, such as
being publicly critical of men who abuse
of responsibility
Shifting blame for his actions and their
effects to others, especially the woman, or to
external factors such as job stress.
and victim
(e.g. she drove
me to it)
Refusing to acknowledge abusive behaviour
(e.g., she fell and hit her head); not
acknowledging the seriousness of his
behaviour and its effects.
Serial violence
Being abusive in relationship after
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
Causal and Contributing Factors
Domestic violence is about power and control. A feminist
analysis of domestic violence rejects ideas that attribute the
causes of violence to family dysfunction, poor communication
skills, provocation by women, stress, drug and alcohol abuse,
job loss and particular racial or cultural factors. While many of
these factors may be associated with domestic violence, they
are not the cause. Removing these factors will not stop men's
violence towards women.
Men behave abusively to obtain and maintain power over their
partners in order to have their own needs met. There are also
many secondary benefits of violence to the abusive person. For
example, many men find it satisfying to have their partners live
in fear, for many of them believe it to be a demonstration of
their manhood.
Violence is a learned behaviour and is therefore a choice.
Attitudes, which perpetuate violence against women, include:
• The belief that women exist for the "satisfaction of men's
personal, sexual, emotional and physical needs”
• The notion of male privilege and entitlement with a right and
obligation to control, coerce, and punish women
• The belief that it is acceptable to use physical force.
Historically, women have been relegated to a position of second
class citizenship in many aspects of life, work and pleasure. This
notion continues to give credence to the tactics of perpetrators
who use abuse as a means of keeping women in their place. By
failing to actively intervene against the abuse, society is seen to
condone this type of violence.
Individual Factors
• Conditions within their family of origin: if people live with
violence as a child, they often learn that violence is an
acceptable way of dealing with anger and having one’s own
needs met
• Low self-esteem and insecurity lead to a greater dependence
on their partners, which in turn leads to a desire to control
• Poor communication skills and poor impulse control
• Rigid ideas of traditional male and female roles and a belief
that as a partner they have the right to control their wife’s
behaviour and impose their will upon her.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
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Family Factors
There are many factors relating to families, which influence the
nature of domestic and family violence, but, in the main, the
research indicates that perpetrators bring the violence into the
relationship rather than the cause of the violence lying in
factors within the relationship or within the victim.
Other relevant factors include the following:
• The violence generally begins in the very early stages of the
• Women in the 20-40 year age group are over-represented in
many samples, which may indicate that at this point in the
lifecycle, there are many demands made on the average
couple, which could lead to additional stress
• Women with young children are more vulnerable at this point
in the life cycle as they are frequently isolated at home with
the full-time care of young children and are often without an
independent income
• Women from rural and remote areas are more vulnerable
due to the isolation of the area, lack of transport, lack of
telephone facilities, lack of services and the high prevalence
of firearms in rural areas
• A higher incidence of domestic violence has been found to be
associated with male-dominant marriages as opposed to
egalitarian marriages, although marriages where the wife has
a higher educational or occupational status than her partner
are also vulnerable.
Community Factors
“Once you start talking
about family violence
you begin to realise that
the ‘happy’ nuclear
family with three kids
behind the white picket
fence isn’t really reality”
• Community acceptance of violence, for example on the
sporting field, in the media, amongst politicians, in the court
system, on television, in videos and in computer games
• Encouragement towards traditional sex role stereotypes, for
example that boys have to be dominant over girls, be
competitive and engage in physical violence to get what they
• Taught to be a “real man” – real men speak their mind, have
unquestioned authority, take charge and give orders, and are
always in control of the situation.
The long-held idealisation of family life being entirely
loving and accepting is another cultural myth, which has
assisted in keeping domestic and family violence behind
closed doors.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
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Cultural Factors
The Violence in Indigenous Communities report (2001: 11)
recognised that overwhelming evidence supports the position
that the various forms of Indigenous violence have multiple
originating factors. The factors are:
• Precipitating factors, which include one or more particular
events that trigger a violent episode by a perpetrator.
Precipitating causes are defined as a type of social event,
which triggers an episode of violence. For example:
quarrelling between husband and wife; children fighting at
school; arguing over a game; ‘driving past’ a person’s house;
excluding someone from a wedding or birthday.
• Situational factors, which could include aspects such as
alcohol abuse, unemployment, other people encouraging one
or both of the antagonists to act, conflicting social differences
between the antagonists, etc. Situational factors contribute
to incidents of violence but they are not the direct cause of
violence. They exacerbate violence in combination with direct
• Underlying factors, such as the deep historical
circumstances of Indigenous people which make them
vulnerable, leading to their enacting or becoming the victim
of violent behaviour. It has been the ongoing dispossession
of Aboriginal culture that has taken different forms over the
past 200 years and the consequences of this, which have
impacted on Aboriginal people in many ways. Indigenous
people have been affected socially, economically, physically,
psychologically and emotionally, to such extent that today,
violence in some Aboriginal communities has reached
epidemic proportions.
Many Indigenous communities battle with the stigma that family
violence has become part of their culture, yet historically it was
not. Many Indigenous communities and individuals are working
towards breaking out of this belief system by implementing
programs and services which support a ‘no violence’ stand.
However the evidence suggests that family violence and child
sexual assault are a widespread concern and extremely difficult
for women and children to escape.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
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The Cycle of violence
The following information and graphics have been adapted from
the Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander
Affairs, Fact Sheet 2: The Nature of Domestic Violence.
There has been much research to indicate that patterns emerge
in many abusive relationships. This is commonly referred to as
the ‘cycle of violence’. Whilst for many women, recognising that
there is a cycle to the violence and noting the patterns to the
build-up is an illuminating experience, there are many situations
where the violence may still come ‘out of the blue’ and the
attacks themselves are not predictable.
Whilst the cycle of violence is a helpful tool to explain how
violence can manifest itself as a pattern of behaviour in some
abusive relationships, it is not a tool that is used as an excuse
for the violence occurring. However unpredictable the attacks
may be, there is still frequently a pattern to the violence
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
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Build-Up Phase and Stand over Phase
The cycle of violence will often begin with a build-up of
tension over a period of time, which could be days or weeks.
With the increasing tension the perpetrator may use stand-over
tactics in order to raise the fear level of the partner and
maintain greater control over the situation. Ultimately an
explosion occurs where the rage results in some form of
Remorse Phase
After the explosion a period of remorse and perhaps guilt over
the injuries inflicted on the victim may eventuate. The
perpetrator may fear losing his family and so makes a greater
effort to restore the relationship. Victims at this point often
want to believe that the violence will not be repeated in order to
salvage the relationship and so choose to believe the
perpetrator when he says that it won’t happen again. During the
remorse phase the perpetrator will often justify his actions and
minimise them, finding reasons why the violence occurred and
shifting responsibility for it.
Pursuit Phase
The pursuit phase often results in attempts by the perpetrator
to win back the love and affection of his partner and family. To
do this, he may offer many promises of changed behaviour,
provide gifts or surprises and be the partner that he knows she
desires. However, if these tactics do not succeed, he may resort
to more threats and intimidation in order to convince his partner
that she cannot leave the relationship.
Honeymoon Phase
The honeymoon phase is often indicative of a situation where
the relationship becomes very enmeshed and intimate, with a
denial of the previous abuse. Victims at this point have
decreased their ability to escape the relationship and as the
man’s power over her and his sense of safety in the relationship
increases, the momentum builds again.
At certain times, phases of the cycle such as the honeymoon
phase and the build-up phase may be eliminated from the cycle
altogether so that the violence builds more quickly with
explosions occurring more frequently. This sequence of events
indicates extreme danger for the victim. The cycle of violence
and the continuum of violence (see following) are stages of
violence, which can also be found in gay or lesbian
relationships, in family violence between fathers and sons,
mothers and daughters or between spouses, or in informal
relationships such as carer-type relationships or dating
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
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Why women may stay in relationships
where there is violence
“I didn’t know if I could
do it on my own. You
work out the finances
and take care of yourself
and the kids.”
In the report by Young, 1999 entitled Against the Odds: Women
Survive Domestic Violence, fear featured strongly in the factors
which led women to stay in abusive situations or ultimately to
leave them. Fear was a major factor in a woman’s decision not
to tell anyone about the abuse or to seek help. Many times
women indicated that they were afraid of what their partner
would do to them if they found out they had sought help, but in
other cases women were afraid of how they would cope on their
own if they left.
The fear of being alone worsened if the woman was dependent
in some way on her partner, either for money or if she had a
disability and was physically dependent. For women from a nonEnglish speaking background, the fear of being deported was
very real, particularly if they had no support around them other
than their partner.
Fear of being physically injured or killed, or of watching their
children being physically injured or killed, was enough for some
women to leave the relationship. As one woman stated in the
interview, “it reached a point where I decided I’d rather die
escaping than die submissive. That’s the point where I left him.”
However, this same fear is enough to make many women stay
in the relationship.
Situational Factors:
Lack of job skills
Economic dependence
Staying for the sake of the children
Lack of alternative housing
Fear of losing custody of the children and involvement in
court processes
Lack of information regarding alternatives
Cultural and religious constraints, e.g., pressure to keep the
family together
Fear of a judgmental response from others
Fear of retaliation
Normalisation of the violence
Depression and stress which weakened their ability to leave
Fear of a partner’s threatened suicide
Mental Illness
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“He came home rotten
drunk one night, and I can
remember him lying in the
back yard in his own vomit
saying, “just leave me, you
deserve better than this”. It
was this hope of change
that kept me there for a
Emotional Factors:
• Low self-esteem
• Fear of loneliness
• Lack of emotional support outside the relationship
• Guilt about failure of the relationship
• Fear that the partner is not able to survive alone.
• Denial and disbelief of the seriousness of the violence
• Belief that the partner will change and hope that he might
• Shame, embarrassment, humiliation
• Having an emotional bond to the partner, being in love.
long time.
Why Indigenous women may stay
Research programs into family violence in Indigenous
communities highlight the fact that Indigenous women make it
clear that to leave their family because of violence is virtually
impossible. One reason for this is that marriage means
becoming bonded to a densely inter-connected universe of
reciprocal ties and obligations. To break these bonds is
inconceivable (Blagg 1999).
A Protection Order
may be a useful way
of stemming patterns
of family violence,
but in many cases it
is not appropriate or
responsive to the
needs of
Research has also indicated that Indigenous women are deeply
suspicious of involvement with justice and welfare agencies.
There is profound mistrust of social welfare agencies for
fear that children will be removed from a violent home. There is
considerable suspicion of police involvement and their perceived
level of ‘assistance’ in domestic disputes. The prison system is
viewed as an institution, which brutalises and deskills the men
folk of the community.
Some Indigenous women only want ‘time out’ from the
perpetrator with alcohol and substance abuse counselling and
anger management programs enforced, rather than the removal
of their spouse.
Other factors, which may prevent Indigenous women
from seeking protection orders, include:
• Fear that their spouse may be subjected to discrimination if
contained or incarcerated
• Retribution from family
• Desire for redress through customary law
• Lack of knowledge about protection orders
• Lack of safe houses or women’s refuges
• Police reluctance to respond to calls for assistance in family
violence situations.
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Women with Disabilities
The barriers faced by women with disabilities as they seek
support are enormous. The DVIRC’s Women with Disabilities
Project has identified a number of barriers for women with
disabilities who try to access women’s refuges. Other
suggestions to improve service delivery to women with
disabilities include:
• The development of interagency agreements between
domestic violence support services and disability services
• Consultation with women with disabilities regarding their
• The collection of data on the use of services by women with
• Physical access, removal of any communication barriers and
the development of appropriate policies and procedures.
More than Just a Ramp – A Guide for Women’s Refuges to
Develop Disability Discrimination Act Plans is a valuable
resource for those working to improve accessibility to services
for women with disabilities. See .
Lesbian Women
Women in lesbian relationships who are abused often face a
different set of barriers. These may include:
• Their partners threatening to “out” them to friends, family or
the wider community
• The belief that no-one will help them because the police and
the justice system are homophobic
• Associating the abuse with their sexuality and believing that
they are being abused because they are gay
• Telling a partner that she deserves to be abused because she
is a lesbian. This type of abuse can be indicative of
internalised homophobia or self-hatred by an abuser
• Fear of breaches of confidentiality because of the isolation of
the community
• Lack of well-developed service support
• Ignorance by the wider community about domestic violence
in gay and lesbian relationships.
Information and support for gay and lesbian people
experiencing domestic violence is available at
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Additional obstacles faced by women who are
migrants and refugees
The following material has been taken from Issues for Women
of non-English speaking backgrounds, by Raquel Aldunate,
Lack of access to information
Little knowledge of services
Communication difficulties
Fear of not being understood
Fear of authority particularly if women have come from
corrupt or oppressive regimes
Social isolation
Reluctance to use services such as counselling services
because of misunderstandings of what counselling offers,
based on their experiences with services or lack of such
services in their country of origin
Socialisation processes which place great value on keeping
the family together - no matter what
Fear of being blamed and judged by the family and
Discriminatory or insensitive work practices by service
Fear of losing their children if a complaint is lodged
Fear of bringing shame and dishonour to the family
Fear of deportation
A lack of multilingual and culturally appropriate information
about legal entitlements and processes
A lack of appropriate outreach programs by service providers
The intimidating nature of court proceedings.
Myths and facts about domestic and family violence
The following material has been taken from Myths & Facts:
Women of non-English speaking backgrounds & violence,
produced by the Immigrant Women’s Support Service (IWSS):
MYTH: Domestic violence is often an isolated incident.
FACT: Studies reveal that over time the violence becomes more
severe and more frequent.
MYTH: Alcohol is the cause of family violence.
FACT: While alcohol is a big problem in some Indigenous
communities, it is still only one factor contributing to family
violence. Drinking can add courage to someone carrying out an
assault, but family violence, like domestic violence, still happens
in situations where there is no alcohol involved.
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MYTH: Domestic violence only occurs within poor or
working class families.
FACT: Studies consistently show that domestic violence occurs
across all socioeconomic and cultural groups.
MYTH: The family at home has a right to privacy. It’s
nobody else’s business.
FACT: Domestic and family violence has traditionally been a
taboo subject, with victims discouraged from seeking help
because of fear, shame and guilt. This silence has facilitated the
continuation of abuse. Family violence does not usually stop
unless directly addressed; unchallenged it often escalates.
However, the community is increasingly concerned about
violence and, once the silence is broken, a growing number of
services can offer support.
MYTH: If a woman is being abused she should just leave.
It’s that simple.
FACT: This belief deflects responsibility for the violence from the
perpetrator, with whom it rightly rests. It also ignores how
complex family situations can be. Their experiences can shock,
shame, and traumatise victims of abuse and can destroy their
self-confidence, which they need to think and act clearly or to
even seek help. This is often compounded by the guilt of being
unable to protect her children from the violence.
MYTH: Domestic violence is bad but it’s not a big problem.
I don’t know anyone affected.
FACT: Shame and secrecy have hidden the extent of family
violence. The 1996 Women’s Safety Survey of 6,300 Australian
women found that 23% of those who had ever been married or
in a de facto relationship had experienced violence by a partner
at some time during the relationship.
MYTH: It’s part of being black, isn’t it?
FACT: Traditionally in some areas, if a member of an Aboriginal
community deserved punishment, it was the responsibility of
the elders or other designated members of the community to
carry it out, guided by customary laws. This did not include
spousal abuse or violence towards members of one's own
family, as is sometimes believed. Aboriginal elders condemn the
practice of domestic and other forms of violence. The
acceptance of white ways such as drug and alcohol use and the
belief that women and children are men's possessions have
impacted deeply, to the detriment of Aboriginal people and their
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MYTH: Women from different cultures are more
emotional; they get over-excited and aggressive, so it is
natural that that there is more violence in that
FACT: Being excited and emotionally expressive does not
equate with being violent.
MYTH: Violence against women is an accepted part of
some cultures.
FACT: Violence against women is common in all cultures, races
and societies. The fact that it may be a common occurrence
does not lessen the suffering and damage it causes to the
woman, the family and the society, nor does it lessen its
significance as a crime. Violence against a woman, including
sexual violence, is a breach of the human rights of that woman.
MYTH: Women from some cultures are more passive and
submissive which is why they are more likely to become
victims of violence.
FACT 1: Not all women from any specific culture are passive
and submissive. Women may be relegated to specific roles and
state or religious laws may repress them, but this does not
mean they are themselves passive or submissive.
FACT 2: Violence against women is a social construction that
reflects and reinforces the unequal distribution of power
between men and women in society generally. Being passive or
submissive does not invite violence or give anyone the right to
perpetrate violence against any woman.
MYTH: All women from the same cultural background
have the same values and beliefs.
FACT: There is not one group from any country that is
homogenous. There are factors derived from the political,
religious, social, educational and geographical location of an
individual that influence values.
MYTH: Their religion tells them it is okay for a husband to
assert his sexual needs and that a woman is there to
satisfy the sexual needs of her husband.
FACT: All religions and religious texts speak of the importance
of respect and honour between men and women or husbands
and wives. No religious text (Christian, Islamic, Buddhist,
Jewish, or Hindu) either advocates or provides for the abuse of
women, irrespective of their marital status. For a man to treat a
woman without honouring and respecting her needs is to
reinterpret religious text out of context and from a selfinterested viewpoint. Many women and men are not aware that
rape in marriage is a crime in the same way that rape anywhere
is a crime. The law applies to all people in Australia regardless
of their ethnic background.
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MYTH: The promotion of women’s rights endangers the
social stability of communities.
FACT: Stopping violence in our community can only strengthen
its fabric and social stability. However, perpetrators of violence
are threatened by public discussion and acknowledgement of
the human rights of women and children and their rights to
MYTH: Women from that community only talk to each
other. They don’t want any help or intervention from
FACT: People from non-English speaking backgrounds are
entitled to information and services as much as any other
Australian resident. However, many people from non-English
speaking backgrounds are isolated because of language
differences, lack of access to information and services, and by
their personal experiences of discrimination and racism. These
factors create barriers to obtaining assistance from mainstream
services. Coming into contact with a worker from their own
background may be very comfortable and familiar for some
MYTH: It is too difficult to communicate with people who
do not speak English.
FACT: Using an interpreter makes it possible to communicate
with a person who speaks a language different from your own
language - an interpreter is as close as the telephone. Everyone
responds positively to someone who is friendly and open to
MYTH: We are not funded to work with people from nonEnglish speaking backgrounds.
FACT: Human services are funded to work with anyone who
needs the service regardless of their language, religion, cultural
background or race.
MYTH: Women’s refuges are not culturally appropriate.
FACT: All services are funded to provide services to women
from all backgrounds regardless of their ethnicity. Although
cultural inappropriateness may sometimes be the case, the
priority is always for women and their children to find safety.
Information, refuges and options for safe accommodation must
be made available for women to make an informed choice.
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Indicators of domestic
and family violence
A female victim/survivor of domestic violence may
display any one or more of the following:
• Frequent physical injury – bruises, broken bones, wrist or
ankle sprains, cuts
• Inconsistent or implausible explanations for her injuries
• Vague complaints or acute anxiety with no reported injuries
• Appears quiet, afraid to speak, anxious, depressed,
withdrawn, continually devalues herself and shows no self
• She may appear to be under the control of her partner
• Socially isolated, reluctant / unable to participate in
community activities/events, unable to go to work or to
study and she may always be seeking her partner’s
permission before committing to activities
• May wear concealing clothing in order to hide bruising and
• She may be unable to talk on the phone for any length of
time and makes excuses to finish the conversation quickly
• She may stop seeing friends and family and make excuses
for not attending family gatherings
• She may often be without money
• She may look depressed and worn out, may appear fearful
• She may become defensive if people express concern about
her wellbeing
• Her partner ridicules her or puts her down in front of others
• May become defensive of her partner’s actions and abuse
• Strokes in young women are often caused by blows to the
head or damage to the neck’s arteries due to strangulation
• Reference frequently made to a partner’s anger or temper
• Terror or reluctance to speak to those in authority
• Reluctance to speak or disagree in the presence of the
• Suicide attempts or homicidal assaults
• Partner’s jealous accusations of infidelity
• Partner’s attempts to convince you of the victim’s insanity
• Frequent fleeing from home.
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Working with women who have
experienced domestic violence
Helping ‘Do’s’
“I hated it when my mother
and sister gave me their own
opinions about my husband.
It made me feel as though I
had to defend him and justify
his actions. I just wanted to
be able to get things off my
chest without all the
judgements and hassles.
• Listen and believe a woman when she tells you she’s been
beaten. It’s hard for her to reach out, as she may feel
ashamed, or that the violence is her fault
• Allow the woman to express her feelings and validate them
• Reassure her that the violence is not her fault, and she does
not deserve it
• Ask the women how you can support her. Validate the fact
that she knows her situation better than anyone else does.
Let her know she is not alone
• Focus energies on the immediate crises
• Offer information and options about help available –
including telephone numbers – find out how to contact
women’s refuges
• Take fear seriously, as threats are often carried out
• Respect cultural values that may affect her behaviour
• Take violent behaviour seriously – as violence is
unacceptable under any circumstances
• Remember that she may have other problems that demand
immediate intervention
• Emphasise safety, help her think through a safety plan and
escape route
• Encourage her to call the police. If you witness/hear
violence, call the police
• Be patient and understanding about her indecision, as she
will decide when she is ready
• Recognise and understand her ambivalence and recognise
your own limitations and biases
• You can’t control the violence any more than the victim
• It may be impossible for you to do anything except
indicate that you are willing to support her.
Supporting Indigenous Women
When looking to support Indigenous women, it may not
be helpful to refer them to non-Indigenous services. Many
Aboriginal women turn away from accessing non-Aboriginal
services such as legal services, child protection services or
police services, as these same services may have played a
role in the destruction of Indigenous communities in terms
of imprisoning their men, in removing their children, and in
alienating them from their lands and communities. However,
they may also be reluctant to access Indigenous services for
fear of being recognised. Indigenous women may be reluctant
to fragment their identity by leaving their community and
their family.
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Rather, Indigenous women and men place greater stock in
strategies that aim to change violent men’s behaviours while
also endeavouring to maintain family and community
Interventions which reflect this approach are seen to be
ones that:
• are tailored to meet the needs of specific localities
• are based on community development principles of
• are linked to initiatives on health, alcohol abuse and similar
problems in an holistic manner
• employ local people where feasible
• respect traditional law and customs where appropriate
• employ a multi-disciplinary approach
• focus on partnerships between agencies and community
• add value to existing community structures where possible
(Blagg 2000).
Many indigenous women have identified difficulties in trying to
obtain information, advice or support as victims of domestic
violence, rape or sexual assault. Some of these difficulties
Lack of knowledge about existing services and their roles
Lack of access to these services
A general lack of appropriate services
Anxiety related to approaching services
Existing services being unsympathetic to victims of violence
or giving unhelpful advice
• The stigma attached to victims of violence, particularly in
rural communities.
Where to get help and information
The following people and/or groups can provide help and
Police liaison officers
Local Aboriginal social justice groups
Groups of Aboriginal elders
Sexual assault services sometimes have an Indigenous
Aboriginal community health workers
Aboriginal housing organisations
Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Women’s Legal and
Advocacy Services
In schools, community education counsellors, parent liaison
officers and teacher’s aides who work specifically with
Aboriginal children.
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Helping ‘Don’ts’
• DON’T reassure her everything will be okay
• DON’T volunteer as a ‘go-between’. You may increase her
problems (and your own)
• DON’T take any action which may increase the violence
(e.g., leave phone numbers of removalist, etc., where the
partner can find them)
• DON’T tell her to leave or stay. She may be confused and
in need of support. She will not trust you if she feels the only
way to get your support is for her to either leave the
relationship or to stay in the relationship. She does not need
your advice or solutions
• DON’T belittle or condemn the abuser. When you agree
with her negative sentiments toward the abuser, she will not
be able to talk with you if she changes her mind or when she
has strong feelings of love and attachment for him. Usually
underneath her negative sentiments are some feelings of
love, concern and tenderness
• DON’T pressure her into making decisions. She needs
time to sort out her feelings and make reasoned decisions.
She may lack skills in decision-making and in expressing her
• DON’T minimise her feelings or experiences. She may
lose confidence in your ability to understand her situation or
to help her
• DON’T divert the focus to other problems. Don’t let your
discomfort keep the focus off the abuse. Her safety is the
first concern which has to be addressed
• DON’T attack her as a parent. She may have difficulty
acting for her children’s safety as well as her own. She needs
support to change
• DON’T tell her how to change her behaviour in the
relationship in order to stop his violence. She does not
control the violence nor can she cure it
• DON’T think assertiveness skills will stop the violence.
Being assertive may increase the danger for her. Trust her
‘gut’ feelings about what she can do or say in order to remain
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
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Aldunate, R. (1999) Issues for Women of Non-English Speaking
Backgrounds. Immigrant Women’s Support Service Inc,
Presented at Domestic Violence Court Assistance Conference,
Magnetic Island.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice
Commissioner (2006) Ending family and abuse in Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander communities – Key issues: An overview of
research and findings by the Human Rights and Equal
Opportunity Commission.[web page] date
accessed: 7 Nov 2006
Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005) Australian Social TrendsCrime and Justice: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People:
Contact with the Law.
Australian Bureau of Statistics (1996) Women’s Safety Survey.
Bancroft, L., and Silverman, J. (2002) The Batterer as Parent:
Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family
Dynamics. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications.
Blagg, H. (1999) Working with Adolescents to Prevent Domestic
Violence: Indigenous Rural Model Report, National Crime
Prevention, Crime Research Centre, University of Western
Blagg H. (2000) Crisis Intervention in Aboriginal Family
Violence: Strategies and Models for Western Australia.
Partnerships Against Domestic Violence, Canberra.
Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander
Affairs, Fact Sheet One: What is Domestic Violence?
Department of Family Services and Aboriginal and Islander
Affairs, Fact Sheet Two: The Nature of Domestic Violence.
Fromader, C. (2002) The Status of Women with Disabilities in
Australia- A Snapshot [web page] date accessed: 15
September 2006.
Immigrant Women’s Support Service, Brochure Myths & Facts:
Women of non-English speaking backgrounds & violence [web
page] date accessed: 10 September 2006.
Memmott, P., Stacey, R., Chambers, C., and Keys, C. (2001)
Violence in Indigenous Communities. Crime Prevention Branch,
Attorney-General’s Department: Canberra.
Young, K. (1999) Against the Odds: How Women Survive
Domestic Violence. Prepared for The Office of the Status of
Women, Barton, Australian Capital Territory.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | An Introduction to Domestic and Family Violence
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Domestic Violence and Children
Compiled by Kim Cleverly
North Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
About Children
“Children are not the people of tomorrow, but people of today.
They have a right to be taken seriously and to be treated with
tenderness and respect” (Korczak 2005 p1).
Children and young people are among the least powerful and
most vulnerable members of our society. Power imbalance
exists not only between men and women, but also between
adults and children. Many authors discuss the powerless
position of children in society and draw parallels between
children and young people and other marginalised groups such
as women and those from minority ethnic groups (Boylan,
Dalrymple, Ing 2000). Shaw describes a tendency to fantasise
that childhood is a happy time and that children are oblivious to
and untouched by the adult world (1996). These myths are
evident in domestic violence, where it is often suggested that
children are not aware of what is going on: they are asleep, are
in another room, are too young to understand, or will soon
forget. The reality is that, even when children do not physically
observe violence, they are very aware of the environment of
tension and fear and are affected by it (Irwin, Waugh, Wilkinson
2002; Mullender, Hague, Iman, Kelly, Malos, Regan 2002;
Bedford 2002). “A major problem in relation to children and
domestic violence is the child’s powerlessness and vulnerability
in the situation. The needs of children have to be understood
from the perspective of their disadvantaged status” (Szirom
2000 p19).
Children are “active participants in their own development,
reflecting the intrinsic drive to explore and master one’s
environment” (cited in Vimpani, Patton, Hayes 2001 p18).
Mullender, Hague, Imam, Kelly, Malos and Regan (2000) note
the importance of children being actively involved in finding
solutions and making decisions about their lives. One of the key
issues that emerged in research (by Irwin, Waugh and
Wilkinson 2002) with children who had experienced domestic
violence was the importance of believing and of their views to
be sought and taken into account.
There is a growing interest in children’s rights and participation
but the inclusion of young people is often merely tokenistic.
Children and young people involved in a research project
concerning their experience of the child protection system felt
they had no control over, or say in, what was happening to
them; did not feel comfortable to say what they wanted to
happen during the decision making processes affecting their
lives and were excluded from their voices being heard (Boylan
et al., 2000).
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
A child’s claim to citizenship is a contentious issue. Cree, Kay
and Tisdall (2002) explore the increased interest in children
and children's lives and discuss the connection to international
conventions which have proved influential to policy makers,
practitioners and researchers.
The United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child
(1989) and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
to which Australia is a signatory, clearly identify the right of all
people (including children) to live in safety and security free
from violence, abuse and neglect. Article 12 of the United
Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child describes 'the
right of children to express an opinion and to have that opinion
taken into account' and Article 13 notes 'the right to information
and freedom of expression' (Cree et al., 2002). The most
challenging aspect of the realisation of the United Nations’
Convention on the Rights of the Child for governments, policymakers, researchers and practitioners alike, has been how to
honour and facilitate participation by children (Mason and
Fattore, 2005). Mason and Fattore describe this challenge as
needing to “liberate our adult senses in order to hear and
respond to children’s realities, recognising that young people’s
self defined aspirations and priorities are very different from the
needs defined for them by adults” (2005 p11).
Children and domestic violence
In 1996 the Australian Bureau of Statistics conducted the first
national survey on violence against women, surveying over
6000 women across Australia. 61% of women who had
experienced violence from a current partner reported that they
had children in their care at some time during the relationship.
The Queensland Domestic Violence Taskforce 1988 revealed
that 88% of callers had dependent children present in the
household. In 80% of these cases there were two or more
dependent children, and in 90% of these cases, the women
reported that children had witnessed the violence (ABS 1996).
“Children in households with family violence are not just ’witnessing’ a
tragedy, they are involved in various ways in the violent incident.”
(Fantuzzo et al., 1997 p120)
A child’s experience of domestic violence may be through
directly witnessing violent acts and observing the consequences
of physical violence, such as broken bones, blood, bruises or
broken objects. They may become involved in the violence
indirectly by being in close proximity to their mother when she
is being abused or when intervening to protect her. They may
also be directly abused by the perpetrator.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
Children do not have to witness abuse or be physically abused
themselves to experience the effects of living with domestic and
family violence. They may overhear the yelling and will
undoubtedly sense the fear and tension.
“The term ‘experiencing’ or who ‘have experienced’ or who
‘experience’ conveys an ongoing relationship with situations of
domestic violence which do not depend on seeing the violence,
living in the same house as or separating from the violence.
The ongoing experiences children have are an important part of
their meaning making about the events. Experiences can be had
on many levels – seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling, knowing,
remembering, acting and reacting” (Burke cited in O’Neil 2004).
Excerpts from Children’s Perspectives on
Domestic Violence
“I used to hear them sometimes.”
(8 year old )
“That was the only time I saw it. It was behind closed doors.
But I used to know and I would see the bruises that she had
before that.”
(12 year old)
“I saw my dad fighting with Mum. I saw them arguing, shouting
at each other and hitting each other. My dad used to do the
(10 year old)
“He used to say, ‘I am going to kill you at night time when you
are all asleep’. He used to come with an axe and say, ’I am
going to kill you.’ I used to get very frightened. We had a lock
on the bedroom doors in case he did what he said. He once
made a hole with an axe in my sister’s bedroom door. Then he
used to look through the hole.”
(8 year old)
“I heard my dad swearing and I saw him grab my mum’s throat
and push her against the door, and later, I saw him slap her
around the face and push her over the sink.”
(10 year old)
“He tried to get her to drink bleach, to pour it into her mouth
while he held her there and, when he couldn’t make her, he
poured bleach all over her face and hair. He was trying to kill
(15 year old )
“I’ve seen him kick and punch, and pull her hair. Once he threw
petrol over her. I remember him cutting my mum’s lips.”
(13 year old)
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
“I’ve seen it all the time. First from my real dad and then from
this one and from my brothers.”
(14 year old)
“Do you want to know how I feel about it? It gets me all
confused and muddled up. When it happens, I feel as if things
are growing in my head, outwards and pressing on my head. Do
you want me to give you an example? I’ll tell you a good
example, but you’ll have to have lots of paper to write on when
you write it down! There was a big argument one day. My dad
didn’t want his tea. He bought me an ice cream. He punched
her three times. Someone came running out. He kept kicking
her. Mum was crying and crying. And then I got mad – I’m not
a nasty person, really I’m not, but I just got mad. Then he
kicked his car. Then he got in it and then he got out again, and
he came for me so I ran away. Later I played with my sister on
the computer. My mum was being looked after by our
neighbour. Then we saw the police and I went to my aunties.
Have you understood it? It just gets me so muddled up. I’m
frightened I’ll be like it when I grow up. I know what she is
going through and I want to help her. I get worried for her.”
(8 year old)
(Mullender et al., 2002 p55 and pp93-96).
Children are particularly vulnerable to domestic violence because of its
secretive nature and the social isolation often enforced by those who use
violence (Partnership Against Domestic Violence 2004 p8). All children
are at risk regardless of social class, race, religion, gender, economic
circumstances or geography. It is important however to recognise that
these socio-economic differences will result in the impact of domestic
violence being experienced differently. It is important for those working
with families to consider how the concept of childhood and violence is
different for those whose customs or practices fall outside the white
mainstream context. This is particularly so, but is not limited to,
Indigenous children and those from culturally and linguistically diverse
Indigenous Australians
Many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people prefer to use
the term ‘family violence’ because it reflects how violence can
affect the entire family and community. ‘Family violence’
recognises that violence may be used by a range of people
against family members, especially women and children. Many
Indigenous communities have high rates of family violence. The
trauma of witnessing family violence is compounded for many
Aboriginal children who experience multiple traumatic situations
such as witnessing community violence, death of loved ones,
displacement from home and extreme poverty (Aboriginal and
Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence 2000).
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
The use and misuse of power is a central concept in
understanding any form of violence. Australia’s history of
invasion and settlement reflects a wide range of abuses of
power that were inflicted on Australian Aboriginal and Torres
Strait Islander people. Understanding domestic and family
violence within an Indigenous context requires an
understanding of the impacts of the structural violence inherent
in colonisation and its relationship to present day experiences of
Indigenous people.
“Structural violence includes the systematic dispossession and
(attempted) destruction of Indigenous power resources; relationship to
and ownership of land; economic autonomy; law and political processes;
cultural and spiritual beliefs and ceremonial practices, and social and
family relationships. Legislation that removed people to reserves, took
children from their mothers and fathers, and separated husbands and
wives, also enforced a dependence on the economic, educational, legal,
health, religious, welfare, political and social systems of the colonisers”
(Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women’s Task Force on Violence 2000 p.55).
Within this context Indigenous Australian women are often
reticent to report domestic violence. The fear of having children
taken into care or a partner removed to jail is a strong
disincentive to disclose violence to authorities (Irwin et al.,
Culturally and linguistically diverse communities
Domestic and family violence is about the abuse of power in
relationships. It is about using disrespectful, intimidating, and
often frightening behaviours to control and dominate others.
Domestic and family violence can be found in all cultures and in
all socio-economic groups in society. The cultural practices of
many families from culturally and linguistically diverse
communities emphasise the importance of preserving cultural
and family identity rather than exploring individual self-identity.
As such, traditional beliefs and practices in many cultures assign
specific roles to males and females, as well as superior status to
males over females. The resulting imbalances of power create
opportunities for women to be disempowered and for their
rights to safety and freedom to be abused (Reed 2002).
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
Co-existence of domestic violence and
child abuse
“There is now increasing recognition that child abuse and
domestic violence are not separate phenomena and children can
be seriously affected by witnessing violence” (Bagshaw and
Chung 2000 p30). Research estimates that in 30%-60% of
families where there is domestic or family violence, there is also
child abuse – and vice versa (Tomison 2000).
The recognition of the way in which domestic violence affects
children owes much to the work of the women’s refuge
movement (James 1994). There is now a growing body of
literature which explores family violence, the effects of violence
on children and the links between domestic violence and child
abuse (Tomison 2000). There is also strong evidence which
suggests that different types of violence may occur
simultaneously in the same family, and that the presence of one
form of violence may be a strong predictor of the other
(Tomison 2000).
Domestic violence and child
sexual abuse
There is growing recognition not only of the association between
child physical abuse and domestic violence, but also of links
between domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Child sexual
abuse may, like child physical abuse, occur as a function of the
misuse of personal power, and is another example of male
attempts to control others through the use of violence (Tomison
2000). “The central theme in the dynamics of both forms of
family violence is that of power and control, based on the abuse
of power both from a generational and gender perspective”
(Hume 2003 p2). Goddard and Hiller note “the point crudely
stated is this: children having witnessed the beating of their
mothers need no further reminder of the possible consequences
of their resistance to the wishes of their fathers (or indeed, of
older males in general” (cited in Tomison 2000 p3).
The impact of domestic violence
on children
Children are affected by living with violence in many ways.
Every child’s experience is unique. However, detailed below are
some of the ways that children may feel, think or behave as a
result of their experiences.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
What children and young people may feel:
Guilty about loving the abusive parent
Guilty about not protecting the abused parent
Worried about the future
Worried about the possible loss of the parent
Split down the middle
What children and young people may believe:
Violence is an appropriate way to solve problems
The violence is their mother’s fault
The violence is their fault
Domestic violence is a secret
Men have the right to control women.
How children and young people may act:
• Be aggressive to other children, brothers, sisters, pets
• Treat mum like her partner treats her
• Regress (return to behaviours from their younger years
e.g., bedwetting, whining, tantrums, specific fears)
• Have problems concentrating/forgetful
• Be easily distracted
• Fight at school
• Have problems with school work
• Lie, steal
• Be withdrawn, unusual shyness
• Have trouble sleeping, nightmares
• Be physically ill(stomach aches, headaches)
• Be easily startled
• Be unable to play.
When children live with violence they may come to
believe that:
• violence and inequality in relationships are a normal part of
family life.
• violence is normal, acceptable and useful
• it is possible and acceptable to love and physically hurt
someone at the same time
• you can gain power and control through aggression and
• violence is an appropriate way to deal with stress and to
resolve conflict.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
These beliefs are unhealthy and may lead to anti-social
behaviour, problems forming healthy relationships and
involvement in the criminal justice system.
Research has shown that children who have experienced
domestic violence are more likely to:
Exhibit aggressive behaviour
Experience anxiety
Exhibit symptoms of depression
Demonstrate diminished self esteem
Reveal reduced social competence skills
Act disobediently, tell lies, act destructively
Exhibit emotional distress and demonstrate somatic
(Irwin et al., 2002)
Examples of impacts for children exposed to domestic
and family violence include:
• the denial of children’s rights to, and sense of,
personal safety
• presentation of role models, encouraging violence
or victimhood
• learning to use aggression as the primary problemsolving strategy
• becoming fearful and withdrawn – increasing the likelihood
of further victimisation
• self blame for the anger, violence and harm inflicted
• self blame for not being able to stop the violence
• detachment from feelings and associated difficulties in
forming relationships
• difficulty learning in the school environment – anxiety
creates major distraction and negatively affects
• post-traumatic stress and feelings of helplessness
• inadequate physical and emotional care resulting in poor
nutrition, ill-health, inadequate sleep and severely affected
• embarrassment and shame, pushing this down and becoming
‘good actors’
• youth suicide
• repeating the cycle of violence.
(SNAICC 2002 p19; PADV 2000)
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
The impacts of repeated abuse and exposure to domestic and
family violence are profound and traumatic. Living with
domestic and family violence is very often psychologically
traumatic for children and can have damaging effects on a
child’s emotional development and mental health. The response
of children who have experienced domestic violence has been
likened to post traumatic stress disorder, with symptoms such
as re-experiencing the trauma, sleep disturbance, nightmares
and fearfulness, withdrawal, and heightened arousal such as
increased anger and violent behaviours.
“One [nightmare] was that when I was asleep he got a knife and
stabbed me”.
(5 year old boy)
(McGee, 2000 p71)
“I have to sleep watching two doors and with my back against the wall”.
(12 year old girl)
(Mullender et al., 2002 p111)
Children’s responses to domestic and family violence span all
ages and areas of childhood development. For details of the
impact of domestic violence at various developmental stages
access the following:
• Fact Sheet series on the Effects of Domestic and Family
Violence on: babies and toddlers; children aged 4-12 years;
and young people; available at ;
• “Children, Young People and Domestic Violence”
Issues Paper
ssuespaper2.pdf ;
• “Seen but not heard: children who live with domestic or
family violence” CD Rom, Toowoomba.
“I wasn’t very confident in myself… if people treated me badly…
I would…take it like it was supposed to happen”.
(15 year old girl)
(McGee 2000 p91)
Children who live with violence are denied a safe and supportive
environment in which to grow and develop. Violence affects
children’s views of the world and themselves, their ideas about
the meaning and purpose of life, their expectations for future
happiness, and their physical, psychological and moral
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“The psychological effects of living with violence can include low
self-esteem, lack of confidence, negative attitudes towards
themselves and others, depression, constant fear, feelings that
nowhere is safe and a tendency to blame themselves for the
violence” (Irwin et al., 2002 p25). Children often carry a deep
sense of responsibility, can blame themselves and feel
incredible guilt because of their inability to stop the violence.
Louise was only four years old but she said she knew why she had gone
to a shelter. She explained that she kept leaving her bike on the
driveway even though her father had repeatedly asked her not to. She
said “one day I got him so mad he hit my mum”.
(Aardvarc 2004)
“I just felt so angry that I couldn’t help her. All I wanted to do was just
get a suitcase, put all her clothes in…. tell her to come with me… and
just go”.
(19 year old young woman)
(McGee 2000 p72)
Other issues
Although the presenting issue for children who have
experienced living with violence is the violence itself, there are
other associated and separate issues that may require time and
attention. In addition to the consequences of living with
domestic violence, children often require support with everyday
issues relating to family and peer relationships and school.
Health, disability, racism and poverty are factors which impact
significantly upon children and their families and are
compounded within a context of domestic and family violence.
Grief and loss
Children may experience multiple losses as a consequence of
domestic violence. Most often women and children have to
leave the family home to escape the violence and children
accurately discuss the unfairness of having to leave all of their
things when they haven’t done anything wrong. “Children
hugely resented having to leave their home, possessions, pets,
friends - literally everything that gave their daily lives structure,
meaning and consistency – in order to be safe” (Mullender et
al., 2002 p108).
“He made me leave my home. He made me leave all my best friends. He
made me leave all my things behind”.
(9 year old girl)
( Mullender et al., 2002)
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There is also grief associated with the separation of parents and
in extreme circumstances the death of a loved one (parent,
sibling or pet). Changing schools, moving house and the loss of
friends, belongings and pets are all significant losses.
Poverty and Homelessness
Women and children who escape domestic violence frequently
contend with issues of homelessness and poverty. “Women and
children often become homeless as a result of the violence they
experience, and with that homelessness comes poverty”
(Wesnet Media Release 22 March 2005
The lack of a stable and safe home impacts upon all aspects of a
child’s life and development.
“My children and I fled to another state to escape violence. We left all of
our belongings, were homeless and had to start again. My children want
to return home to their father (and the violence), because since we have
moved away we live in an old house with not enough bedrooms, we
drive a bomb car, wear second hand clothes and ask for food parcels
from welfare services”.
(Mother of four)
(Aardvarc 2005)
Child centred
Child-centred does not mean child exclusive: it refers to
children’s wellbeing and experiences being prioritised within the
context of family and community. Child centred practice
acknowledges the primacy of children’s rights and needs. It
involves a commitment to examining the consequences of
practice on children, and insists on recognising the context in
which children live their lives (O'Neil 2004). “Child-centred
intervention should focus on assisting a child to express feelings
and gain greater emotional awareness, strengthening the child’s
resilience, improving self esteem/self worth, improving their
capacity and ability to handle stress and difficulties, challenging
existing internal models of care and reducing current
situation/circumstances that are hindering their social emotional
and intellectual development” (Osmond and Darlington 2001
p15). A strengths based framework for working with children
must also include components of family practice and work with
significant others, as well as working directly with children
(O'Neil 2004).
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Significant others
Children do not exist in isolation or within a social vacuum.
Their relationships with significant others are fundamental to
good outcomes and although at times may be a source of
difficulty are often their best support. “A child’s world consists
largely of the adults around them. These adults are the most
important and powerful influence and resource available to
them. Family and friends have a greater responsibility for and a
more sustainable influence on children than professionals ever
can” (O'Neil 2004 p38).
“An aboriginal child is not isolated from the rest of the
community. Children are seen as belonging to the whole
community and many adults and children are involved in their
lives and in their upbringing” (Bedford 2002 p31).
The role of the mother
In research undertaken with children who have lived with
domestic violence, mothers are cited as their most important
source of help, more frequently than anyone else in their lives
(Mullender et al., 2002). “Policy and practice should recognize
this and not cut across this one element of continuity and hope”
(Mullender et al., 2002 p211). Children and young people also
identify the need for support for their mother in relation to the
violence (Irwin et al., 2002). Blanchard describes best practice
as one where “workers and mothers join together to help
children cope with what they have experienced” (1999 p16).
Many authors voice concern about the tendency of statutory
child protection departments to focus on the woman’s failure to
protect the children, rather than on the perpetrator of violence
(Irwin et al., 2002). A pattern of holding women accountable for
failing to protect their children from the actions of men who use
violence against them, has emerged with the increasing
recognition of the overlap between domestic violence and child
abuse (Laing 2000).
The role of the father
Men who commit domestic violence must be held accountable
for their behaviour. Their children, however, should not be
denied the resources of the perpetrators if those resources are
appropriate and offered in a safe and constructive way. Many
children want some contact with their fathers, and others do
not. Creating a space where children feel okay to discuss
feelings about their fathers is extremely important.
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Supporting children
At times children have been regarded as not “able to bear
witness to their own experience” (Mullender et al., 2002 p53).
Children’s capacities and understanding are partly determined
by their developmental stage, but their knowledge and skills are
often underestimated and constrained by adults. Children,
although highly dependent upon the adults in their lives, are
also unique human beings with their own ideas and desires.
Children are people and have their own thoughts, feelings,
hopes and fears. “If a child is old enough to be affected by
trauma in his/her own right, then he/she is old enough to be
helped in his/her own right. Early supportive intervention is vital
for mother-child couples exposed to domestic violence”
(McIntosh 2000 p12).
The purpose of working with children and young people, as with
adults, is to support them to articulate and express their
concerns, consider solutions and bring about positive changes
to their wellbeing. Therapeutic work with children assists them
to cope with the effects of domestic violence. “Therapeutic
practices refer to practices that contribute to children’s abilities
to express their own feelings, deal with the effects of the
violence, and develop a sense of wellbeing and resilience that
allows them to be children and make future life choices in
adulthood that are free from domestic violence” (O'Neil 2004
p16). It is important for those working with children to
acknowledge them as people, to listen to and believe them, to
think the best of them, to notice their strengths and capacities
and to work alongside them and their parent/caregiver towards
their goals.
Children who have been abused or who have experienced
trauma, often find it difficult to trust when they have been
betrayed and harmed by the very people who were meant to
nurture and protect them. Genuine care and gentleness are
required when building trust and developing rapport with
children in a helping relationship. The most important thing that
we can do for any child is to be available to listen to them and
to believe them. It takes a lot of courage for children to share
things that are happening at home. Barriers to telling include
shame, lack of knowledge of what support is available and
threats from the perpetrator of violence.
A fact sheet produced by St Luke’s Innovative Resources
describes the importance of the facilitative conditions of welfare
practice and suggests that clients need to feel safe and
confident within the process; have their feelings validated;
maintain a sense of ownership and responsibility; be supported
to recognise strengths and capacities and mobilise resources
and develop a sense of hope and motivation (McCashen 2001).
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Respectful and appreciative listening validates the child’s
experiences. It also conveys your belief in them as a valuable
and important person who is worth listening to. It is important
to listen with your ears, eyes and heart as children’s body
language, play and artwork often provide richer information
than words.
It must be remembered that children who have experienced
living with violence are children first. Their experience of
violence and its consequences can be significantly harmful.
However, children should not be defined by this experience.
When working with them, professionals should use approaches
that encourage children to be children (O'Neil 2004). Children’s
play has long been recognised as a means of learning and
coming to terms with the world. Children use play and
metaphor to express themselves and to develop new ideas and
skills. Appropriate toys, games, puppets, drawing and story
books assist children to construct meaning. Teachable moments
arise naturally as children play, allowing workers to comment,
reassure or ask questions.
Tips for workers from children
“I just think there needs to be more people around for kids to talk to,
like we have counsellors in school and stuff but unless a kid has a
problem and a teacher knows about it they don’t get to talk to anyone. I
think there should be counsellors in school who talk to every individual
child just to see how they’re going. Sometimes kids will open up if they
trust someone. But if no one’s talking to them and no one’s saying that
they’re here for you, they’re not going to say anything. No-one told me
that they would listen.
(18 year old girl)
(Irwin et al., 2002)
Excerpts from feedback sheets from
Aardvarc Children’s Program (2002-2006)
“I felt safe and important”
“The most important thing was talking about Mum and Dad splitting up”
“You understand”
“It helped myself to be nice”
“I didn’t like filling in too much activity sheets”
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Strengths based practice
‘Strengths based’ is a term that is being used frequently in the
human service sector to describe practices that focus on
people’s skills and competencies. The strengths based approach
has been influenced by principles of social justice, structural and
radical social work, feminist practice, narrative and solution
focused therapies and intensive family service models. It is a
philosophy of practice which is dependent upon positive
attitudes about people’s dignity, capacities, rights, uniqueness
and commonalities (O'Neil 2004). “The strengths based
approach is based on the principles of respect, the sharing of
power, social justice, belief in people’s strengths and capacities,
inclusion, collaboration, transparency and self determination”
(O'Neil 2004 p27). The use and misuse of power is a central
concept to understanding any form of violence. For families
who have been subjected to abuse and the manipulation of
power and control, self-determination and control of the helping
process is incredibly important.
Strengths-based listening:
is client directed
highlights strengths and exceptions
explores and addresses structural and personal constraints
develops a picture of the future and establishes goals
identifies strengths, exceptions and resources
actively identifies and measures change and differences
explores meaning and develops concrete description
identifies steps and strategies
(McCashen cited in O’Neil 2004 p33).
“The [following] diagram represents a framework for practice
that brings together domestic violence and strengths-based
approaches. The child is placed at the centre with other people
and structures behind the child. The professional’s or worker’s
role is to facilitate and enhance the child’s sense of belonging
and self-agency through direct work with the child, and by
encouraging and enhancing the capacity of other people and
structures to contribute to safety and ongoing wellbeing” (O’Neil
2002 p13-14).
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Strengths based practice principles
Underlying values and principles of practice with
children who have experienced domestic and
family violence
Best practice with children who have experienced domestic
violence is guided by assumptions that children have the right
to voice their opinions and participate in activities and decisions
which affect their lives (according to their ability). The
acknowledgment and respect of children’s voices must be
balanced with adult responsibility, thus ensuring that children
are not burdened with adult problems.
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Practice with children would also aim to:
• believe children and take them seriously as people
• never assume that they are making things up or just seeking
• think the best of children and young people
• admire and respect their honesty, strength, openness and
• prioritise safety for children and the non-abusive parent discuss and devise a safety plan
• recognise and acknowledge the effects of violence on children
• seek to understand the children’s unique experience and that
of their family and community
• identify and acknowledge children’s strengths, rather than
focus on deficits or problems
• support and strengthen children’s personal agency and sense
of self worth
• recognise and acknowledge children’s coping strategies in
dealing with their experience
• remember that children who experience domestic violence
are children first
• foster a sense of hope and vision for real change in children’s
lives, family and community.
• all individuals have the right to be free from violence;
• all forms of domestic and family violence are unacceptable in any
group, culture and creed;
• many forms of domestic and family violence are against the law. Acts
of domestic and family violence that constitute a criminal offence
must be dealt with as such;
• the safety and wellbeing of those subjected to domestic and family
violence must be the first priority of any response; and
• the community has a responsibility to work towards the prevention of
domestic and family violence and to demonstrate the unacceptability
of all forms of domestic and family violence
(Partnerships Against Domestic Violence 2002).
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The foundational principles for domestic and family violence
work are reflected in the Queensland Practice Standards for
Working with Women Affected by Domestic and Family Violence
• Safety – the safety of women of their children (and
associates) and of the worker have priority.
• Respect – women and children are treated with sensitivity,
respect and dignity.
• Access and equity – all women and children must have
access to an affordable and welcoming service that is
relevant to their needs.
• Empowerment - a supportive and non-judgmental
environment is provided for women to identify and express
their needs and make decisions.
• Confidentiality – women and children have their right to
confidentiality respected and upheld and are informed of
situations where that confidentiality may be limited.
• Co-ordination – services are delivered within a context of
interagency co-operation, collaboration and co-ordination.
• Advocacy – the rights of women and children affected by
domestic and family violence will be advocated on an
individual basis as well as at a systems level to improve and
enhance the system’s response to relevant issues.
• Prevention – the development of a culture of intolerance
about domestic and family violence in communities and
• Accountability – properly trained and appropriately skilled
workers deliver services to women and children affected by
domestic and family violence.
• Service environment – services are properly set up to
provide quality and consistent responses to women, children
and young people affected by domestic and family violence.
The Partnerships Against Domestic Violence (PADV) publication
Practice Standards for Working With Children And Young People
Who Have Lived With Domestic Violence (1999) identifies five
strategies for workers to support children and young people’s
safety in the context of domestic and family violence.
These Practice Standards also recognise that children and young
people’s lives generally include a relationship with a non-violent
parent or family member (usually the mother). These
standards recommend that interventions should also support
the mother and offer the best protection for the mother and
child, particularly if there is a risk of further violence or abuse.
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• Practice Standards for Working with Women Affected by
Domestic and Family Violence (2002 pp.12-16) available
online at:
cations/documents/pdf/practice_standards.pdf ;
• Practice Standards for Working With Children And Young
People Who Have Lived With Domestic Violence (1999
Protective Behaviours’ Program
Protective Behaviours is a living skills and personal safety
program. It is used to prevent violence by helping people
develop beliefs about the right to feel safe as well as the skills
to help keep safe and to talk to someone who can help if they
are feeling unsafe. The mission statement of Protective
Behaviours Australia is to reduce the incidence of abuse and
violence in the community through empowerment and
education. The Protective Behaviours’ program is relevant in
school, at home and in the community, and can be applied to a
range of unsafe situations including physical abuse, domestic
and family violence, sexual abuse, bullying, emotional abuse
and verbal abuse.
The themes of protective behaviours are :
• We all have the right to feel safe all the time
• Nothing is so awful that we can’t talk about it with someone.
The Protective Behaviours’ program covers core concepts of
safety, early warning signs and networks. There are numerous
resources which may be used in work with children and young
people. Catalogues and further information may be sourced
Protective Behaviours Australia
[email protected]
1. Domestic violence doesn’t affect babies.
2. Violence is between the adults and doesn’t affect the
children. As long as the children aren’t hit, they will be okay.
3. Kids affected by family violence will always bounce back.
4. Talking to children about the violence will only confuse
5. Violence is part of aboriginal culture.
6. Children who grow up with domestic violence will become
victims or perpetrators.
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1. Domestic violence impacts upon all family members,
including babies. The effects on infants exposed to ongoing
violence include poor general health, poor sleeping habits,
excessive screaming and distorted emotional development
including attachment disorders.
2. Children are affected by the violence, even if they are not
directly involved. Even when the violence is not seen,
children are aware that it is happening through the obvious
tension, fear and distress. In homes and communities where
there is family violence, there is an increased risk of children
suffering physical and emotional abuse. Children who live
with violence, even if they are not physically abused,
experience emotional and psychological trauma. Domestic
and family violence denies children a safe and supportive
environment in which to grow and to develop.
3. Children who live in an environment characterised by fear,
anger, cruelty and violence suffer considerable pain and
distress. Growing up in a climate of family violence
compromises children’s health and development. It can
affect the way they feel about themselves, how they feel
and respond to other people and their ability to form healthy
relationships in later life.
4. Talking to children in an age-appropriate manner is helpful
and can reduce confusion and self blame. Children often
blame themselves for causing a parent’s violent behaviour
or for not being able to stop the violence.
5. Domestic violence is not part of aboriginal culture. Domestic
violence affects people of all races and backgrounds.
6. Living with violence presents children with poor role models
and children can learn to use aggression to solve problems.
However, the effects of violence on children are reversible
with support. The sooner the violence stops, the sooner they
can begin to recover. Behaviour is always a choice.
(Adapted from Through Young Black Eyes, Bedford 2002)
The following pages have been included with the generous
permission of a woman and her 7 year old daughter who
attended the Aardvarc children’s program at the North
Queensland Domestic Violence Resource Service. All names
have been changed to assure anonymity. The young girl wanted
to be known as Angel and her Mum will be referred to as Lara.
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Lara contacted the domestic violence service as she was
very worried about her daughter. Angel was having
violent outbursts - pushing, hitting, yelling and swearing.
She had also been stealing things. Lara and Angel had
experienced living with domestic violence from Lara’s
partner. Our service was relocating and we were in the
midst of packing. The usual bright, welcoming and well
resourced children’s room was bare. Lara and Angel
arrived for an initial appointment amidst the chaos.
It is easier and more effective to work with children in a room
specifically set up for children’s play therapy. This is not always
possible and useful work can happen in less suitable places with
limited equipment (Geldard & Geldard 2002).
Walking through the service, Angel pushed over boxes
and walked past our fish tank and said “I could stab
those fish dead”. She had her arms crossed and her face
screwed up. She was showing her feelings clearly and
with great conviction.
Children who have suffered trauma often display aggressive or
abusive behaviours. Behaviour is the best way children know to
express their hurt, confusion, anger and frustration. It is
important to recognise their attempts to show us what is going
on inside and support them to learn ‘other’ ways of expression.
We welcomed Angel and her mother into our training
room and offered tea, coffee, cold water or Milo. Milo has
become a very important feature of our service catering
to children’s tastes. Angel however wanted a cup of tea
with two sugars. She also wanted to have a look at where
the children’s room was, so I took her on a tour of the
office, while Mum had her own time with my co-worker.
Research highlights the importance of providing parallel support
to children and young people and their non-offending parent as
the best way of supporting children who have experienced living
with domestic violence.
I showed Angel through the service and explained a little
bit about what each worker’s job was. When we reached
the children’s room I explained what the room looked
like when it was set up properly and what the children’s
program was about. I talked with Angel, as I would any
other person doing an agency visit. My language was
age-appropriate and my manner gentle and respectful.
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While we stood in the children’s room Angel was still
agitated and went from thing to thing, upending some
items out of a box that had not yet been taped. I helped
her pick them up and suggested that we should make our
way back to Mum. As we walked I said to Angel “When
Mum rang she said that she thought you had some angry
feelings. I was wondering if that was right?”
Letting children know what you already know or believe
provides a starting point and takes the pressure off them having
to explain so much. Children are then able to agree or disagree
with what you have said and then can begin to share their own
Angel said yes that was right, so I asked her if it would it
be okay if we had some time together to talk more about
that before we went back in with Mum. Angel agreed. I
suggested that we take some things to play with while
we talked and picked up a paper box with some blank
paper, feelings bear stickers and felt pens.
Most children express themselves and learn well through play.
The ‘doing’ of something while you talk can also minimise the
daunting feeling of talking to a stranger and talking about
difficult issues.
Angel and I sat down on the floor together in a room just
outside where her Mum was talking to my co-worker. The
following is an excerpt of our conversation.
Kim: You know how you said that you do have angry
Angel: Yes
Kim: Well I have noticed with other kids that come here
that there are usually very good reasons for people feeling
Angel: Oh
Kim: Are there some things that have made you feel angry?
Angel: Yes but it’s disgusting.
Kim: Oh. (pause)…it would be okay if you wanted to tell me
even though it is disgusting. I have heard about disgusting
things from other children before.
Angel: Well Peter asked me have I ever sucked anyone’s
Kim: Oh. I see what you mean about disgusting…that wasn’t
okay for him to talk like that to you. What did you say to
Angel: Nooo!!
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Kim: Did Peter say or do anything else?
Angel: No but Eric touched my vagina.
Kim: You are very clever and brave to tell me about these
things. Have you talked to anyone else about this?
Angel: Yes my Mum and my Grandma.
Kim: That’s good…would it be okay if we have a look at
these bear cards while we are talking?
Angel: (pointing) That’s happy, that’s sad, that one is
Kim: Have you ever felt frightened like that bear?
Angel: No, I’m brave.
Kim: Yes you are…I was just thinking that if someone had
touched me like Eric did to you, that I would have felt
Angel: Well I’m very brave…but I was probably about that
much scared (measuring with her hands).
Children who have worries to tell need to feel confident that you
can manage hearing them. Remaining calm and maintaining a
sense of composure when children disclose difficult issues is
very important. If children sense that they have shocked or
concerned you they will stop. Giving children clear messages
about violence and abuse being unacceptable and not their fault
is also crucial. Other important features include normalising
feelings, recognising and mentioning their strengths, and having
During our talk Angel had told me that she had been
‘doing stealing’ since she was 4, but had given that up
now and doesn’t do that anymore. She also drew the
picture below and told me her story of the mother,
stepfather and baby elephant.
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“This is a story about a mummy elephant and a baby
elephant and a stepfather elephant. Have you seen those
shows on TV where the baby elephant hides under the
mum if she’s scared – that’s what happens. But you can
only hide with the mum if it’s safe otherwise you have to
hide somewhere else. The mother elephant is very brave
you know and beautiful. Do you see the noise coming out
of their trunks, they are yelling. The stepfather is the
loudest, and see the little noise from the baby elephant. I
don’t think they can hear her, she is saying stop it. But
don’t worry the story has a happy ending, the stepfather
elephant goes away”.
Story-telling and drawing are useful mediums for children to
express themselves safely and gently. As children play, draw
and tell their stories, teachable moments arise for workers who
are watching, listening and learning to understand. The
protective behaviours’ strategy ‘one step removed’ frames
sensitive issues in the third person (or animal) allowing useful
conversations to happen without talking directly about the
child’s experience. Children are naturally very good at this,
although a support person can encourage this process through
the use of puppets, symbols or story-telling.
The impact of domestic and family violence on children and
young people is profound. For children like Angel the effects of
living with domestic violence are far-reaching. Having
acknowledged this, it is also important to remember that, with
support, children can heal and thrive. Angel has been able to
tell her story. She has been genuinely listened to and believed.
Angel’s feelings and fears have been expressed and normalized.
She has drawn beautiful pictures, talked about the things she is
good at, imagined a future filled with good things and has
laughed and played. Her relationship with her mother has been
supported and strengthened. Angel is a courageous, talented
and happy eight year old girl.
There are many resources and literature to provide guidance in
working with children, but it seems that “what matters most is
that we respond in a way which conveys our willingness to try
to understand” (Winnicott 1964 p47). When we take time and
care alongside children, magic often happens.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
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BAGSHAW, D. & CHUNG, D. (2000) Reshaping responses to
domestic violence: The needs of children and young people.
IN PADV (Ed.) The Way Forward: Children, young people and
domestic violence. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.
BEDFORD, K. (2002) Through Young Black Eyes. Secretariat
National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care.
BLANCHARD, A. (1999) Caring for child victims of domestic
violence. Australia: Nandina Press.
BOYLAN, J., DALRYMPLE, J. & ING, P. (2000) Let's do it!
Advocacy, young people and social work education. Social Work
Education, 19, 553-563.
CREE, V. E., KAY, H. & TISDALL, K. (2002) Research with
children: sharing dilemmas. Child and Family Social Work,
7, 47-56.
MARCUS, S. (1997) Domestic Violence and Children: Prevalence
and Risk in five major U.S. cities. Journal of the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 36, 116-122.
GELDARD, K. & GELDARD, D. (2002) Counselling Children:
A Practical Approach. London: Sage.
HUME, M. (2003) The relationship between child sexual abuse,
domestic violence and separating families. Child sexual abuse:
Justice response or alternative resolution. Adelaide: The
Australian Institute of Criminology.
IRWIN, J., WAUGH, F. & WILKINSON, M. (2002) Domestic
violence and child protection: a research report. Sydney: The
University of Sydney & Barnados Australia.
LAING, L. (2000) Children, young people and domestic violence.
Australian Domestic Violence Clearinghouse, Issues Paper 2.
MASON, J. & FATTORE, T. (Eds.) (2005) Children taken
seriously : in theory, policy and practice. London: Jessica
Kingsley Publishers.
McCASHEN, W. (2001) Conditions for Change and Growth. St
Lukes Innovative Resources.
McGEE, C. (2000) Childhood experiences of domestic violence.
London: Jessica Kingsley.
REGAN, L. (2002) Children's Perspectives on Domestic Violence.
London: Sage.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
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O'NEIL, D. (2004) Shaping the Future. Strengths-based
frameworks for professionals who work with children living with
domestic violence., Commonwealth Government - Office of the
status of women.
OSMOND, J. & DARLINGTON, Y. (2001) Attachment Theory and
Child Protection Practice. Using Knowledge in Practice.
BrisbaneL: Department of Families.
REED, J. (2002) Diversity Training Project. Brisbane: Immigrant
Women's Support Service (IWSS).
SZIROM, T. (2000) Overview of findings from Partnerships
Projects. IN PADV (Ed.) The Way Forward: Children, young
people and domestic violence. Canberra: Commonwealth of
TOMISON, A. (2000) Exploring family violence. Link between
child maltreatment and domestic violence. Issues in Child Abuse
Prevention, National Child Protection Clearinghouse Issues
Paper, Australian Institute of Family Studies.
VIMPANI, G., PATTON, G. & HAYES, A. (2001) The relevance of
child and adolescent development for outcomes in education,
health and life success. Canberra: Australian Institute of Family
WINNICOTT, C. (1964) Face to Face with Children. IN
WINNICOTT, C. (Ed.) Child Care and Social Work: A collection of
papers written between 1954 and 1963. Hertfordshire UK:
Codicote Press.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Domestic Violence and Children
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Working with Women in their
Role as Mothers
Compiled by Catherine Bessant,
Domestic & Family Violence Prevention Service
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
“The worst part of it is that my children are involved. If it was only
me I feel I could endure it for the sake of the kids, but the kids are
also involved.”
(African mother, Mullender et al., 2002 p156)
This section discusses ways of working with women to build
on their capacity in their role as mothers. Working with and
building on the resources that a woman has is critical in
contributing to her children’s wellbeing. “Evidence suggests that
children living with domestic violence regard their mothers as
their greatest source and resource” (PADV cited in O’Neil 2004
O’Neil advocates for workers to engage also with the man
perpetrating the violence, taking into consideration issues of
safety and the child’s wishes. She argues that “if the offender
is the parent or very significant to the child, then he has a
substantial potential ability to influence the child’s future” (2004
p61). This can be a positive or negative influence. It should be
made clear that this section does not discuss ways of working
with men about these issues. It is not the intention to add to
society’s expectations about women having the sole
responsibility for caring and protecting their children whilst
negating the responsibility that men have. However the focus
of this resource is on women, children, and how professionals
can work with women to assist and support their children.
A few words on feminism
Feminism contains many schools of thought and as such can be
difficult to define in a way that is not limiting. Essentially
though, feminism acknowledges that women and men do not
have an equal position in society and advocates for change to
occur so that this inequality can be rectified. Radical feminism
perceives patriarchy as the structural source of inequality.
“Radical feminism sees the problems that women face as
inherently linked with the structures and institutions of a
patriarchal society and recognises how oppressive patterns
come to be acted out in families and by individuals” (Hurst 1995
A feminist analysis is necessary when exploring domestic
violence as it enables gendered violence to be viewed as “a
structural problem, directly connected to the universal
imbalance in power between women and men” (Charlesworth
and Chinkin 1994 p13). “Violence is an important way that men
maintain their dominance and power” (Laing 2002 p2).
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
Strengths-based practice
“A strengths-based approach is built on principles of respect,
the sharing of power, social justice belief in people’s strengths
and capacities, inclusion, collaboration, transparency and selfdetermination” (McCashen cited in O’Neil 2004 p7). Such
principles should underpin work with women and children who
have lived with domestic violence. Strengths-based practice
views clients as experts in their own lives who at times may
need some assistance in developing their own capacities,
together with being able to access resources from the world
around them. Resources for change are the strengths and
capacities of the client and their environment (Lees cited in
O’Neil 2004).
Workers who are familiar with this framework will notice that at
times the material in this resource draws heavily from the
Shaping the Future Practice Framework, written by O’Neil.
Socio-political context
As workers it is important to have an understanding of the
context in which women live. “It is impossible to assist change
while ignoring the structural and cultural impediments to
personal growth, change and liberation that originate from
dominant social structures and culture” (O’Neil 2004 p28).
Dominelli (2002) describes an important feature of feminist
practice as locating women’s experience of the world as a
starting point. As every woman’s experience of violence is
different, this understanding is not based on assumptions. Our
practice should be informed by the things that the woman talks
about. From these conversations there are likely to be cues. It
is our role as domestic violence workers to be aware of these
cues and assist women to explore them in a way that is helpful
to them and their children.
Popular culture, the media and governments tell us that
women, in particular young women, have never had it so good
(Baker 2006). The message conveyed is that ‘everyone’ is equal
now, there is no discrimination or disadvantage, so people, in
particular women, need to go out and claim what is theirs for
the taking. In her book The End of Equality, Anne Summers
provides a contrast to this notion when she discusses how far
society has not come in progressing equality for women.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
• The proportion of women working full-time has not increased
in thirty years. More Australian women work part-time than
at any other period in our past, and more than in any other
country in the industrialised world.
• Women are earning less, in relation to men, than they did a
decade ago. Women’s total average weekly earnings are just
66 per cent of men’s.
• There are more women living at the economic margin, or in
actual poverty, than ever before.
• Many of the services women need in order to be able to
participate equally in society, such as child care, are simply
neither adequate nor affordable.
• Fewer than 10 per cent of board positions or senior executive
jobs in large Australian companies are occupied by women.
• Whilst there has been an increase in the number of women
parliamentarians, this has not been accompanied by any
noticeable improvements in the protection of women’s
Many Indigenous women face serious disadvantages which
result from a number of factors including the violent history
of the early European settlement, racist government policies,
racism and disadvantage in dealing with the police and the
court systems and isolation in rural and remote settlements.
Lack of access to the basic necessities has resulted in poor
health outcomes for many Indigenous women and this has
been compounded by physical injuries sustained as a result
of family violence.
The following statistics have been taken from ‘Taking Action’,
Office for Women NSW Premier’s Department
Fact Sheet 3 Indigenous Women.
• An Indigenous woman’s life expectancy at birth is 63 years
compared with 82 years for other Australian women.
• At the 2001 census, Indigenous women in NSW had a labour
force participation rate of 43.8% compared to 51.8% for
non-Indigenous women, 59.3% for Indigenous men and 67%
for non-Indigenous men.
• Aboriginal women experience assault, including domestic
violence, at more than four times the rate of women
• 24% of Indigenous women (aged 15 and over) reported
Year 11 or 12 as the highest level of schooling achieved.
For non-Indigenous women the percentage was 45%.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
“Women and children from non-English speaking backgrounds
often face additional layers of disadvantage due to the
structural inequalities existing in society, which see differences
marginalised rather than embraced” (Immigrant Women’s
Support Service 2002 p97). Women from non-English speaking
backgrounds encounter language barriers and difficulty
accessing appropriate services.
Women with disabilities are, from government reports, one of
the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups in Australia
(Frohmader 2002).
• Women with disabilities are less likely to be in paid work
than other women, men with disabilities or the population
as a whole.
• Women with disabilities pay the highest gross income on
housing, yet are in the lowest income earning bracket.
• Women with disabilities are often forced to live in situations
in which they are vulnerable to violence. They are more likely
to experience violence at work than other women, men with
disabilities or the population as a whole (Frohmader 2002).
Women are not being afforded equal opportunities to participate
meaningfully in society or be involved in decisions that directly
impact on their lives (IWSS 2002 p97). “The status of women is
crucial to the way what we say, and what we demand, is
perceived. As long as women’s claims are denied because we
are women, our status as women is used against us” (Scutt
1996 p110).
The construction of gender creates an environment in which
women are not viewed as equal either in the public or the
private spheres. Women experience violence because we are
women. “Where power and control is out of balance in a
relationship or where an individual or group has power over
another, there is a higher risk of violence and the experience
of it will be exacerbated” (Cleverly 2004 p6).
How does the intersection of gender, race, class, religion, disability, and
geography play out for women who have lived with domestic violence?
Below are some ‘curious questions’ that have been adapted
from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual,
Claire 2001. These may be helpful in creating conversations
with women around messages and ideas that they get from
How do you think society views women?
What messages do you get about these things?
Does this affect you in any way?
How does this make you think, feel, and act?
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
Does anyone benefit from the effects of these beliefs?
Are there any costs to you?
Are there other views, possibly more positive ones about women?
What does it mean for you that more positive views are possible?
Do you recall times when you have taken stands against these social
views of women?
What were you doing, thinking, feeling?
Did anyone support you in this stand?
What occurred as a result of this stand?
How did/can you take these ideas with you into other areas in your life?
Construction of motherhood
There are many messages that women receive about the role of
mothers. Such messages are evident in the media, in social
policy, and from friends and family. There are ideas about what
a ‘good mother’ is. “A good mother is always available to her
children, she is unselfish and supportive, and is needed all the
time by her children when small” (Wearing cited in Reiger 1991
p47). In recent years we have heard of an even better ‘good
mother’, with the emergence of the ‘supermum’.
There has been discussion in the public arena about fathers
playing a greater role in their children’s lives and, whilst this
may have happened, it has not resulted in a change in society’s
expectations around responsibility for the care of children, as
this is still strongly attributed to their mothers (Claire 2001).
The social construction of motherhood presents conflicting ideas
to women as, whilst it is considered a low status job, it is
supposed to be viewed highly by women. One could draw the
conclusion that this is a reflection on women’s (and children’s)
worth in society.
“Feminist analyses of motherhood have pointed to the
impossibility of being a ‘good’ mother; the way motherhood is
socially constructed means that women are doomed to fail,
however much they care about their children” (Nicholson 1993;
Rich 1985; Richardson 1993 cited in Mullender, Hague, Imam,
Kelly, Malos and Regan 2002 p157). “For women who have lived
with domestic violence feelings of guilt and failure are
exemplified with women being in a position where they have not
been able to provide the level of care they would have wished”
(Mullender et al., 2002 p158).
Radford and Hester (2001) advocate for a need to look critically
at the experience and activity of mothering in different cultural
and historical contexts, particularly in contexts other than the
white, heterosexual nuclear family.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
How can we as workers do this?
Do we need additional information or knowledge to help us?
Acknowledging the problems associated with the social
construction of motherhood and its effect on women is an
important way to support women in their mothering
Curious questions
Where do you think the idea of the ‘perfect mother’ comes from?
What do you think is meant by this idea?
Who or what promotes this idea?
Are there any messages that you get from this idea?
Does this affect you in any way?
Are there other alternative messages that you may have heard about?
E.g., mothering that is ‘good enough’.
Adapted from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
Social implications for women when they leave
Women are likely to consider many factors when they are
thinking about leaving. If a woman makes the decision to leave,
she will be hoping for a better life for herself and her children.
Unfortunately the decision to leave is likely to create other
obstacles for her to face.
Research conducted by McInnes looks at women’s experiences
of transition and adaptation to living as a single parent in South
Australia in the 1990s. She identified domestic violence as being
a “significant driver of poverty, isolation and stress in single
mother households, impacting adversely on both mother and
children” (2001 p1). A number of issues were identified
• Housing
• Health
• Finances/ Income Support
• Access to paid work
• Social stigma
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
Safe and appropriate housing is a significant issue for women
and children. Removal costs can be very expensive. If a woman
and her children are not able to stay in the family home then
they may have to leave furniture and belongings behind, as
well as community supports, friends and school. This can be
particularly upsetting for children. Refuges are not readily
accessible to women who live in rural and remote areas. They
are often not accessible to women with adolescent children,
single women, women with disabilities, and women with pets.
A lack of suitable housing options forces many women and their
children to stay in abusive situations or to return to violence
following a stay in a refuge. Findings from McInnes’s research
(2001) indicate that women who have experienced domestic
violence are much less likely to gain a share of the marital
property than other women.
In 2003 Victoria Health undertook a study into the health costs
of domestic violence. This study showed that domestic violence
has wide-ranging and persistent effects on women’s physical
and mental health. The research also found that domestic
violence contributes 9% to the total disease burden for Victorian
women aged 15-44 years with 60% of this burden attributed to
mental ill health. More information on these issues can be found
A woman’s physical and mental health can impact on her
financially, may limit her access to paid employment and can
affect the amount of physical and emotional energy that she
has for her children.
Finances/Income Support
McInnes found that women who were primarily dependent on
income support “experienced poverty, which they defined as
lack of choice in housing, as well as struggling to afford other
basic costs of living such as food, clothing, transport, and utility
services” (2001 p9). Research conducted by Levendosky, Lynch
and Graham-Bermann (2000) looked at women’s perceptions of
the influence of their partner’s violence on their parenting. A
number of women in this study also identified financial problems
as impacting on their parenting. Kathy, a woman in the study
said, “finances are a big part of it. There’s not a lot of money.
Also not a lot of time. I don’t have time to spend and do things
with the family” (Levendosky et al., 2000 p259).
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
Commonly women also report child support as being a stressful
issue that can impact on them financially. Whilst for some
women regular child support payments can improve a family’s
standard of living, others experienced their ex-partner going to
extreme lengths to avoid financially contributing to the welfare
of his children. Such measures included going overseas,
choosing not to work, and denying paternity (McInnes 2001).
Access to paid work
McInnes (2001) identifies that single mothers who had survived
violent ex-partners experienced increased barriers to paid work
due to the compounding effects of poverty, social isolation and
dislocation, the continuing stress of managing the threat of
violence, as well as the impact of past violence on their mental
health and self-esteem.
She also states that perceptions of children’s needs were
the primary determinant of women’s decisions about whether
to work.
If a woman decides not to work, because of her children’s needs how
does this fit into the Federal Government’s current policy on Welfare
to Work?
Social Stigma
One does not have to look far to see how single mothers are
stigmatised in society. Turn on the TV at night and invariably
one of the current affair programs will feature a story about a
single mother who is supposedly ‘ripping off the system’ or
being a ‘bad mother’. The women in McInnes’s study
“recognised single motherhood as a stigmatised social identity
which many experienced as shame, humiliation, failure and lack
of privacy. Social stigma increased the isolation of single
mothers and their children in communities and inhibited helpseeking behaviour” (2001 p6).
Curious questions
What was it like to leave?
What expectations does society put on a woman’s role in the family?
Did your religious or spiritual beliefs have an impact on the decision
that you made?
What does it mean for you being a single mother?
What messages does society give about single mothers?
Are there times when you have taken a stand against these ideas?
What strengths or resources have you utilised?
Adapted from ‘Knowing Mothers- Safe Young Children’ Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
There can be two other major issues for women when they
decide to leave. These issues are intervention from statutory
child protection agencies and involvement in the family law
process. Both of these are discussed in detail in the module
titled ‘Managing Contact’. However some discussion in this
section is also needed.
The concept of mother blame seems to permeate involvement
from child protection agencies (Mullender et al., 2002; Irwin
2000). “Women are often held accountable for not protecting
their children, even when they are not the perpetrators of the
violence” (Irwin 2000 p11). In contrast the “man using violence
is rarely the one that is targeted by child protection workers and
held to account for inflicting the violence in the first place. It is
simpler to identify that the mother is not providing adequate
care and protection for her children by not leaving the
relationship and is therefore to blame for the abuse” (Seen But
Not Heard: Children Who Live with Domestic or Family Violence
CD-ROM 2003).
For some women the decision to leave her partner in an
attempt to remove herself and her children from his violence is
still not enough to satisfy child protection agencies of her
commitment to protect her children. For Indigenous women the
fear of having their children removed is immense. “In addition
to their fear of losing their children, their fear of homelessness
also contributed to the belief that their children might be
removed from their care” (Irwin 2000 p 99).
Regardless of the outcome, for many women being involved in
the family court process is difficult and demanding. Women
have to negotiate their way around a minefield of legal jargon
and processes, high legal costs, solicitors who may not have an
understanding of domestic violence, limited grants of legal aid,
and judges who can be critical and who belittle women. Women
are often demoralised and exhausted by the process, the ongoing abuse and the apparent inability of family law systems to
protect their children or themselves (Rendell, Rathus, Lynch
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
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How living with domestic violence
affects mothering and the mother-child
Many women place a high importance on their role as mothers.
Perhaps from our own experience or from practice wisdom we
know that mothers often put their children’s needs above their
own. Men who use violence against women also recognise how
important a woman’s children are to her. It is not surprising
then that men will involve children in the abuse, in such ways
as making the woman feel guilty about the children, using the
children to relay messages, using visitation to harass her and
threatening to take the children away. To highlight this, ‘Using
Children’ is one of the elements included in the ‘Power and
Control Wheel’. A diagram of this wheel is included in the first
The following points are summarised from The Batterer as
Parent (2000) by Bancroft and Silverman.
Men who use violence can affect family dynamics in the
following ways:
Fostering disrespect for the mother and her
parenting authority
Effects of
violence, verbal
abuse, and
victim blaming
Children see their mother as helpless, downtrodden, or stupid. They may acquire the
abuser’s view of the woman as being
unworthy of respect and some will see her as
a legitimate target.
Interferes with the mother’s attempts to
create structure; contradicts her rules;
rewards child’s disrespectful behaviour
towards mother; ridicules mother; portrays
her as incompetent in front of the child.
After separation
Vies for child’s loyalty by making his home a
fun place with no rules; permits activities
disapproved of by mother (eg violent video
games); may alienate child from mother;
may seek custody as vengeance.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
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Negatively influencing the mother-child relationship
May prevent mother from comforting
distressed child; may prevent use of birth
control so children are born too close
together, overwhelming the mother; social
isolation restricts opportunities to involve
children in extra-curricular activities.
Abuse fosters depression, anxiety, poor
sleeping, rage, loss of confidence so mother
cannot focus on the needs of the children;
may increase likelihood of maltreatment, use
of drugs/alcohol, or permissive and
neglectful parenting.
themselves from
their mother
More pronounced in boys and teenagers of
either sex, the development of contempt for
a mother or being ashamed to be associated
with her.
Violence by
children against
Also more common in boys, and most often
after separation, a child assumes the role of
abuser, sometimes to win the approval of
their father.
Using the child as a weapon against the mother
During the
Maltreatment, neglect or other hurtful
behaviour to child (e.g. destroying Christmas
presents) to hurt mother; having children
spy on mother; deliberate endangerment of
child; threats to kidnap or kill child, leave
the family destitute or call Child Protection.
After separation
Blaming mother for separation; enlisting
child’s support to pressure mother for
reconciliation; using child to communicate
with or spy on mother; seeking custody.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
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Impact on family functioning
Sowing divisions
Turning family members against each other
or creating alliances of some against others
by, for example, favouring one child over
others; lying; revealing confidences;
provoking conflict; punishing all children for
the behaviour of one.
one child
Blaming one child for all the problems in the
Chronic fear and
Deepening and solidify unhealthy dynamics
among family members; children may
compete for abuser’s attention because his
attention and affection are scarce.
Role reversal
Parentification of children (i.e., adopting or
being given a parental role in the family) and
infantilising of mother (i.e., treating her like
a child) may over time see the woman being
protected by child; child may try to predict
and prevent violence by abuser.
Women may find this material useful in helping them to identify
the various ways in which their mothering has been affected.
As mentioned in the table, maternal alienation is a serious
issue. Certainly in the domestic violence and child sexual
assault sectors, knowledge has been increasing about how
these tactics are used by perpetrators of violence.
“Maternal alienation occurs in a context of violence against
women and children, whereby perpetrators of abuse
deliberately try to destroy the relationship between children and
their mother. Research shows that maternal alienation is used
as a strategy of abuse across a continuum of violence and
abuse, which includes child sexual abuse, and domestic
violence. It is a form of emotional abuse that is used in
conjunction with other types of abuse to enforce secrecy,
maintain power and control, injure and punish” (Morris, 2003
Morris discusses strategies that are employed by men in
maternal alienation.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
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Messages about mothers
doesn’t love you”
is crazy”
is lazy”
is loathsome”
is a bad mother”
is to blame for everything”
Messages about the man using violence as victim/hero
• “I’m poor - your mother took everything from me”
• (with daughters) “Poor me - I need you to look after me”
• (with sons) “As men we’re special, and the more you join in
laughing at and degrading the females in the family, the
more you become a real man like me”
Actions to alienate the child and mother
• ‘Buy’ children
• Stop mothers having contact
• Threaten or punish children who don’t comply with his
• Hold out ‘carrots’ - children have constantly to perform to get
his notice, affection or approval
• Tell children to defy their mothers (coach them in degrading
and abusive acts towards women)
• Involve community, neighbours, and her family in her
(Morris, 2003 p6).
Morris argues that these “strategies are used in powerful
combinations, in matrices which lock the meaning of the acts
and messages together, making it difficult, for those at whom
these strategies are directed, to unravel where they have come
from” (2003 p7). These strategies shape children’s views of
their mother, their abuse and the environment in which they
live. Overall the messages serve to conceal or excuse the abuse
that these men perpetrate. Maternal alienation has effects for
both mothers and their children. Morris states that the motherchild relationship may be so damaged that it breaks down
entirely, with the end result possibly being that the child is
totally aligned with and living with the father, and alienated
from the mother.
It is critical that workers from the community sector, child
protection agencies, courts, and police have an understanding
of maternal alienation. It is imperative that this form of abuse
is responded to in an appropriate way by these agencies.
Further information on maternal alienation can be accessed at .
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
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Despite the existence of such extreme measures by men who
use violence, women are often accused of failing to protect their
children, particularly by child protection agencies (Irwin 2000).
Irwin discusses a number of strategies that women use to
protect their children:
• physically separating their children from the violent incident
where possible by ensuring the children were in bed;
• making sure they were in a room in the house where they
would be safe;
• moving the violence to another part of the house;
• trying to keep the children quiet;
• leaving the house with the children for periods of time;
• and involving the police or taking legal action (Irwin 2000
In research conducted by Mullender et al., every one of the
women interviewed believed that domestic violence had
affected their parenting. “The most common theme was being
anxious coupled with the violent episodes, had meant that she
was exhausted, and hence had very limited energy to devote to
her children. The next most common issue was that children
had been a flashpoint around which violence might erupt. This
meant that women did not mother around what they felt and
believed was good for their children but around efforts to limit
further harm to themselves or their children. This ‘externally
controlled’ motherhood had included elements such as insisting
that children keep quiet so as to not anger the man; keeping
toys and children’s possessions invisible when he was at home;
sending children to bed early so that they were not targeted for
criticism or worse; and hitting and shouting at children before
the man did, since the harm would be less” (2000 p159).
The following are some quotes from women about these issues.
“I didn’t have the same patience with the children when he was there,
because I think I was frightened he was going to lose his temper. I was
much more calm when he wasn’t there”. (white mother)
“They were never allowed to talk, they were never allowed to play, they
had to be quiet. My son did not talk until a year after we left the refuge,
because that’s what they had to do at home. He [the father] always slept
on the settee in the daytime...We used to have to keep it very, very
quiet. They knew what he was like, I never had to say anything.
Sometimes I made excuses” (white mother)
(Mullender et al., 2002 p159).
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For many women and children, violence does not stop when
they leave. The nature of the violence just changes. Men
continue to perpetrate violence by continuing to target the
woman directly, using legal processes, and using contact,
particularly ‘handover’ of the children. Further to this, children
and young people often become specific targets for abuse after
separation, the tendency being for them to move from being the
secondary victim to the primary victim (Rendell, Lynch and
Rathus 2000). It is often through contact with the children that
an abusive man continues to exert power and control over his
ex-partner. A woman may feel that she had more power to
protect her children when she was in the relationship than when
sending them on contact visits where they are unprotected.
There is a growing body of research that looks at the link
between domestic violence and child abuse, and also the link
between domestic violence and child sexual abuse. Edleson
estimates that between “30% and 60 % of children whose
mothers are subjected to domestic violence are also being
abused” (2001 cited in Laing 2003 p1). Tomison argues “there
is also strong evidence which suggests that different types of
violence may occur simultaneously in the same family, and the
presence of one form of violence may be a strong predictor of
another” (2000 p1).
McHugh and Hewitt (2000) discuss the effects that domestic
violence can have on some women. They argue that through
the tactics employed by men using violence, some women will
undergo a thought reform process, with their beliefs and
attitudes changing at a fundamental level. The authors maintain
that “this process leads women who have lived with violence to
accept their partner’s reality, which results in her acting directly
to satisfy his needs and desires, even when these are directly
opposed to her (and her children’s) interests” (2000 p323).
They question whether a woman who has been affected by
the thought reform process is able to make informed and
autonomous choices and whether she is able to protect her
children when she judges everything in terms of how it affects
her partner. Women who have been subjected to this process
”require a practice approach that is active in challenging the
batterer’s reality and in providing them with an alternative view.
This may necessitate the worker being more active in assisting
women to access and/or organise support mechanisms”
(McHugh et al., 2000 p323). These issues have relevance
when working with women who are experiencing violence in
relationships and also for women who have left the relationship
as well.
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This diagram endeavours to describe the interlinking complexity
of domestic violence and child abuse within families (Rendell
et al., 2000). It could be used as a tool when working with
women when discussing her experiences of violence and
those of her children.
“Domestic violence creates an environment deeply unconducive
to achieving even ‘good enough’ mothering. That so many
women do resolve this impossible conundrum is testimony to
their spirit, endurance and determination. That many are unable
to surmount obstacles constantly and consistently should
surprise no-one” (Mullender et al., 2002 p157).
Curious questions
When you were living with your partner did he use any tactics to
deliberately separate you from your children? What were these tactics?
Did he try to undermine your efforts to maintain a relationship with your
Is he still doing these things now- have the tactics changed at all?
How is this impacting on you? e.g., Did you feel powerless, silenced, or
did you blame yourself?
How is this impacting on the children?
Adapted from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
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How domestic violence impacts children
Domestic violence can impact upon children in a number of
ways. It can affect how they feel, what they think and how they
behave. The section in this resource titled Domestic Violence
and Children provides more information on these things.
A number of resources are available that further discuss the
effects of domestic violence on children:
• Fact Sheets on the effects of domestic and family violence on
children and young people, are available at
• Seen but not Heard: Children who live with Domestic or
Family Violence CD Rom, 2003
These resources may be particularly useful for women in letting
them know that other children are reacting in similar ways to
their children. At times women may be oversensitive to their
children’s behaviour due to their own experience of anxiety,
guilt and self-blame (Morrel, Dubowitz, Kerr and Black 2003
p6). They may feel as though they are not coping with their
child’s behaviour and are unable to handle this on their own.
Considering the woman’s and child’s experience, this is a very
normal reaction (Ipswich Women’s Centre Against Domestic
Violence Inc 2001). A woman’s concerns about her children
should not be dismissed, but it may be useful to normalise the
family’s experience.
Specific issues for women and children in shelters
The following information has been adapted from Helping
Children Thrive, Centre for Children and Families in the Justice
System 2004.
Women decide to access a shelter for a variety of reasons. For
the most part women enter shelters to seek safety and a better
life for their children.
Studies of women in shelters suggest their most significant
child-related needs are:
• Counselling for children
• Being kept informed of what happens in counselling of their
• Information about healthy or normal child development
• Referrals and information about general children’s services
such as child care
• Child care or parenting relief/respite to give them a break
• Support or insight into a child’s behaviour.
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Some suggestions for helping mothers to address these
needs are:
• Having books available for mothers to read with their
children for example, I Feel Scared when Mum and Dad Fight
and There’s Something Wrong at My House
• Access to the internet may be useful for older children,
teenagers and their mothers. A particularly good site is
• Having parenting books and brochures available
• Having parenting tips pinned up in common rooms to
stimulate group or individual discussion
• Organising group sessions about how violence can affect a
mother’s parenting capacity.
Living in a refuge can also affect children in a number of ways:
• Some children enjoy mixing with other children in the same
• Some fret for friends, other family members, toys, school
and their dad
• Competition between children can arise, causing extra stress
• Children can be reprimanded by other members
• There are different rules from those at home
• Children often suffer disturbed sleep patterns
• Most children feel some level of fear, insecurity, confusion
and loss
• Many are traumatised by the upheaval of leaving home
• Many fear for the future and the unknown of starting again
• Some find it difficult to let their mum out of their sight.
Whilst living in a refuge can be a difficult experience, children
have also spoken about what has been helpful or what is
needed. These things are “children’s workers who both arranged
activities that ‘took you out of yourself’ and facilitated
discussions about domestic violence; support for their mothers
so they could also tell their stories and ‘get it out’ (of their
system); and staffing levels (both in terms of numbers and
amount of time available), so that when there was a crisis or
someone needed to talk this was possible” (Mullender et al.,
2002 p102).
Children can have positive views about living in a shelter.
Research conducted by Jarvis, Gordon and Novaco (2005)
suggests that positive and supportive mother-child relationships
can help in easing the transition from home to the shelter.
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Curious questions
How has domestic violence affected your children?
What have they experienced?
Given the abuse that you and your children have experienced, are there
any difficulties in noticing or acknowledging your children’s experience?
Does anything get in the way of this?
Adapted from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
Roles children may assume when domestic
violence occurs
The following information has been adapted from Helping
Children Thrive, Baker and Cunningham (2004).
• A role may be imposed on the child or it may be assumed by
the child
• Children can play more than one role
• Children may play roles during abusive incidents (e.g.,
referee, rescuer, deflector/distractor, caretaker of younger
• A child may use the role as a strategy to cope, so it might
not be turned off overnight once the abuser is gone
• Roles assigned by the abuser can lead to guilt, grief and
other hurtful emotions, especially after he has gone.
Examining family roles can provide information about how:
• a child interprets and copes with violence
• different children in the same family can have dramatically
different understandings of what happened in their home
• a child may think and feel once the abuser is gone
• tension can occur between siblings or in the mother-child
These are examples of roles played by children in some families
characterised by domestic violence.
Acts as a parent to the younger siblings and the mother. May
oversee routines and household responsibilities (e.g., meals,
putting young siblings to bed), help to keep siblings safe during
a violent incident and comfort them afterwards (e.g., reassuring
siblings, getting tea for mother).
Mother’s Confidant
The child is privy to the mother’s feelings, concerns, and plans.
After witnessing abusive incidents, his or her recollections may
serve as a ‘reality check’ for the mother, if the abuser later
minimises or lies about the events.
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Abuser’s Assistant
The child is treated better by the abuser and is most likely to be
told his justifications for abuse against the mother. May be
asked to report back on the mother’s behaviour and be
rewarded for doing so with, for example, privileges or absence
of harsh treatment. The child who is co-opted or forced to assist
in the abuse of the mother (e.g., made to say demeaning things
or to physically hit mother).
Perfect Child
The child who tries to prevent violence by actively addressing
issues he/she perceive as triggers, in this case by excelling in
school and never arguing, rebelling, misbehaving, or seeking
help with problems.
The child who mediates and tries to keep the peace.
The child identified as the cause of family problems, blamed for
tension between the parents or whose behaviour is used to
justify violence. May have special needs or be a step-child to
the abuser.
Women may be aware of the role that their child has or is
playing within the family. It is also important to consider what
children think about these things rather than to make
assumptions. Women may be interested in finding out from
their children the skills that they have utilised in the role, how
the role has been useful for them (perhaps they used it as a
safety strategy), and whether the role is still useful for them?
Conversations like these can add to the woman’s knowledge
about her child’s experience of domestic violence.
Steps women can take to help
their children
“A child’s development can best be promoted by providing
them with:
• Close and ongoing caring relationships with parents or
• Adults who recognise and are responsive to the particular
child’s needs, feelings and interests
• Protection from harms that children fear and from threats of
which they may be unaware
• Clear behavioural limits and expectations that are consistent
and benignly maintained
• Opportunities for support for children to learn new skills and
capacities that are within their reach
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• Opportunities for children to develop social skills through
regular contact with a range of adults and other children
• Opportunities and support for children to learn how to
resolve conflict with others co-operatively
• Stable and supportive communities that are accepting of
different families and cultures.”
Material taken from Best Start Evidence Base Project 2001,
which can be accessed at
Children who have lived with domestic violence can face
obstacles to these protective factors. However, there are some
very useful and practical things that women can say and do to
contribute to their child’s wellbeing.
It is essential that women provide children with clear messages
about the violence. They need to take a strong position that
the abusive behaviour (physical, verbal, emotional) is wrong
and hurtful. They can:
• Link their actions directly to his abusive behaviour. For
example ‘We are going to a shelter because Dad hit me’.
• Limit their condemnation to his actions and behaviour, rather
than to him as a person.
• Explain that what has happened is an adult problem and that
adults need to sort it out.
• Discuss things in an age-appropriate way for the child.
Children need to be reassured that:
• They can trust their mother to take care of them and protect
• They understand that their mother won’t leave them.
• The violence that occurred was not their fault or their
• That they can be sure that their mother loves them, no
matter what.
The Shaping the Future Manual is a valuable, highly
recommended resource. It contains a wealth of pertinent
information for professionals working with women and children
who have lived with domestic violence. In this resource, O’Neil
(2004) discusses how significant adults can contribute to a
child’s wellbeing by hearing the child’s story; modelling
appropriate behaviours; acting as a positive audience for
achievement; providing options and building safety. She states
that these areas overlap, are intertwined and do not necessarily
need to exist all the time for the child.
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O’Neil argues that the man using violence has the potential to
contribute to the child’s wellbeing. A considerable amount of the
material particularly in this section of the Shaping the Future
Manual, discusses how workers can engage with the man to
positively affect the child’s life. As was noted previously, the
focus of this resource is on how women can contribute to their
child’s wellbeing and the following material is reflective of this.
Hearing the Child’s Story
“Respectful and appreciative listening validates the child’s
experiences. It is particularly important to children that those
adults closest to them understand what they are experiencing
and what they need. By listening to the child’s experience,
significant adults both hear the child’s reality and have the
opportunity to acknowledge the child’s experience and
interpretation. The professional’s role is to facilitate the hearing
and listening process. Without condoning the violent behaviour,
the professional can assist others to understand that the child’s
account of an episode of violence or the anticipation or
expectation of future violence may be quite different from
theirs. Each participant or observer, including the child, will
have a unique perception of events and their effects. It does not
make one story accurate and another wrong. It does validate
the fact that the child will have constructed their own meaning”
(O’Neil 2004 p44).
Young person:
“No I didn’t see it much. But I did see it with my brother and I
tried to stop that, didn’t I Mum? I tried to stop it, and then I fell
across the room and banged my head on the table, and I had a
cut. Don’t you remember that?”
“No, I don’t remember. Are you sure? I don’t remember that at
all. They always say that children remember better than
Young person:
“Yes I did. I can’t believe that you don’t remember that”
(12 year old white girl) (Mullender et al., 2002 p165).
It can be difficult at times for women to hear things that
children need to say. It is important however that children are
able to explore things that have happened so they are able to
try and make sense of them. A major finding from Mullender’s
research is that a conspiracy of silence often builds up as
mothers try to shield children from further knowledge of the
abuse, not realising how much they are already aware of.
“Children, meanwhile, sensing that their mothers do not want
them to know or talk about the violence, keep quiet and do not
ask their mothers for explanations, even after they are safe”
(2004 p211).
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Workers can have a role in exploring with the woman the
benefits of open communication with her children. Questions
like ‘What might be different if you are able to talk to your
children about these things? How do you think it may affect
your relationship with them?’ Women need to be able to
demonstrate to their children that they are available to listen to
them. This can be done by asking their children how they are
feeling or asking them to draw how they are feeling. “Where
communication does open up between mothers and their
children, children are able to make far more sense of the
situation, to move on emotionally and, also, to support their
mothers in carrying forward their plans for a new life together”
(Mullender et al., 2004 p211).
Modelling Appropriate Behaviour
“The development of identity and a child’s approach to life are
greatly influenced by the models provided by parents and
significant others. Many children survive domestic violence
because of their mother’s skills, courage and commitment.
These mothers may need support and coaching to discover and
acknowledge their potential to actively model appropriate
behaviours. The imbalance of responsibility created by the
dynamics of the violence will have impacted on the woman’s
ability to notice her own power, or potential power, and
recognise the inflated level of responsibility being demanded of
her” (O’Neil 2002 p48).
In recognising this power or potential power it is interesting to
consider findings from a study conducted by Levendosky, Lynch
and Graham-Bermann in 2000. Some women in this study
reported that their experiences of domestic violence had
resulted in positive effects on their parenting. These women
commented on their increased empathy and caring toward their
children, finding alternative options to employing negative
strategies such as verbal attacks, and increased protectiveness
of their children. Women in this study also talked about wanting
to avoid the repetition of violence in their children’s lives.
Workers may be able to assist women to tap into their
resources by having conversations about the strengths they
have used, what strengths may be beneficial to use to achieve
their goals, and particularly what strengths they would like to
model to their children.
Providing a Positive Audience
“Children need positive feedback and encouragement in order to
develop a strong sense of self, safe experimentation and
reciprocal relationships. Young children internalise their concept
of self through their interactions with parents, and at all stages
people are influenced by their parent’s view of them. A child’s
appropriate behaviour may go unnoticed while their testing
behaviours have drawn a reaction.
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Children also develop their political awareness from family.
If violence and compliance are noticed as the only successful
ways of having immediate needs met, then the opportunity for
the child to practise other options is limited.
Strengths-based practice would provide information and
coaching to parents about the importance of noticing and
encouraging positive behaviour in themselves and their
children. The style in which the professional engages with the
mother is critical to any modelling or coaching that can be
provided. A working relationship would be established to allow
the mother to engage the professional to assist her to extend
her capacity to contribute to her children’s wellbeing.
This process through the use of respectful and appreciative
listening would provide a positive audience to the parent. She
would be given credit as an expert in knowing what she wants
for her children, knowing her children’s personalities and habits,
and understanding the context in which she and the children
live. This would provide her with an opportunity to experience
the value of having an external appreciative audience and to
notice how that experience encourages the development of an
internal appreciative audience” (O’Neil 2002 p51).
“Natalie, as Paul’s mum, what things are you most worried
“His aggressive behaviour. He just hits into me if he can’t get
his own way.”
“Can you tell me what you have tried so far to help him accept
(O’Neil 2002 p51).
It may be helpful to have other people add to the woman’s
external appreciative audience. A worker may want to explore
with the woman who are the significant people that she has in
her life who are supportive and respectful to her. These may be
friends, family and perhaps neighbours. These significant people
could be utilised in conversations, particularly if the woman is
finding it difficult to notice positive things about herself. For
example, ‘You’ve mentioned before that your mum is supportive
of you. If she were here now, what do you think she would say
about you?’ If a woman can experience the value of an
appreciative audience for herself then she may be more likely to
develop this practice for her children.
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Providing Choices
“Domestic violence is an oppressive act designed to reduce
choices available to its victims. Children growing up with
domestic violence may have a limited awareness of other life
options. In their households, beliefs and practices may have
enforced set gender patterns of behaviour or other dominant or
submissive roles that have kept people in ‘their place’. As they
grow up they will have experiences outside the family, which
will broaden their perception of alternative lifestyles. Their
parents, however, will remain the most influential models.
A lack of a sense of personal agency can result in long term
adaptive (maladaptive) behaviours. It is desirable that
opportunities are provided for children to develop confidence in
their own ability to make choices” (O’Neil 2002 p54).
At times a child’s behaviour may be quite challenging for the
mother. She may feel that it would be easier and would take
less stress and energy if her child was just good. Opportunities
for change may come about when children are to make
decisions, when they can seek out and learn about different
ways of doing things and possible consequences.
Building Safety
“Children have a right to feel safe. Having a sense of both
physical and emotional safety is enhanced for children when
they know there are adults in their life who will provide them
with consistency and protection. The mother will need to have a
safe house to build a safe environment for her child. Children’s
safety is ultimately linked with the safety of their mother”
(O’Neil 2002 p56). Monitoring and assessing risk is likely to be
part of the work that is done with women. This may involve
assisting with domestic violence orders, talking about home
security, and liaising with the Department of Housing. The
development of safety plans is also important for women and
children. Children are likely to have ideas about their safety.
They will have utilised their resources to keep themselves, and
sometimes their mothers, safe. A worker may assist women and
children to develop a safety plan, but it is the women and
children who will need to own it.
Curious questions
What resources have your children called on to care for themselves and
to keep themselves safe?
What things do you do to contribute to their safety?
In what other ways do you contribute to their life?
How do they contribute to yours?
What do you think this says about you and your children?
Adapted from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
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The following model ‘Nurturing Children’ can also be used with
women when talking about their children’s needs.
Domestic Abuse Intervention Project
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Women’s childhood experiences
There are many events that can occur during one’s childhood
that have bearing on the person whom we are today. If a
woman has experienced domestic violence during her childhood
this may influence decisions that she makes. The experience
that a woman had growing up in her family and the messages
that may have been imposed or assumed can have an impact
on parenting.
It may be helpful for a woman to consider:
• What informs her mothering?
• What things did her parents do well when she was
growing up?
• What things did they not do well?
• Does she want to parent in the same way as her mother or
• Would she like to do some things differently?
The resource Helping Children Thrive (Baker and Cunningham
2004) contains a section on ‘What I learned from my parents
about being a parent’. It can be accessed online at
Curious questions
If relevant:
What experiences did you have as a child with domestic and family
How were you affected by abuse?
How did you get through?
What strengths/resources and skills did you draw on?
What sorts of things did you want as a child?
What did you want from the adults around you?
Where there other significant adults in your life?
What was it about them that positively contributed to your life?
What did they say or convey to you about who you were as a person?
Adapted from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
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Approaches that may be helpful for
the mother-child relationship and
in counteracting maternal alienation
Research has found that the mother-child relationship can have
a mediating effect on domestic violence (Morris 2003;
Levendosky and Graham-Bermann 2000; Levendosky et al.
2003). St Luke’s Innovative Resources have a variety of
strength cards that can be used with women and their children.
Strength cards can be used with mothers and children together
to look at what they value in themselves and each other. For
example, there is a set of cards named Strengths Cards for
Kids. These could be laid out on the floor where the mother and
child can see them. Both could be asked to choose two or three
about themselves and then two or three for the other. After this
the mother and child would be asked to talk about the cards
they chose, especially about why they chose them. The worker
could facilitate discussion around what it was like to hear these
things from the other and how they can have more of these
positive experiences together.
Before doing activities like this the worker should assess how
suitable they may be. If a woman has been finding her child’s
behaviour to be difficult she may find it hard to identify positive
things about them. If the child picks up on this they may be
particularly hurt and vice versa. The worker needs to consider if
the activity will be encouraging and helpful.
Respecting the people that we work with is a fundamental
component in strengths-based practice. “Model respect towards
the mother to counteract children’s belief that she is not worthy
of respect” (Morris 2003 p19). It is also likely that children will
notice if their mother does not respect herself. Thus a worker’s
role may involve conversations with women about nurturing this
quality in themselves.
Research conducted by Levendosky and Graham-Bermann
(2000) found that a mother’s parenting style has an impact on
how domestic violence affects her children. The researchers
believe that it is beneficial for mothers to develop a parenting
style where they have authority and control over their children.
As the researchers recognise, this can be difficult for women to
do, considering the effects of violence. Women may feel
reluctant to discipline their children because they associate
control with their experience of domestic violence. They may
doubt their own judgement and manage their children
inconsistently. Women may adopt a protective or permissive
parenting style to compensate for their partner’s harsh
discipline, or to make up for their father not being around. In
this environment children may not learn about boundaries or
consequences of bad behaviour.
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This can make it hard for their mothers to set limits on their
behaviour which in turn may mean that children are not getting
the messages that they need. Women may find it helpful to
have conversations with a worker about dealing with these
challenges. It may be useful for a woman to take some time to
think about how she can create the kind of family environment
that is going to be supportive for her children and herself.
If children behave abusively
Some women are concerned that their children, particularly
their sons, are going to use violence like their father has.
Children may behave like their father if they have seen him
getting his needs met. “Many children who have lived with
domestic violence and display aggressive behaviour will often
have the same fear that they will turn out like their father. They
may have noticed similarities in their behaviours and their
father’s, or they may have been told that they are just like their
father. It is important to let children and young people know
that they are individual people, unlike anyone else, and that
they always have a choice in how they behave” (IWCADV
Handout 2001).
Women may be tempted to excuse violent or abusive behaviour
because of what their child has been through, but abuse is
always unacceptable. Children need to learn appropriate and
safe ways to deal with their emotions. Women may need
practical information on what they can do when their child is
behaving in this way. More information can be found in Helping
Children Thrive (Baker and Cunningham 2004), or in parenting books.
Self care
All people need to care for themselves, especially women and
especially women who have lived with domestic violence. Selfcare is vital in contributing to women’s wellbeing. It is another
way of modelling self-respect. The following text has some
important advice though unfortunately the author is not known.
“Sometimes we may feel guilty taking time from our children
and spending time and personal resources on our own growth
work. Sometimes we get the idea - which is often enforced by
those around us - that it is self-centred, selfish, and egotistical
to devote time to one’s own personal growth. It is often quite
threatening to those around us. The authors would like to
emphasise that the biggest gift you can give a child (and those
adults close to you) is your own growth. Any growth work you
do for yourself is the best possible gift you can give your
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Whether you intend it to benefit them, or not - it will! We are
the models for our children. So if our being grows, if our
connection with ourself deepens - that’s the model, that’s the
gift for our children.”
Curious questions
What do you think about self-care?
What can get in the way of this?
How does self care impact on you and your children?
What messages can children get from the way that you care
about yourself?
Adapted from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
The Future
It can be beneficial to have conversations with women about
the hopes and dreams (and sometimes fears) that they have
for their children. Women may find it useful to have a space
to reflect on ideas they have for their future and that of their
children and how their daily actions are contributing to these
Curious questions
What skills, qualities and values would you like your children to have
when they grow up?
What hopes do you have for their future?
How would you like them to feel about themselves?
What hopes do you have for their relationship with others?
What hopes do you have for their relationship with you?
What do you think your children would think about these things?
In thinking about the things that you are doing now, how are they
contributing to the hopes that you have for your children?
Adapted from Knowing Mothers - Safe Young Children Resource Manual, Claire 2001.
Mothering is challenging, particularly when domestic violence
has occurred. Often women need the opportunity to talk about
these challenges and to have them acknowledged. Mothers are
likely to be the best resource for their children. A mother who is
emotionally and physically healthy is going to be in a position
where she can provide for her children’s needs as well as her
own. It is hoped that this material will provide workers with a
starting place for creating respectful, strengths-based
conversations that recognise the positive steps women have
already taken, whilst also building on their capacity to support
and nurture their children.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
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BAKER, J (2006) ‘Choosing Choice, Hiding Injustice: Young
Women’s Lives Today’ Queensland Women’s Health Network
News, July.
BAKER, L. and CUNNINGHAM, A. (2004) Helping Children
Thrive: Supporting Woman Abuse Survivors as Mothers. Centre
for Children and Families in the Justice System, London Family
Court Clinic Inc. date accessed 5 July 2006.
BANCROFT, L. and SILVERMAN, J. (2002) The Batterer as
Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family
Dynamics. California: Sage Publications.
CHARLESWORTH, H and CHINKIN, C (1994) “Violence against
women: A global issue”, in Stubbs, J. (Ed) Women, Male
Violence and the Law. Sydney, Institute of Criminology.
CLAIRE, M (2001) Knowing Mothers: Safe Young Children
Resource Manual. Partnerships Against Domestic Violence
Commonwealth Government, Australia.
CLEVERLY, K (2004) Social Work with Children who have
experienced domestic and family violence. (Unpublished)
Not Heard: Children Who Live with Domestic or Family Violence”
DOMINELLI, L (2004) Social Work Theory and Practice for a
Changing Profession. UK: Polity Press. date
accessed 20 September 2006.
FROHMADER, C. (2002) The Status of Women with Disabilities
in Australia- A Snapshot [web page] date accessed 15
September 2006.
HURST, M. (1995) “Counselling women from a feminist
perspective”, in Weeks, W. and Wilson, J. (Eds) Issues Facing
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[web page] date
accessed 30 August 2006.
IRWIN, J., WAUGH, F., and WILKINSON, M. (2002) Domestic
Violence and Child Protection - A research report. The University
of Sydney, Australia.
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JARVIS, K., GORDON, E., and NOVACO, R. (2005)
“Psychological Distress of Children and Mothers in Domestic
Violence Emergency Shelters”, Journal of Family Violence, Vol
20, No.6 December, pages 389-402.
LAING, L. (2002) “Responding to men who perpetrate domestic
violence: Controversies, interventions and challenges”
Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearinghouse Issues
Paper 7.
LAING, L. (2003) “Domestic Violence in the Context of Child
Abuse and Neglect” Australian Domestic and Family Violence
Clearinghouse Topic Paper.
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(2000) “Mothers’ Perceptions of the Impact of Woman Abuse on
Their Parenting”, Violence Against Women, Vol 6, No. 3 March,
pages 247-271.
McHUGH, J. and HEWITT, L. (2000) “When Partnership is
Difficult: Working with Abused Mothers of Abused Children"” in
Weeks, W. and Quinn, M. (Eds) Issues Facing Australian
Families. Melbourne: Longman House.
McINNES, E. (2001) “Single Mothers, Social Policy and
Gendered Violence” Paper presented to ‘Seeking Solutions’
Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Conference.
MORREL, T., DUBOWITZ, H., KERR, M., and BLACK, M. (2003)
“The Effect of Maternal Victimization on Children: A CrossInformant Study”, Journal of Family Violence, Vol 18, No. 1,
February, pages 29-41.
MORRIS, A. (2003) Working with Maternal Alienation in
Domestic/Family Violence and Child Sexual Abuse. Northern
Metropolitan Community Health Service, Women’s Health
Statewide, University of Adelaide [web page] date
accessed 10 September 2006.
and REGAN, L (2002) Children’s Perspectives on Domestic
Violence. London: Sage.
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frameworks for professionals who work with children living with
domestic violence. Partnerships Against Domestic Violence
Commonwealth Government- Office for the Status of Women,
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RADFORD, L and HESTER, M (2001) “Overcoming Mother
Blame? Future Directions for Research on Mothering and
Domestic Violence”, in Graham-Bermann, S. and Edleson, J.
(Eds) Domestic Violence in the Lives of Children: The Future of
Research, Intervention, and Social Policy. Washington:
American Psychological Association.
REIGER, K (1991) “Motherhood Ideology”, in Batten, R., Weeks,
W. and Wilson, J. (Eds) Issues Facing Australian Families.
Melbourne: Longman House.
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Unacceptable Risk: A Report on Child Contact Arrangements
Where There is Violence in the Family. Reprint with forward.
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(Eds) Radically Speaking: Feminism Reclaimed. North
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SUMMERS, A. (2003) The End of Equality: Work, Babies and
Women’s Choices in 21st Century Australia. Milsons Point:
Random House.
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Women helping Mothers helping Children | Working with Women in their Role as Mothers
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Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Parenting after Separation:
Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Compiled by Jane Phelan
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Domestic violence after separation
Domestic violence does not simply cease after separation.
The pattern of men’s violence against their female intimate
partners often escalates immediately after she leaves the
relationship (Bailey 2006).
Separation represents a sudden reversal of the unequal power
distribution in a relationship characterized by domestic violence
that can stimulate the resolve of the abuser to reinstate control
over his partner (Hume 2003). The range of abusive behaviours
women report to workers after separation can include stalking,
locating and surveillance, demands that she return to the
relationship, coercion, threats to take the children, threats to
‘win’ the children through legal means, or threats to hurt or kill
her. Women can be very fearful of their partner’s interpretation
of, and reaction to separation and may expect serious
retribution due to warnings or threats of what he would do if
she ever left the relationship.
Women can:
Be reluctant to access the legal system and obtain protection orders
even when the danger has escalated. They can also express the concern
that they do not want to cause any trouble or worry that they will be
blamed for involving police or courts. Many feel responsible for their
partner’s choices, behaviour and violence toward them, and may place
what their partner wants above their own or their children’s safety needs
as it feels safer for them to do so.
It is all too common for Domestic Violence Workers to hear that
a woman’s ex-partner and father to her child is criticising her
parenting style and skills, making unwanted visits or phone
calls, or using arranged phone contact and other contact with
children to gain access to their mother. Domestic Violence
Workers also hear about instances of maternal alienation as
described by McInnes (2003), which involve a father’s attempts
to disrupt the child’s relationship with the mother, putting the
mother down to the children, denigrating the mother-child
relationship to the child, condemning positive talk about the
mother, or preventing communication between the child and
mother during contact. Separated women remain extremely
vulnerable to violent partners. Research indicates that women
who have separated are at higher risk of spousal murder than
women who are in current relationships (Hotton 2001; Mouzos
& Rushford 2003; Wallace 1986; Wilson & Daly 1993).
Children provide a link between separating couples. All
separating couples are faced with negotiating arrangements for
parenting and this will usually be stressful to some degree.
Negotiations in good faith between couples are made impossible
where communication is abusive, unproductive or destructive.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Recent research conducted by the Australian Institute of
Family Studies indicates, higher levels of contact appear to be
associated with lower levels of inter-parental conflict (Smyth
2004). Unequal power, unequal resources and inter-parental
conflict can be carried into arrangements for contact, into legal
processes and can also affect changeovers, exposing both
mothers and children to ongoing domestic violence after
Supporting women during Family
Law Actions
Domestic Violence Workers are well aware of the complex
situations women face in attempting to increase their own and
that of their family from domestic violence pre- and postseparation. Women most often want to facilitate an ongoing
relationship between their children and their father, and try a
range of informal arrangements for contact. When informal
arrangements expose them to incidents of abuse and
manipulation, information may be sought about legal options.
Often women seek emotional support from domestic violence
services while they traverse the legal system, searching for an
end to significant personal and family trauma as well as seeking
outcomes that allow the process of recovery and healing to
The Women’s Safety after Separation Project asserts that
the criminal justice, child protection and family law systems can
leave women who access these services exposed to further
violence and abuse, thus placing them in the difficult position of
being unable to focus on recovery and safety. Instead, when
mothers are trying to negotiate their own and their children's
safety they are put at more risk as these systems fail to provide
a safe environment for this to take place (The Women’s Safety
after Separation Project website). Tinning (2006) suggests that
Legal Aid representation funding has reduced, leaving some
women affected by trauma expected to self-represent if they
are unable to access costly private sector representation. In
Queensland there are no funded formal court support services
available to women accessing the Family Court (Tinning 2006).
Important considerations when supporting women include:
Naming the Violence
Structured Thinking
Keeping Records
Best Interests of the Children
Child Protection
Managing Expectations
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Naming the Violence
Women affected by domestic and family violence will need
timely information about the Family Law process in order to
make informed decisions about naming the violence in the initial
phase of seeking, or responding to, an application for parenting
orders. Screening for family violence and child abuse will be a
role of the Family Relationship Centres where information and
referral will be offered (Family Law Strategy). Women will be
required to attend inappropriate pre-action procedures, dispute
resolution or mediation if the family violence or child abuse is
not established in their case at this early stage. It is unclear at
the time of writing what criteria will be used by Family
Relationship Centres to establish the presence of family violence
or child abuse (i.e., evidence). In order to satisfy the court that
exemption applies from pre-action procedures, such as family
counselling, negotiation, conciliation, arbitration or mediation in
a Family Relationship Centre, women will also be required to
provide an affidavit accompanying an application for parenting
orders, or their response to an application, to the Family Law
Recognising and naming one’s experience of abuse as domestic
violence can be shocking, overwhelming, and very difficult to
integrate, particularly in light of the ramifications of such an
acknowledgment on many levels. Domestic Violence Workers
who assist women with applications for protection orders are
aware of the impact that the act of writing down the history of
violence in the relationship can have on a woman. It can be
traumatic as she is forced to relive events, which she may have
blocked out of her mind in order to survive on a daily basis.
Women who have become accustomed to minimising the
importance of their own experience, in order to accommodate
a dominating or controlling partner, will probably be extremely
anxious about the requirement to acknowledge and assert their
experience of abuse in order to be directed to a more
appropriate family law pathway. Kaye, Stubbs and Tolmie
(2003) state “that 70.9% of women [in their study] found it
very difficult to disclose domestic violence to professionals they
came in contact with, at least initially. Other women, especially
Indigenous women, were reluctant to report the abuse for fear
that statutory child protection authorities could take their
children away from them.”
Women’s advocates have expressed concern about the punitive
legislative provisions that emphasise penalties for making ’false
accusations’ about domestic and family violence. (For further
information, see Fact
Sheet 10). This places further pressure on victims to avoid
disclosure of violence for fear of penalties or fear of further
violence from the perpetrator.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
The requirement to show that a fear of family violence is
‘reasonable’ will be difficult for many victims to substantiate
if they are unable to provide sufficient evidence of violence.
‘False allegations’ are emphasised and the enduring and
undiscouraged problem of ‘false denials’ and minimisation of
abuse used by men who have used violence is not adequately
Structured thinking
It is important to encourage women to begin to think in a
structured way about the outcomes sought in the Family Law
process. This will help to provide focus, and to draw on inner
resources and resilience. It can be done by supporting,
encouraging and assisting women to record their history and
experiences, and to talk about their concerns. By validating
women as experts in their own lives, workers can assist women
to begin to explore safe options, scenarios and contingencies in
more detail.
Women who have been living with domestic and family violence
sometimes report, in the period just after separation, of the
difficulty associated with constantly revisiting and reliving
scenarios, conversations and justifications for their actions. This
type of thinking can disturb sleep and take up hours during the
day. Where there has been significant trauma, thinking can be
somewhat dissociated, as documented in literature about
traumatic stress.
Working with women to bring structure and flexibility to their thinking is
very important, especially by encouraging them to factor in time to focus
and rest. It is valuable for women to clarify their situation both in writing
and verbally in order to prepare and consolidate their understanding and
to mitigate the stress of impending court or other legal processes.
It is also important to encourage women to look at a variety of
options for parenting arrangements, considering different
arrangements in turn. For example, a woman could rate each
outcome as ideal, acceptable, and unacceptable or for each
scenario could consolidate ideas and arguments for and against
each possible outcome. Ask women to predict what the father
will be seeking in parenting arrangements, and analyse this in
the same way. The more deeply the different possible outcomes
are explored, the more confidently a woman will be able to deal
with the stress of being in court. Women should be reminded
that a Parenting Plan is not a legally enforceable agreement
and is different from a parenting order, which is made in a court
of law. (See Fact
Sheet 8).
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Keeping Records
Workers should speak to women about recording all of the
interactions they have with their ex-partner. In an evidencebased legal system, diaries, personal journals, all court
documents, and communication books form vital records of
conversations, discussions, and events. It is particularly
important to record any incidents of violence or verbal abuse,
past and present. If a woman needs to apply for a protection
order or to make an application to the Family Court, she will
need to remember times and dates of incidents that have
happened in the past and in recent times.
Records should include:
• A brief description of what
• Details of actions taken at
the time
• The context of the incident
• Actions taken subsequent
to the incident
• Time and date
• Going to the hospital or
• Who was present or
• Telling another person
• What was said
• Specific injuries
• Details of any threats
• Names of police officers
• Weapons used
• Damage to property
• Reporting of the incident to
police or other authorities
and their advice
• The police receipt number/s
of formal complaint/s
Text messages can be recorded and verified by a Justice of
the Peace. Letters, notes and emails should also be copied and
kept. In Queensland it is lawful to use a device such as a tape
recorder to record one’s own conversations without telling the
other person with whom we are conversing. However, it is
unlawful to record another person’s conversation in which the
person recording the conversation is not involved. This also
applies to telephone conversations, as long as any device used
to record a conversation is unattached to the phone.
Important Note: While it is legal to record some
conversations, in most cases it is a breach of the Invasion of
Privacy Act (1971) to replay conversations without the consent
of the other party/parties. However, such evidence may be
admissible in a court of law.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Keeping a record of appointments, with legal services, support
services, and other agencies, including brief details of
discussions, is also helpful. It is recommended for parents
having alternate contact to use a communication book to record
all relevant information about a child’s health, clothes,
possessions, arrangements and events. A communication book
travels with the child between parents and can help to limit
conversation on changeovers and provide documentation of
parent’s interactions.
Documenting experiences also provides containment for such
information that can, once recorded, be put aside to make way
for other day-to-day pursuits. It is important that written
records be kept safe from an ex-partner.
The Best Interests of the Children
It is important to encourage women to think and talk in detail
about what the best interests of their children means to them.
For example, is safety planning or supervision a high priority
consideration for the children in terms of contact with their
father? Are there child protection issues? This is important
when negotiating parenting arrangements at any stage and
particularly in the court context.
Prior to entering the Family Law courtroom, the solicitors and
legal representatives of both parents will attempt to broker
agreement between the parties. This can be confusing for a
woman who finds her solicitor going out and coming back to tell
her what the other party wants and perhaps asking her to
compromise her bottom line for the sake of reaching expedient
Knowing clearly what her bottom line is becomes extremely relevant at
this stage.
Sometimes women report being told by solicitors that they will
never ‘get’ the specific things they are requesting, and will have
to agree to something they are uncomfortable with or else risk
being viewed as unreasonable by the court, therefore
disadvantaging their case. Women can become bewildered as to
whose side their solicitor is on during this process. If a woman
has a well thought out and considered position about what is a
safe and acceptable arrangement in her children’s best
interests, she is better placed to advocate for her position more
fluently. She is more able to resist pressure to make
unacceptable concessions at the expense of what she considers
to be the best interest of her children.
In their research report, Kaye, Stubbs and Tolmie (2003)
stated that many women suffer personal, financial and
systemic pressures that affect their ability to negotiate.
Similarly, women’s attitudes to contact were also shown
to affect their negotiations.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
Women who supported their children spending time with the
other party (40.5%) gave a number of reasons, including:
the children love the other parent
it gave them a break
the children need a father/mother figure
the other parent offers them things that they are unable
to offer
• the other parent had family and they did not
• the other parent is also their parent, so there is another adult
in their life.
Of the women opposed to the children spending time with the
other party (27%), the well being of the children was
emphasised, and spending time with the other parent was
considered beneficial only if the children had a healthy or safe
relationship with that parent. Concerns included that:
• it was not safe for the children, or for them and that it
undermined the child
• it encouraged their sons to take on violent attitudes
• it otherwise psychologically damaged the children because of
the abuse they had experienced
• the child did not want to spend time with the other parent
• there were allegations that the father or another family
member had abused the child, or other children
• the father did not show the child love and respect
• the children were not looked after when they spent time with
the other parent
• children might be abducted or not returned from spending
time with the other parent (Kaye, Stubbs, & Tolmie 2003).
Clarification of what the ‘best interests of the children’ means to a
mother may not ensure that outcomes will resemble this, but will give
the woman the benefit of a clearly articulated position from which to
Child Protection Matters
Separation is the natural time for the issue of alternate
parenting to arise and when women are faced with considering
post separation plans for parenting. It is extremely important
that women, who have fears for their children’s safety, if they
are left in the care of the other parent, take the children with
them if they leave the relationship. Leaving children with a
person who has, or will potentially harm them can be viewed
as an endorsement of their harmlessness and may reduce the
credibility of child protection concerns if reported or expressed
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
It is very important that every concern regarding harm, risk of
harm, abuse or neglect to any child is reported to child
protection authorities at the time the concern arises, and again
each time a fresh concern arises. Notifications to child
protection authorities, depending on the nature of the
notification, may not result in an investigation, substantiation or
intervention in a particular instance due to lack of evidence.
However, it is important that any persons with knowledge or
concern for a child’s safety such as parents, relatives, siblings,
friends, teachers, child carers, and professionals (mandatory in
some cases) or even another child report their concerns.
Notifications are recorded and accumulate, revealing a pattern
of disclosures which demonstrate that, the notifier is seeking
to protect a child and that there may be a pattern of child
Unfortunately, there is a culture of suspicion around claims of
child abuse, particularly when they arise at the point when
parents have a parenting matter before the Family Court. The
Family Law Violence Strategy (February 2006) has made a
commitment to fund research into allegations of violence and
child abuse that arise during Family Court proceedings. There is
a view that women use ‘false allegations’ of violence and child
abuse to advantage their parenting cases in the family court.
This is a view that has been refuted by research. In Family Law
cases where there is suspected child abuse, there is provision
for a Registrar to appoint a Magellan Judge for special
consideration of the case.
Managing Women’s Expectations during the
Court Process
When women are faced with approaching the Family Law Court
they will generally be advised to access a solicitor. Women most
often expect their solicitor to inform them of details of the
family law process and provide them with all the relevant
information. Sometimes women are surprised when confronted
by a process they did not expect. It is recommended that
women be pro-active in obtaining information from all sources
then check this information with their solicitor. Interim hearings
can provide a shock to women who have not been properly
informed of the purpose or constraints of the interim hearing, or
that interim child contact orders can be made before the case
has been fully heard.
Women may (sometimes wrongly) assume that legal
practitioners are able to devote the time to their case that
ensures a thorough understanding of the elements of their
position and expect the solicitor will obtain all needed
documents and evidence on their behalf.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
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It is recommended that women assist their solicitor in
following up supporting documents (medical reports,
letters of support, affidavits of witnesses) and provide
clear written material such as copies of diaries,
protection orders, the history of violence in the
relationship and any other supporting material.
Women are required to submit and respond to affidavits, take
the stand in court, speak and answer questions asked by their
own and the father’s legal representative as well as any other
parties to the case. Court hearings are often very stressful
situations. Each party and their representative will seek to
advance their own case by every means at their disposal,
usually by reducing the credibility of the other party’s case. If a
woman is required to take the stand first in a hearing, she could
form the impression that she is being singled out and placed
under duress whilst the father is not. Women can benefit from
keeping in mind the fact that the father will also be required to
be cross-examined.
It can be argued that the tactics used by some barristers and solicitors in
court could, if used outside the court context, be regarded as resembling
domestic violence. Tactics include standing over, intense questioning,
dismissing answers and emphasising points, which strengthen the
position of the other party. As well as these tactics, controlling the
direction of the dialogue could give the impression that the facts of the
case are being distorted.
A woman, who has been traumatised by the power and control tactics
used by an abusive partner, could find the emotions of previous trauma
and fear are triggered during a court process by the combination of
having to face her abuser in court and by the power imbalance
experienced during cross-examination. This could affect her ability to
stay focussed and to concentrate on intense questioning.
Parenting plans and parenting orders
Parenting plans
A parenting plan is an agreement that sets out parenting
arrangements for children. A parenting plan must be a written
document that is dated and signed by all parties. It must be
made free from any threat, duress or coercion.
A parenting plan covers: the day-to-day responsibilities of
each parent, the practical considerations of a child’s daily life,
and the long-term issues relating to a child. Two or more people
with an interest in the care of a child (e.g., parents, a parent
and a grandparent or other relative) may make a parenting
plan, which is worked out and agreed to jointly by parties
without the need to go to court. A parenting plan can be made
at any time after separation, or before or after divorce.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
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A parenting plan may include one or more of the following:
• with whom the child will live
• the amount of time the child will spend with each parent and
with other people such as grandparents
• how the parents will share parental responsibility
• how the child will communicate with the parent with whom
they do not live, or with others
• who will financially provide for the child (only if child support
law does not apply)
• what processes will be used to resolve any disputes about
the plan or to change the plan
• any other aspect of the care, welfare or development of a
child or parental responsibility for the child.
A parenting plan is not legally enforceable. It is different
from a parenting order, which is made by a court. However, if
the matter comes to court, the judicial officer will consider the
most recent parenting plan when making parenting orders
about the child. To make a parenting plan legally enforceable,
consent orders need to be filed with the Court. Once approved
by the Court, consent orders have the same legal effect as a
parenting order made by a court.
Unless a court orders otherwise, parties can agree to change a
parenting order (made on or after 1 July 2006) by making a
parenting plan. A court cannot make a person follow the
terms of a parenting plan. The new parenting plan must be a
written document that is signed and dated. If the other party is
not following a parenting plan, speaking to the other party or
attending family dispute resolution is expected in order to try to
resolve the issue. However, this may not be appropriate if there
is a history of family violence. If no agreement is reached with
the other party, a court application can be filed. Legal advice
should be encouraged.
Parenting Orders
Courts make orders about parental responsibilities only if the
parents cannot agree about the arrangements for their children.
Courts can also approve and make consent orders to reflect an
agreement reached between parties at any time during the
court process. Each of these types of orders is known as a
parenting order.
If agreement on arrangements cannot be reached, the
Family Law Act makes it clear that each parent has parental
responsibility for each of their children until the age of 18.
Parental responsibility is not affected by changes in the
parents' relationship (e.g., separation, re-marriage). Parental
responsibility means all the duties, powers, responsibilities and
authority, which, by law, parents have in relation to children.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
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Before applying to a Court, a genuine effort to resolve the
matter by family dispute resolution must be made, except in
cases such as those involving family violence, child abuse or
A parenting order may deal with one or more of the following:
• the person or people with whom a child is to live
• the time a child is to spend with another person or other
• the allocation of parental responsibility for a child and, if two
or more people are to share parental responsibility for a
child, how they are to consult with one another about
decisions to be made in the exercise of that responsibility
• how the child will communicate with another person or other
• child maintenance (providing for the financial support of a
child who is not subject to the provisions of the Child Support
Assessment Act)
• the steps to be taken before an application is made to a court
for a variation of the order (to take account of the changing
needs or circumstances of a child or the parties)
• the process to be used for resolving disputes about the terms
or operation of the order
• any aspect of the care, welfare or development of the child
or any other aspect of parental responsibility for a child.
Importance of self care and support
Whether contact arrangements are negotiated between parents
privately, through dispute resolution or through family court
process, negotiations will often be complex, will usually take
time and will involve multiple attempts, a range of processes,
or repeat recourse through the family court to arrive at, or alter
unworkable parenting arrangements (Kaye, Stubbs, & Tolmie
2003). Recovery and healing for a survivor of domestic violence
is able to begin once the danger of further violence has stopped
and safety has been established. Unsafe negotiations and
parenting arrangements can impede progress toward the
process of recovery.
It cannot be emphasised enough that support for women
managing ongoing negotiation and proceedings is extremely
important. A flexible ongoing support plan gives a woman the
opportunity to explore her feelings, concerns, ideas, responses
and reactions, to use role-play for court, and to consolidate her
thoughts regularly over the period of negotiation.
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Women will often be accessing legal support and will benefit
from impartial discussion about their representation by legal
practitioners, which can vary from positive to extremely
negative. Limited legal aid funding can leave women and
children with inadequate representation, which could result in
her accepting outcomes, which she believes, are not in her
family's best interests.
Ongoing support from a Domestic Violence Worker can provide
a woman with: case management, advocacy, support,
identification and provision of other supports that may be
needed. These could include safety planning, letters of support,
counselling for the children and information about community
Support provided by family and friends is also very significant. Not every
woman affected by domestic violence has the benefit of this support,
particularly if the abuse has been protracted or frightening to significant
others, and as a result these important connections have been lost.
Where these relationships are intact, positive family and friends can
remind a woman that other aspects of herself and her life exist,
providing a basis to begin constructing positive ideas about her life and
future. Domestic Violence Workers and support group members often
stand in for families and friends as women come to terms with and
envisage a life beyond domestic violence.
Self-Care, Pacing and Balance
The uncertainty and concern about the outcome and
developments during parenting proceedings can become an allconsuming burden that makes every part of life considerably
serious and heavy for women negotiating with violent former
partners. Some fathers can:
• be extremely litigious, and follow through with threats to
take women to court again and again
• seek repeated adjournments
• fail to appear when a woman may have travelled, arranged
(and be paying for) child care
• deplete funds provided by legal aid for a solicitor thus
wasting her time and limited resources
• provide affidavits on the morning of the court process,
leaving a woman little time to read and no time to respond to
these and may, depending on the content, undermine and
destabilise the woman at a critical time in court.
Interim hearings can result in temporary contact
arrangements, which, while they are consistent with the
pro-contact culture of the Family Law Courts, may add to
the burden of concern for many women, and expose them
and their children to interim arrangements that give a
forum for further abuse.
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Traversing the family law process may take from six months to
more than two years. Maintaining a sense of balance over such
an extended period presents a considerable challenge. At any
point in the process, a woman will benefit from exploring the
concept of pacing herself and developing strategies for selfcare.
Strategies for pacing one’s efforts include considering a time
schedule for keeping records, for example, each evening after
the children go to bed, or after dropping them at school;
recording relationship history in writing; accessing regular
support and debriefing. These periods of focus can be counter
balanced by periods of rest and relaxation. It is best if an effort
is made to keep these focussed times separate from other
normal daily routines. There will be times when there will be
overlap. However a good deal of pressure can be taken off
responding to unexpected court related requirements if all the
information that is needed is already recorded and at hand.
It is also important to encourage a woman to consider what
relaxes her and takes her mind away from things. Some
activities include taking a bath, going for a walk, watching a
movie, reading a book, getting out of the house, painting,
singing, meeting with others, gardening, checking out the stock
market or learning another language. If it is relaxing and
occupies the mind, it will be like a holiday from stress, and is
therefore worth considering for inclusion in a plan for self-care.
Strategies for coping with shared
parenting responsibilities and
Every second weekend and half of the holidays is an
arrangement that has come to be considered by many as a
‘standard order’. In fact the idea of ‘standard orders’ is
misleading even though this arrangement has come to be
expected by parents and legal professionals alike as somewhat
of a default arrangement. As of July 1 2006, the Family Law
amendments introduce new messages that envisage a new
parenting pattern. The amendments introduce the concept of
shared equal parental responsibility. Equal Shared Parental
Responsibility requires parents to share equally all the longterm and important decisions relating to a child. This is not
appropriate for women who have experienced domestic
violence, as this can be used as a screen for a perpetrator to
continue to abuse her. While the legislation states that the
Court presumes that the parents should have Equal Shared
Parental Responsibility, this does not apply where there has
been domestic violence.
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However, as discussed previously in relation to Family
Relationship Centres and dispute resolution, the woman may
have to provide evidence to the Court about the domestic
violence. If the Court makes an order for Equal Shared Parental
Responsibility, the Court must then consider whether equal time
between the parents, or substantial time, with the parent with
whom the child does not ordinarily live is appropriate. It is
considered by many practitioners that these are messages
saying that the standard orders are no longer appropriate and
that the parent who does not live with the child should be more
involved in the child’s everyday life.
Consent orders between couples can actually include any
arrangement both parties agree upon. Time spent with the
father may be unsupervised or supervised, daytime only,
weekend or overnight and special arrangements can be made
for birthdays, Christmas and holidays. Time spent with the
father can also include phone communication, set times and
frequency of calls. Whatever arrangement is made, women and
children need to make adjustments to accommodate the new
routine. This is very onerous if there is violence, or fear of
Women may have tried many different options for changeover.
Common venues include the home of either parent, a police
station, McDonald’s, another public place (e.g., a shopping
centre), or a children’s contact centre. Changeovers may occur
with the assistance of another person such as a relative or
It is recommended that, where possible, women should
advocate for orders that are as specific as possible, to limit their
contact with the perpetrator. For example, dates or times the
children should spend with the other party should not be left to
be negotiated by the parties, as this again leaves the woman
open to the other party using this forum to commit further
abuse and potentially breach a domestic violence order. Where
possible, the orders should also try to arrange changeovers so
that the woman does not have to see the other parent and may
stipulate that a friend or a family member is to collect or return
the children.
Behaviours reported included incidents of physical abuse and
intimidation, such as holding the woman hostage, destroying property,
attempting to enter the house; psychological abuse such as stalking,
threats of physical assault or death, threats to abduct or kill the children,
threats of sexual abuse/assault; emotional or verbal abuse, such
as harassment in person or over the phone, and threats of suicide.
People who were supporting the women also experienced violence and
children often witnessed the abuse of the mother during contact
changeover (Kaye, Stubbs, & Tolmie, 2003).
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Where there is risk of violence, the safest arrangements
will be those where the parents do not have any contact
with each other.
The children may look forward to spending time with their
father but if he fails to arrive to collect them, they may be
disappointed. The father may fail to return them on time after
the visit. Children may experience abuse or neglect when
spending time with the father and some may become unsettled
at the prospect of the upcoming visit and be reluctant to go with
the other parent, or display a range of disturbed behaviours
after returning from spending time with the father. It is
recommended that people who know the child, including the
child’s carers, teachers, doctor, relatives, grandparents or older
siblings document the behavioural effects exhibited by a child in
relation to spending time with the father. Keeping records and
reporting concerns contributes to the body of evidence that may
be needed to vary an order.
Supervised time with the father may be arranged informally
with an agreed person such as a relative or friend. Sometimes
these arrangements break down where the person is unable or
unwilling to continue providing supervision. Formal supervised
time with the father can be arranged through a children’s
contact centre by parents or ordered by a court. However, this
requires the co-operation of both parents and is subject to
availability of services. Using a children’s contact centre
provides structure and accountability and ensures that parents
can avoid contact with each other.
Sheehan et al., (2005) suggest that supervised time with the
father is recommended where:
• there is entrenched conflict between parents
• parents are unable to communicate with one another or
control conflict at changeover
• there is a history of domestic violence and the children have
witnessed this violence
• there is significant risk of domestic violence
• there are allegations that the children have been physically
and/or sexually abused by the contact parent
• the other parent is intellectually or physically disabled or has
a mental illness
• the other parent has a drug or alcohol problem
• the other parent has limited parenting skills
• children are resistant to spending time with the other parent.
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Domestic Violence Workers can assist women manage the
implications of their shared parenting arrangements by:
• listening to and recording their experiences
• providing case management and appropriate referrals
for women and their children
• providing counselling and emotional support
• providing advocacy, including assisting the client to
provide their views to the solicitor
• providing letters of support
• providing assistance in obtaining Legal Aid.
Supporting women
Acknowledging strengths and resources
Domestic Violence Workers know that the women they
encounter in their work often possess immense inner resources,
even if at the time of presenting they appear depleted. Listening
to the stories of women, workers learn that surviving abuse
calls for patience, tolerance, and incredible self-control.
Forward-thinking, highly tuned awareness, flexibility,
adaptability, resourcefulness, and an above average ability to
bounce back and move on with life in difficult circumstances
(resilience), are all qualities needed to manage living with an
abusive, violent or controlling partner. Women regularly reveal
strong commitment to, and unconditional love for, their abusive
Women can have their positive virtues called into question
constantly, and very often endeavour to improve themselves
beyond reproach. Women do develop skills surviving in a violent
relationship and it is a valuable process to engage them in
reflecting on their own positive characteristics that helped them
manage, survive and leave the relationship.
Women can come to believe their positive characteristics and
inner strengths are weaknesses.
There are invariably vulnerable times when women may only be
able to call to mind negative aspects that further anchor selfcriticism, dread, shame, and self-blame for what has happened.
Women may also be in real danger of rejecting their good
qualities, perhaps seeing them as stupid. Workers who
understand the complex dynamics of power, control and abuse
can help draw a woman’s attention to her strengths, including
attitudes and values, skills, abilities and qualities, and help put
these into perspective in relation to abuse.
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When a woman leaves an abusive relationship, in the majority
of cases the violence does not stop. As we know, it often
escalates. There is no certainty that women will receive
the protection they deserve under the new family law
arrangements. It is vital to encourage women to report the
violence very early in the process. However, the penalties,
which can be imposed by the court for making false allegations,
may discourage women from disclosing violence or may be used
against women by their violent and abusive partners. Domestic
Violence Workers can play an important role in supporting and
assisting women as they endeavour to safely rebuild their own
lives and those of their children while negotiating the complex
and traumatic legal system.
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Appendix 1
Concerns of Women’s Advocates about Family
Law Changes
In early 2006, women’s advocates including Women’s Legal
Services Australia (WLSA), the Domestic Violence and Incest
Resource Centre (DVIRC), and the Queensland Domestic
Violence Services Network (QDVSN) established their concerns
about the Family Law Amendment (Shared Parental
Responsibility) Bill 2005. Concern regarding the emphasis
placed on shared parental responsibility as the primary
determinant for parenting in the bill was expressed, and the
seriousness of the reforms in terms of commitment to the best
interests of children was questioned. These concerns were
supported by international research and post-reform evaluation
of similar family law reform in the United States conducted by
Lye (1999). It has clearly been shown that outcomes were not
improved for children when shared parenting was the focus, and
were actually negative for children where domestic and family
violence and child abuse were present. Lye (1999) states that
exposure to parental conflict has been shown as a major cause
of harm to children, and that ongoing frequent contact as
recommended in the Family Law reforms will compromise
children’s safety where there is violence or abuse.
DVIRC believes that the best interests of the child should
continue to be the starting point in determining post-separation
parenting arrangements. Any reform to family law should
ensure that there are mechanisms in place to listen to children
and young people. The government's proposed changes are
viewed as failing to ensure that children and young people play
a role in determining contact and custody arrangements. In the
current legislation, the views of children have been downgraded
and are to be only an ‘additional consideration’ for the courts.
The proposals will encourage equal shared parenting
responsibility and time. This is at odds with the way parenting is
shared prior to separation and should depend on the abilities
and capacity of individual families. The parent, namely the
father’s right to have contact with his children is emphasised as
a most important consideration. The push towards shared
parental responsibility and time after separation will have a
negative impact on the many women and children trying to
escape domestic violence.
In order that Court staff be in a position to accurately identify
and respond to family violence the need for specialist training is
highlighted to gain sufficient understanding of the gendered
nature of domestic and family violence. Rates of agreement
used as the focus of performance measures of Family
Relationship Centres is questioned by WLSA as being in the best
interests of children.
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Concern exists about how service to Indigenous, culturally and
linguistically diverse, and rural and remote women will be made
accessible and appropriate.
Women’s advocates also express concern about punitive
legislative provisions that emphasise penalties for ‘false
accusations’ about domestic and family violence. These
provisions will place further pressure on victims to avoid
disclosure of violence for fear of penalties or fear of further
violence from the perpetrator. The requirement to show that a
fear of family violence is 'reasonable' will be difficult for many
victims to meet if they are unable to provide sufficient evidence
of violence. ‘False allegations’ are emphasised and the enduring
undiscouraged problem of ‘false denials’ and minimisation of
abuse used by men who have used violence is not adequately
Parents will be required to undertake pre-action procedures as
of 1 July 2006, and compulsory mediation as at 1 July 2007 (for
fresh applications) at a Family Relationships centre prior to filing
a parenting matter in the Family Court. A substantial body of
research has linked mediation to poor outcomes for victims of
family violence. While mediation will not be required in cases
where there is relationship violence or child abuse, the proposed
system presumes that cases involving family violence will be
exceptional and relatively easy to identify. This is contrary to
available evidence indicating that family violence is one of the
most common causes of marital breakdown and is often difficult
to establish in a screening process. Screening cases of violence
or abuse out of the dispute resolution process will not exclude
all families experiencing domestic violence. Reliance on a
screening process to protect women and children from having to
participate is naive and potentially dangerous. Mediation
presumes both parties can speak freely as equals. Mediation
can be difficult and dangerous for a victim of violence because
of the power imbalance between the victim and the perpetrator.
Victims of violence will be required to maintain shared parenting
when it is not in the best interests of their children, because of
legislative provisions that privilege cooperation between parents
above the safety of children.
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Appendix 2
Accessing further information
Information can be obtained by going to the court during
business hours, phoning the court and requesting that
information be sent out, online or by e-mail (for general
information about services of the Court and administrative
procedures only).
Family Law Courts
National Enquiry Centre
GPO Box 9991
Parramatta 2124
Phone: 1300 352 000
Fax: (02) 8892 8585
E-mail: [email protected]
Commonwealth Law Courts
Cnr North Quay and Tank Sts
Brisbane QLD 4001
GPO Box 9991
Brisbane 4001
DX Box: DX 40117 Brisbane
Phone: 1300 352 000
Fax: (07) 3236 1534
Townsville Family Law Registry
Level 2, Commonwealth Centre
143 Walker Street
Townsville Qld 4810
PO Box 9991
Townsville Qld 4810
Phone: 1300 352 000
Fax: (07) 4772 3262
Brisbane and Townsville Family Law Registries provide registry
services to both the Family Court of Australia and the Federal
Magistrates Court which include: lodgement of documents,
providing procedural advice and responding to enquires, mail
handling, listing of cases.
Counter open: 8:45am-4:30pm
Phones available: 8:30am-5pm
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Family Court services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait
Islander people
The Family Court of Australia provides specialist services for
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The Court currently
employs six Family Consultants, based in registries at
Alice Springs
Phone: (08) 8952 8222
Phone: (08) 8941 2933
Phone: (07) 4041 2342
If you do not live near these areas, phone 1300 352 000 and
request an Indigenous consultant or a Family Liaison Officer.
Aboriginal legal centres provide free legal advice and may
represent you in Court.
To contact an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community
legal centre near you, see the National Association of
Community Legal Centres (link below).
Legal Aid Queensland
GPO Box 2449
Brisbane QLD 4001
44 Herschel Street
Brisbane QLD 4000
Phone: 1300 65 11 88
Fax: 07 3238 3300
Legal Aid Queensland Indigenous Information Line
Phone: 1300 65 01 43
Family Relationships Advice Line
Phone: 1800 050 321.
National Relay Service
Phone: 1800 555 677
(this service is for people with a speech or hearing impairment)
Child Support Agency
Phone: 131 272
A wealth of information is also available online in the form of
step by step guides, and links with all pages leading to Family
Relationships Online where fact sheets and the Family
Relationships Advice Line phone number can be obtained.
Family Court of Australia
Family Law Courts
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
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Family Relationships Online
Divorce information (for all divorce information)
Child Support information
Legal Aid
National Association of Community Legal Centres
(Queensland CLS)
Department of Families, Community Services and
Indigenous Affairs
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
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Bailey, A. (2005). Family Relationship Centres: Implications for
Separating Families, DVIRC Quarterly, (4) 22-26.
The Family Law Violence Strategy Australian Government
Attorney-Generals Department.
Carey, M., & Russell, S. (2002) Externalising – Commonly Asked
Questions, International Journal of Narrative Therapy and
Community Work (2).
DVIRC,. NTV. (2005) Domestic Violence and Incest Resource
Centre / No To Violence Male Family Violence Prevention
Association letter to Committee Secretary Senate Legal and
Constitutional Committee Department of the Senate Parliament
House, Canberra
Hotton, T. (2001) Spousal violence after separation. Juristat,
21, (7), 1–9.
Hume, M. (2003). The Relationship between Child Sexual
Abuse, Domestic Violence and Separating Families Paper
presented at the Child Sexual Abuse: Justice Response or
Alternative Resolution Conference convened by the Australian
Institute of Criminology Adelaide, 1-2 May 2003.
Kaye, M., Stubbs, J., & Tolmie, J. (2003) Families, Law and
Social Policy Research Unit Research Report 1: Negotiating Child
Residence and Contact Arrangements Against a Background of
Domestic Violence Socio-Legal Research Centre School of Law
Griffith University Brisbane.
Kubany, E., S. (1997) Thinking Errors, Faulty Conclusions,
And Cognitive Therapy For Trauma-Related Guilt NCP Clinical
Quarterly 7(1): Winter 1997.
Lye, D. (1999) Washington State Parenting Plan Study, Report
to the Washington State Gender and Justice Commission and
Domestic Relations Commission, June.
McInnes, E. (2003) Parental alienation syndrome: a paradigm
for child abuse. Paper presented at the Child Sexual Abuse:
Justice Response or Alternative Resolution Conference convened
by the Australian Institute of Criminology Adelaide, 1-2 May
Merton, R., K. (1968) Social Theory and Social Stucture,
Free Press, 477.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Parenting after Separation: Helping Survivors of Domestic Violence
- 25 -
Mouzos, J. Rushford, C. (2003) Family Homicide in Australia,
Australian Institute of Criminology: Trends and Issues in Crime
and Criminal Justice, no. 255, Australian Institute of
Criminology, Canberra.
Sheehan, G., Carson, R., Fehlberg, B., Hunter, R., Tomison, A.,
Ip, R., & Dewar, J. (2005) Children’s Contact Services:
Expectation and Experience – Final Report, June 2005. SocioLegal Research Centre Griffith University. Brisbane, The
University of Melbourne, The Australian Institute of Family
Studies. Melbourne.
Smyth, B. (ed) (2004). Parent–child contact and postseparation parenting arrangements, Australian Institute of
Family Studies Research Report No. 9. June 2004.
Tinning, B., Seeking Safety, Needing Support - A report on
support requirements for women experiencing domestic
violence and accessing the Family Court (2006), Sera's
Women's Shelter, PO Box 1665, Townsville Q.
Wallace, A. (1986). Homicide: The Social Reality. New South
Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research. Sydney.
Wilson, M. & Daly, M. (1993). Spousal homicide risk and
estrangement. Violence and Victims, 8 3–16.
Women’s Safety after Separation Project can be found online at
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Mother’s Book
About this book
This book has been written for mothers who are separated and
are parenting their children after surviving domestic violence
because we understand how difficult this can be.
It is about:
♥ Helping you to stay healthy
♥ Helping you to understand and to recognise how the effects
of domestic violence impact on you as a parent
♥ Providing ways to help you and your children
♥ Providing practical ideas.
It will help you:
Appreciate and build on your strengths
Appreciate and encourage your children
Understand your children’s experiences
Rebuild relationships with your children.
How to use this book
♥ Mothers may use this book alone
♥ Mothers may use this book with a support person
♥ Sections of this book may be photocopied and then used
to assist with group discussion.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Mother’s Book
4 ...... Leaving home
5 ...... Understanding feelings and emotions
6 ...... Taking charge
11 ... Self-care and support
16 ... What domestic violence can do to children
Babies and toddlers, school-age children, teenagers
How you can help
Family roles
Talking with the school
26 ... How an abusive partner can affect a mother
as she parents
- 10 ways you can influence your child’s behaviour
31 ... Parenting styles
35 ... Loss and grief
36 ... Contact with Dad
38 ... Healthy relationships
40 ... Conclusion
41 ... References
Black and white cover illustration
by Helix Phelan-Badgery
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Mother’s Book
Leaving home
You may have to leave home to be safe.
♥ You were intimidated, harassed, assaulted, injured, sexually
assaulted, or your property was damaged by your partner
♥ Threats were made against you by your partner and you are
afraid they will be carried out
♥ Your partner’s behaviour pattern changed, and you were not
sure what he could do
♥ Violence was directed toward or involved your child
or children
♥ Violence was directed toward a friend, relative or a loved pet
♥ Children witnessed an incident, or are showing signs of
disturbance in their behaviour
♥ You felt pressured to leave by someone else
♥ Your partner’s need to control your time, attention and
energy is exhausting
♥ Your partner’s abuse has affected your work life or your
children’s school life.
♥ Other reasons.
You may:
♥ have not really wanted to leave, but there was no other
safe option
♥ still love your partner
♥ have been planning to go and have been waiting for a safe
Trying to leave violence behind can be made
extremely difficult if your partner continues with
violence, or finds new ways to control, threaten or
hurt you after separation.
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Mother’s Book
Understanding feelings and emotions
Leaving violence can be like taking a leap into the unknown for
both mothers and children. Leaving often takes huge effort filled
with inner struggle, danger, and personal losses on many
levels. Women experience a wide range of feelings and
emotions and may at times feel overwhelmed.
Do you:
Without realising it
mothers may place
themselves at risk by
keeping contact with
a dangerous expartner in order to
keep the relationship
between the father
and child,
despite the
history of abuse.
(Jaffe & Cooke,
Feel completely alone and torn
Have conflicting feelings
Feel guilty as a parent
Feel other people do not understand
Feel that others may have opinions that are unhelpful,
dangerous or unworkable for you
Believe you are responsible for your partner’s violence
Feel angry, upset, dazed or in shock
Find that your children are angry, upset or in shock
Find that you are struggling to cope with the reactions of
your children
Feel like giving up
Feel like you are living a bad dream that does not seem
quite real
Feel worried that your partner will ‘pay you back’
Feel worried that your partner will ‘come after you’
Feel worried that your partner will ‘take you to court’ and
‘win’ the kids
Feel that you are unable to ‘turn your head off’
Feel fearful about the future
Have a shattered view of the world
“He will never forgive me”
“I am so hurt”
“I should have known what
was going to happen”
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Mother’s Book
“I don’t want to stop him
seeing the kids”
“I still love him”
“He said if I ever leave him he
will kill me”
Taking charge
Taking charge is difficult but important
Leaving a partner because of abuse is a big decision because
you take back control of your power. A relationship is not
balanced if one partner has all the power. Power should be
You take back control of your life, reclaiming your right to be
safe and to decide what is best for you and your children: these
changes can bring a huge sense of relief. But this can also feel
strange and disturbing, particularly if a controlling partner has
been making all the decisions.
Have you become used to:
“If I was really
responsible for
his behaviour, I’d
make him be nice
to us”
Women most often
would prefer to stay
home, that the
violence stop, that
her partner seeks
help for his violence
and the possibility
of a safe and
relationship be
Always putting your partner’s wishes ahead of your own or
your children’s needs?
Asking permission?
Your partner making the decisions?
Your partner controlling the finances?
Your partner always driving the car?
Giving up what you want to do, because it is too hard?
Always thinking ahead to look after other’s needs to avoid
Monitoring your partner’s moods and behaviour to keep
Giving your partner regular accounts of your activities and
Always controlling yourself?
Do you:
Feel stressed?
Feel confused?
Have an increased level of alertness?
Feel a heightened sensitivity to other people?
Feel detached?
Have racing or circular thoughts?
Feel anxious or panicky?
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Mother’s Book
Keeping the peace at home can mean keeping the lid on
yourself. Many women learn to control themselves so well they
have forgotten how to express their true feelings.
The way you think, changes if you always have to answer
questions like:
“Where have you been?”
“Why did you buy that one?”
“Why have you taken so long?”
“What were you thinking?”
“Who did you talk to?”
“Who said you could do……?”
“How much did you spend?”
“Why did you do that?”
Expecting to be questioned later, you can fall into the habit of
thinking up what you will say (reasons, excuses etc.). You had
to pay close attention to your partner’s moods and behaviour to
make sure nothing happened that could ‘set him off’.
Maybe you have been performing like ‘super-woman’ keeping
everything in order, making sure everything was done, keeping
the peace and looking after everyone. Maybe you and your
children have spent all of your time focussing on your partner’s
If so, you may feel lost and uncertain after separating. It will
take time to adjust to not having your partner exert influence or
pressure on the way you think, and the way you do things like
you once used to. Maybe you feel a bit confused, bored, or
missing good and bad parts of the relationship in some way.
Maybe you can’t stop thinking, can’t sleep, and feel angry or
depressed. These are normal reactions but things will become
easier as you learn to re-focus on yourself and your kids.
Where you deserve to be
1. Remember a time when you really felt like your ‘own
person’ free from the controlling ideas of another person. If you
cannot remember a time imagine what it would feel like. This is
where you accept yourself, where you know that you are OK.
We all deserve to have this. You have your own spirit, which
can be strong and confident.
2. See yourself as a whole person. You may have had to
change aspects of your personality in order to help you survive
an abusive relationship. Take time to re-discover your inner self
and to focus on what is important for you now.
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3. Care for yourself, including every part of your self. Think
about the age you were when you started being controlled,
what you knew at that time and how you coped with it. Forgive
yourself for not always knowing what to do and learn to love
yourself. You did the best you could. Be kind to yourself. Look
at yourself in the mirror and say “I forgive you” and “I love
4. Memories and thoughts can be very stressful – share them
with someone you trust.
5. Trust yourself, listen to your feelings, go at your own speed
– you have the ability to control the speed of working through
issues. Stay comfortable with where you are and the steps you
are taking.
6. Have a plan. Develop a general idea of what you want to do,
and why you are doing it. Keep telling yourself that your life can
change, that you deserve to feel safe, relaxed and cared for.
Talk about this with people you trust, say it to yourself out loud
or write it down.
7. Stress times –you deserve support. Believe in yourself and
be true to yourself, be clear, make time to do things for
yourself, and to speak to someone who can help. It is OK to ask
for help. You don’t have to be alone. Do whatever you need to
get through the day or night, whatever it takes to keep you safe
and comfortable. You can now choose to cope in your own way.
♥ Be gentle with yourself
♥ Allow yourself to have bad days
♥ Try to think – ‘Does this make sense?’
♥ Listen to your feelings – ‘Does this feel right?’
♥ Talk yourself through it or talk to others you trust
♥ Be flexible and use different ways to help yourself
♥ Be wise
♥ Cherish yourself and your children
♥ Feel appreciation
♥ Nourish and inspire your self
♥ Read this aloud to yourself or ask someone to read it to you.
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What do I need to re-establish myself?
How can this need be met?
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Mother’s Book
Who can help me with this?
Drawing on strengths
You may not be used to thinking about your good qualities,
attitudes, values or skills and abilities that have helped you live
in difficult circumstances with an abusive partner. Instead you
may be thinking in negative terms, blaming yourself for what
has happened or believing that you have failed. You may be
surprised at how many of the following qualities you possess:
Self aware
Self control
Calm under
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Knowing and feeling good about your strengths
We all have different strengths that make us who we are.
Women actually develop ways and strengths like courage,
patience and protective behaviours when they live with and
survive a violent relationship. Think about the positive and even
the not so positive ways, which have helped you, make the best
of life, to manage a family, to survive or to leave the
relationship. Women use many means to achieve peace and
safety in their relationships. You deserve and have the right to
enjoy peace and safety, just like so many women before you.
An abusive partner can change the way you feel or think about
yourself and the way you do things but you also have the power
to know yourself and to value yourself. You may have come to
believe that good things about yourself are actually
weaknesses. You may even start to believe that the things your
abusive partner has been saying are true. You may feel that you
have lost yourself or even knowing who you really are during
times of difficulty or stress.
Inner strengths are parts of us that have had a chance to
develop in response to our life circumstances and hopefully in
time you will rediscover yours.
Self-care and support
Taking care of yourself is one of the most important ways that will
enable you to help your children. When you are strong, well and
happy, it is much easier to parent your children effectively.
So what does Mum need?
♥ Rest and relaxation
♥ Good food
♥ Mum time
Self–care or looking after yourself not only provides your
children with a good example of how to take care of
themselves, but it is a very important factor in helping to
protect children who have had trauma in their lives.
Happy mother = Happy child
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Find different ways each day to nurture yourself, and let
yourself know you care. Suggestions include:
♥ Make a ‘beautiful’ cup of coffee in your favourite cup
♥ Find a perfect place to sit while you enjoy your coffee
♥ Pick some flowers or give yourself flowers
♥ Allow yourself plenty of time, so you do not need to rush
♥ Prepare what you can the night before so that you have less
morning stress
♥ Give yourself fresh fruit and vegetables every day
♥ Give yourself plenty of water, sunshine and rest
♥ Take yourself for a walk
♥ Avoid overusing nicotine, drugs or alcohol
♥ If you make a mistake, help yourself learn rather than blame
♥ Arrange enjoyable experiences for yourself or with others
♥ Notice your feelings and be interested in them
Ways in which I can care for myself:
1. _____________________________________________
2. _____________________________________________
3. _____________________________________________
4. _____________________________________________
5. _____________________________________________
6. _____________________________________________
7. _____________________________________________
8. _____________________________________________
9. _____________________________________________
10 _____________________________________________
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Managing feelings of depression
The experience of abuse itself places a woman at risk of
experiencing symptoms of depression and stress related
problems, at least some of the time. If you feel depressed, you
can feel inadequate as a parent, and this may make you feel
more depressed. Maternal depression is known to affect children
in a negative way. Children can also experience symptoms of
depression. Looking after yourself, getting medical help,
counselling or personal support can help you turn things around
for you and your children more quickly.
As a mother, you need to respond to your feelings of depression
seriously and seek help. Talking to someone about feelings is
important, particularly if you have thoughts of suicide.
Depression is a real medical condition, not a weakness in
character and effective treatments are available from a GP
and/or a counsellor.
A GP can:
Look for possible physical causes
Explain depression and how you can be helped
Prescribe anti-depressant medication if needed
Refer you to a counsellor, social worker, psychologist, or
psychiatrist who can help you learn ways of overcoming
A Counsellor can:
♥ Offer you emotional support
♥ Offer you an opportunity to talk about problems and be
listened to in a non-judgemental way
♥ Offer you specific methods for overcoming depression and
preventing its recurrence such as cognitive behaviour
therapy (CBT).
There are also self-help strategies you can try such as:
Self-help books
Exercise – regular daily exercise is really important
Avoidance of alcohol
Depression support groups for mutual support and
♥ Having adequate sleep at night
♥ Eating healthy and nutritional meals. This means having 2
fruits and 5 vegetables a day, eating good sources of protein,
choosing wholegrain breads and cereals, eating dairy
products for calcium, and drinking plenty of water.
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A word on relaxation - it can include yoga, meditation and
guided relaxation and breathing techniques. Because very few
people know how to relax, it is something we have to learn. Use
the relaxation exercise below to help you relax. Read it yourself,
put it onto audio or have someone else read it to you. There can
be enormous health benefits from regularly practising
Guided Body Relaxation
Find somewhere quiet away from all the busy-ness of the world
around you, a space where you feel comfortable, safe and
where, for about 10 - 15 minutes, you can take time out for
yourself. Try to make this a regular occurrence!
Find a space and make it a special
Then move the awareness into
Use the sensations in your hands
place where you can return to again,
the large muscles of your upper
when you need time out for
legs…allow your muscles to fall
away from the bone...
to get a sense of the vitality of
your body…
yourself…once you have a
comfortable position, close your
eyes and allow your face to relax…
Bring yourself into the here and
now; there is nothing else you need
to do right now so start by taking a
couple of deeper breaths...
Broaden your awareness to include
your buttocks and pelvis…
Now gather your attention at the
base of your spine…trace the gentle
Next bring the awareness into your
belly… let go of any holding in your
belly…and without any particular
effort, notice the process of
breathing that is taking place…
curve of your spine up through your
Follow the breath down into your
body…through the lower back… the
body…down until you become aware
As you breathe in, feel your chest
middle back…and between your
of the movement of your belly as
open…(pause)…then as you let out
shoulders up to where your spine
the breath relax the shoulders,
easing them down and back…
meets the base of your skull. This
you breath in and out…let your
breath be calm and gentle.
is quite high up – about level with
the top of your ears…See if you
Don’t force it down…notice your
See if you can take your awareness
down into the parts of your body in
contact with the ground. Feel the
can gather your awareness at this
weight of your body bearing down
Ease the muscles at the base of
on the ground. Feel the solidity of
your body…
your skull – imagine them letting
Now become aware of the soles of
go, the muscles relaxing like a
flower opening…
belly as it moves to accommodate
the breath...allow the breath to
soften your belly from the inside
Feel the movement in your chest,
your rib-cage gently opening with
each breath… just breathing, being
your feet, allowing them to soften
Become aware of the touch of the air
aware of your body…your breath…
and relax…try imagining that you are
against your face…feel how sensitive
being aware of your feelings…let the
drawing up awareness from the
ground, up into your body...
your face is; notice the temperature
feelings come and go in a sense of
of the air, allow your face to soften
spaciousness, just as you let the
against the air…now take your
breath come and go…stay with this
awareness into your forehead,
imagine it smooth and broad...
as long as you feel comfortable,
just being with yourself…
let the muscles of your lower legs
Check that your mouth is relaxed
Then feel your connection with the
relax, allowing them to soften and
become heavy…
and let go of any clenching of the
ground once more. Allow yourself to
Notice any sensation in the parts of
Next allow your shoulders to relax
around you…and any outside
the body where your awareness
and take your awareness into the
is…now let the awareness move up
top of your arms and slowly down
into your knees, imagine a sense of
space in your joints…
towards your hands collecting it in
your palms and fingers.
Slowly allow this awareness to
move up through your feet into
your ankles and lower legs…next
Women helping Mothers helping Children | Mother’s Book
be aware of the room or space
noises…and in your own time allow
your eyes to open bringing the
session to an end.
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Parenting support
You do not need to be alone as a parent. We all benefit from
having a bit of help from time to time, especially if we have had
a stressful time. Don’t be afraid to reach out to family, friends
or others in the community who are more than willing to offer
all kinds of support.
Some ideas:
♥ Look for playgroups in your area. Both you and your children
will benefit from enjoyable time shared with other mothers
and children
♥ Become involved with your child’s school life, for example,
helping with reading programs, tuckshop, sporting activities
♥ Organise child care for the children – after school care, day
care, and holiday programs
♥ Find out what is happening at your local Neighbourhood
Centre for parents and children
♥ Consider attending a parenting program
♥ Consider booking your child in to see a child counsellor for
extra support.
Some things a child may ask for are noted in this poem…
As I Grow
Please understand I am growing up and changing very fast.
It must be difficult to keep pace with me, but please try.
Please reward me for telling the truth.
Then I am not frightened into lying.
Please tell me when you make mistakes and what you learned from
Then I can accept that I am okay, even when I blunder.
Please pay attention to me and spend time with me.
Then I can believe that I am important and worthwhile.
Please help me explore my unique interests, talents and potential.
In order for me to be happy, I need to be me.
Please do the things you want me to do.
Then I have a good, positive model.
Please tell me by your words and actions that you love me.
Then I will feel loveable and will be able to love myself and others.
~Author Unknown~
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How do kids feel?
Emotional Environment
Just as clean water, clean air, and healthy food in our lives
affects our body, healthy surroundings allow children to:
♥ act or say how they feel
♥ feel and show worry and sadness, stress, fright
and happiness
♥ develop ways of having healthy relationships.
In contrast, Emotional Abuse is the way that the abuser
controls the feelings and emotions of victims to make them
believe negative things about themselves and to frighten and
intimidate them.
Examples include:
♥ saying others have no value or worth
♥ putting down another person’s thoughts, contributions,
feelings or experiences,
♥ keeping others away, or keeping the family isolated from
♥ calling you names, making fun of you, insulting you, scaring
♥ using or changing your way of thinking to suit the abuser
♥ terrorising you or forcing you to do things you don’t want
to do
♥ ignoring or not caring about other’s feelings.
Children can see what is happening - they pick up on everything
around them.
Children are very open and what they see and feel affects them deeply.
Children find it difficult and stressful when their emotional lives are not
loving and caring.
What domestic violence can do
to children
All children are different and have their own ways of coping with
difficult situations. Some children are more sensitive in ways
different from others and may need extra supports when they
are unsettled by violence.
Babies may not be able to put words to what has happened
however they can sense the violence and start to become
unsettled and frightened and may want to cling to you. Your
baby could feel confused when you are sad or upset and won’t
be able to understand what is happening. Some babies may cry,
they may sense your stress and may not feed properly.
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3-5 year olds can suffer the most when the family isn’t running
smoothly. Toddlers may start behaving like babies again
because they are scared. They may experience difficulty in
sleeping, nightmares, and bed-wetting. Speech, walking, and
toilet training can regress and there may be an increase in
illnesses such as stomach aches, diarrhoea and asthma.
Toddlers may become more demanding and misbehave more.
How can you help:
♥ Give your baby or toddler, lots of eye contact, real interest,
warmth, smiles and cuddles, sing to them, hold and stroke
♥ Get to know your children’s moods, signs of tiredness or
distress. Hold them closely and rock them gently and use
gentle tones to soothe and comfort them when distressed.
Try to understand why they are being demanding, clingy
or naughty.
♥ Smile and use a gentle voice when bathing, feeding or
changing your baby or toddler.
♥ Say positive or encouraging words like “good girl/boy”,
“you’re beautiful”, “Mummy loves you”.
♥ Use gentle touch and kisses and firm cuddles to show your
baby or toddler that she/he is safe in your arms.
♥ Join a play group with your toddler – mixing with other
parents and children can be fun and reassuring that you are
doing a good job.
♥ Include routines in their day, like having meals at about the
same time each day. Eat together with the radio and TV
turned off. A regular routine might be dinner at 6.00pm, bath
at 6.30pm to be followed by a bed time routine such as
cleaning teeth and reading a story.
♥ Have time to play or enjoy outside time and notice what they
are learning. Encourage them and spend time with them.
Make your baby or toddler feel special, loved and valued by
the way you speak and interact with them. (Adapted from
Babies and Toddlers Q’ld Centre for Prevention of Domestic &
Family Violence, Fact Sheet Series 2003).
What am I noticing about my baby or toddler now and what are
their special needs?
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Positive role modelling
Remember that every adult in a child or young person‘s life is in
some way showing them how to behave – these adults are role
models (here we are talking about good or positive role models)
♥ Speak and act respectfully to and about children, even when
you think they may not be listening.
♥ Use positive language rather than negative language; “He
shouldn’t have done that,” instead of “He was bad.” When
you see your children doing the right thing, tell them –
“That’s great the way you are playing”, “That was really
helpful when you did that”, “Thanks for having a bath when
I asked you”.
♥ Help your child respect themselves – be open about their
strengths and successes and what they are doing that is right
/helpful/kind or thoughtful. If you show respect and do
things that respect others, your children will see how to do it.
School-age children
When things are difficult school-age children may feel strong
emotions. They may blame themselves or feel responsible for
the violence and feel guilty, feel pressure to keep the violence a
secret, or blame others because they don’t understand that the
abuser is responsible for the violence. Children who have lived
in a home where there is violence can have more behavioural
and emotional problems than other children of the same age.
These problems can include poorer school results, feeling bad
about themselves, feeling anxious and fearful and eating issues.
Children might keep to themselves, feel anxious or feel very sad
inside, play up, use words or physical attacks against others, be
cruel to animals and be angry, sulky or refuse to listen to you.
You can help by:
♥ Letting them talk to you or someone else about what is
worrying them. Listen to their worries. Make sure your child
knows that the violence at home is never their fault.
♥ Talk with them about what you could do or how the family
can get help, for example, help the child make a list of
people they trust and can turn to if they need to. This might
be Kids Helpline, neighbours, grandparents, friends or a
trusted person at the school such as a guidance counsellor.
Children may find this website helpful:
♥ Make time to talk to your children every day. Help them to
feel they are important to you.
♥ Try to understand why they are being demanding, clingy or
playing up.
♥ Be helpful to them, be available to them, give them routines
they can be sure of.
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♥ Have fun with your children and play with them, or watch
them play.
♥ Help children be ready for new situations by talking to them
about how you expect everyone will behave.
♥ Talk to the school about your children’s progress.
♥ Remember to talk and act respectfully to yourself – you
deserve respect too. If you respect yourself and show that
you respect yourself you will be able to respect others.
♥ Discuss calmly and privately any situations where you saw
your children acting without respect and help them to know
how to change that – “Maybe you could have said”, “I don’t
want to play with that” instead of “I hate that.” Help your
children understand that you do not like their behaviour not
that you do not like them, e.g. “I didn’t like the way you did
that, but I still love you”.
Be respectful to all children in the way you talk to them or how
you act towards them –say kind, good or positive things to
them so that they don’t feel put-down, teased, embarrassed, or
threatened. For example you can say:
“I like that idea but maybe it’s not what we can do now”
“Maybe that wasn’t the best choice for you – what do you
Spending time with your children
List 5 things you can do together instead of watching TV
1. _________________________________________________
2. _________________________________________________
3. _________________________________________________
4. _________________________________________________
5. _________________________________________________
Adolescents are usually going through many changes, for
example, changes in feelings, changes in their body and
changes in the way they think about things. They want to feel
that they can do things and that they are not “babies” anymore.
Any situation can be difficult. Adolescents have a more adultlike understanding and may have a different and less straight
forward way of responding to violence in the home.
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You might notice that your teenagers feel badly about
themselves, that they don’t make or have friends, that their
school work can be affected, they may skip school, may
withdraw, feel guilty, be angry, feel shame or frustration.
They may physically attack others, use drugs and alcohol,
hurt themselves, or make suicide attempts. Adolescents may
feel they have no power and not know what to do. They may
feel that the violence is their fault. It is never their fault or
your fault.
Living with domestic violence may impart adolescents with
messages about gender roles. Some young men may
mistakenly learn that it is OK for men to use intimidation and
force to get what they want. They may believe that they have a
right to control women’s lives and to use physical or emotional
abuse to punish women who do not meet their needs. They can
also learn that showing emotion or discussing problems is a sign
of weakness.
Young women, on the other hand can mistakenly learn that they
are required to fulfil their partner’s needs, that they should be
able to predict what he wants, that, it is his opinions that count
and that she should have to answer to him and do what he
wants. Young women can also mistakenly learn that for
someone to show them love, then they must do so by hurting
You can help by:
♥ Seeing and understanding that adolescents need different
things. Talking about things helps. Avoid dramatic
interactions, arguments, yelling, insults, sarcasm, and
slamming doors.
♥ Provide reassurance, comfort, support and let them know the
violence is not their fault.
♥ Offer privacy – they may wish to talk to someone else, rather
than you. Talk when things are calm and be patient because
change won’t occur overnight. Listen to what they are saying
and what they want.
♥ Encourage relationships with respectful and non-violent role
models, for example friends, parents of friends, teachers,
other family or neighbours etc.
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♥ Remember that adolescence is also a time when young
people are striving to achieve a separate identity from their
parents or family. They may often test out their own beliefs
and may disagree with and challenge you.
♥ Be clear – using violence is a choice. The person who uses
violence is always responsible for their behaviour and remind
them that they can choose to live non-violently.
♥ Talk with your child about how important it is to treat others
with respect. If we want our children to respect us as people
and parents, we must respect them. It is so important that
you treat them with respect and in the same way that you
would treat adults. Respect means “to show consideration to,
to value or honour.” This means that we show that we care
about the other person - that we think they are good people
who deserve to be treated well. Respect goes both ways.
♥ Adolescents can understand how they can be role models to
younger children and talking about and showing them how
can be really helpful to them. For example, “Thank you for
getting ready for school like that – it really helps the others
to learn how to do it.” Be careful of expecting too much from
the older children though.
♥ The way you treat others will show your teenager how to
respond to others. They learn from you.
♥ The way you let others treat you will also teach your
teenager that they can be treated like that. You don’t have to
put up with that and they learn that they don’t have to put
up with being treated badly.
Watch a TV show together, and talk about the ways that the people in
the show were respectful or not respectful to each other. Look for
examples of name calling, put-downs, insults, and ways that people
were bullying, teasing or embarrassing others.
♥ Help your teenager learn how their behaviour or language
can be respectful or disrespectful. This can be shown in the
way they deal with you, their sisters or brothers, their friends
or other people in their life.
It can be very useful to have some ideas about negotiating with
teenagers. There is a helpful example of negotiating a curfew
with teens in Helping Children Thrive which can be located at
Young people themselves, may find
the following websites useful:
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What to do about anger
Anger is a feeling. It is not good or bad. Everyone feels angry
sometimes. Some people and children, think they can’t get
angry because they will be abused for being angry. They might
feel they can’t talk about or show their anger. It is not anger
that is the problem, but rather the way that people behave
when they are angry. Ways of showing anger like name calling,
yelling, teasing, embarrassing or insulting others or using
physical attacks and violence are not helpful, appropriate or
acceptable ways of expressing anger.
You can help by:
♥ Telling your children it is okay to have angry feelings, for
example, “I can see that you are angry and it’s okay to be
angry – let’s talk about it”, “That is making you angry, isn’t it
– it’s okay to be angry – let’s talk about it”, “ I can
understand why you are angry – let’s talk about it”.
♥ Helping them put a name to their feelings such as anger,
“Are you doing that because you are feeling angry?”, “Are
you feeling angry about something?”
♥ Showing your anger in ways that don’t hurt others, for
example, by saying how you feel and talking about why you
are angry rather than acting it out.
♥ Showing them ways to be angry that don’t hurt others, for
example, “Let’s talk to your brother about how you feel – can
we sort it out – what could you say instead of pushing him?”
What if children behave abusively?
Children may behave like the abusive partner. If they see that
being angry gets him what he wants, they learn that if they get
angry they too might get what they want.
Many children who have lived with domestic violence often
display that type of behaviour themselves or they might also be
scared that they will turn out just like the abusive partner. They
may have noticed that they behave like him or they may have
been told that they are “just like their father”. Sometimes a
child may step into the abuser role when the abuser is not
there. You might want to excuse violent or abusive behaviour
because of what your child has been through, but abuse and
violence are always unacceptable.
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So what can you do if your child is behaving in this way?
♥ Do not give in to a threat or demand.
♥ Use respectful behaviour yourself - don’t use abusive
behaviour (i.e., yelling insults, hitting).
♥ Bring the child’s attention to the behaviour - don’t ignore the
behaviour: your child needs to learn not to be abusive.
♥ Tell the child you both need some time apart to calm down.
♥ Tell the child you will speak with him or her later.
♥ Find a chance to talk calmly with your child.
♥ Let your child know that you understood that he/she felt
angry and why you think he/she felt angry by saying
something like "You were angry with me because I wouldn’t
let you watch that movie – I can understand that”.
♥ Explain gently that they behaved the way they saw others
behave in the past, for example, “Can you see that you are
showing your anger like your dad showed his anger?
Remember how that didn’t feel good?”
♥ Say why the behaviour was wrong for example it is not okay
to call people mean names/to hurt them…even when you are
♥ Make it clear that there will be consequences for abusive
behaviour in the future. Talk about the consequences with
your child. Help them to come up with what would be a fair
consequence, for example, you can choose to hit your
brother and you won’t be able to watch TV for a week (or
something else that they enjoy) or you can choose not to hit
your brother and to tell him how you are feeling and then
you can watch TV this week. Make sure that you keep this
deal. It must be followed through the very first time that the
deal is done.
If the child repeats the abusive behaviour:
♥ Repeat the steps above and make sure you carry out the
deal the very first time the deal is broken.
♥ Stay calm and make it clear that the consequence is because
abusive behaviour is not acceptable.
Be consistent and respond each and every time the child
is abusive. Being consistent is so important - but you must
make a clear deal before you give the consequence:
You should not say: “You hit your brother - you can’t watch TV
for a week”. It must be clear to your child that “If you hit
your brother you can’t watch TV for a week” or “if you don’t hit
your brother you can watch TV this week.”
Being consistent is hard – but it works!
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Family roles
In most families, children can assume a particular role to meet
their needs. When children are living in a home where there is
violence and abuse they can develop different roles as a way of
The following has been adapted from Helping Children Thrive
(Baker and Cunningham 2004).
Roles can be:
The child acts as a parent to younger brothers and sisters and
even you. They might assume sole responsibility for routines
and household jobs. They might also help to keep their brothers
and sisters safe when the violence happens and comfort them
Mother’s Confidant
The child knows your feelings, concerns, and plans. After
witnessing abusive incidents, his or her recollections may serve
as a “reality check” for you, if the abuser later minimises or lies
about events.
Abuser’s Confidant
The child might be treated better by the abuser and might be
told by the abuser that you deserve the abuse. The child might
be asked to report back on your behaviour. The abuser might
reward the child for reporting back to them by not being violent
towards that child or allowing them to do things or have what
they want.
Abuser’s Assistant
The child may be recruited or forced to assist in abusing you by
saying awful things or physically injuring you.
Perfect child
The child thinks that their behaviour is causing the violence. The
child tries to be good believing that this will stop the violence
from happening. The child might try really hard to do well at
school, or to not argue or show poor behaviour. They might not
look for help in case it makes the violence worse.
The child who tries to keep the peace. They may try to
physically intervene when the violence is happening.
The child is told that they are the cause of the problems. They
might be told that they are to blame for the poor relationship
between their parents or told that if they behaved better there
would be no violence.
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One or more of these roles may be familiar to you in regard to
your child. You may feel concerned about the role that has been
imposed, or assumed by your child. To assist with
understanding more about this role, it is beneficial to talk to
your child about it.
A conversation could start by saying, “ I remember when Dad used to
yell at me, you took your sisters into the bedroom. Could you tell me
about why you did that?” or “It seems that you are putting a lot of
pressure on yourself to get high grades at school, is this true? Could
you tell me what this might be about?”
What does your child think about the role that they are playing?
What skills have they utilised for this role?
Are they able to transfer these skills into other areas of their life?
How has the role been useful for them? (For example the role may
have been used as a safety strategy).
Is the role still useful for them?
Conversations like these can add to your knowledge about your
child’s experience of domestic violence. It can validate their
experience and the resources that they have developed. It can
also help you and your child to recognise positive and negative
aspects of the role. If you, or your child, are finding things like
this difficult it may be useful to speak to a counsellor, school
guidance officer, social worker or a domestic violence worker.
Talking with the school
Too often mothers and children are the ones that have to move
from home because of abuse. This means that many children
are faced with settling into a new school. Children spend a good
deal of their time at school and benefit from the routines,
structure, activities, social opportunities, and the positive
learning environment.
Getting to know your child’s teacher is one way you can stay in
touch with how your child is going at school and to begin to
develop a network of support for him or her. Teachers get to
know their students well and often take notice of the ups and
downs they experience. A teacher’s observations of a child’s
behaviour can provide valuable feedback.
Principals may be familiar with domestic violence protection
orders. They can assist with arrangements consistent with a
court order that increases children’s safety in or around the
school grounds and can ensure the restriction of information
provided about a child to unknown inquirers. It is important to
understand that school staff cannot enforce a court order.
However, they can notify police if any unauthorised person tries
to access or pick up your child from school.
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How an abusive partner can affect
a mother as she parents
Living in an abusive relationship can have a devastating effect
on all aspects of your life, including physical and emotional
health as well as parenting. You may find that some of the
following things have happened to you and your children.
1. When children see how your partner is treating you, they
may learn to disrespect you and your authority as a parent.
For example, some children may blame their mother and
see her as stupid and helpless and not follow her rules. You
may find that you are the target of abuse from the children.
2. An abusive partner can upset the relationship between you
and your child or children by not allowing you to comfort
them or provide for their needs. It could be that you were
even stopped from spending quality time with your child or
being involved in their activities.
Indirectly the behaviour of an abusive partner causes a
range of emotional health problems including loss of
confidence, loss of believing in yourself, depression, poor
parenting and substance abuse. This can sometimes lead to
the child accepting responsibility for caring for you, or being
angry with you for not protecting them. Some children may
feel ashamed and you may experience rejection or violence
from your children if they have assumed the role of the
3. You may also believe you are unfit as a parent if you have
come to believe what your abusive partner has been telling
you. Or you could feel guilty about the effects of the abuse
on your children. Other effects can be lack of energy caused
by sickness as a result of living with an abusive partner. You
might also worry about having the children taken by the
Department of Child Safety. If the children are having
difficulties at school or disagreements, the guilty feeling
could be worse and you may feel that it is your fault.
4. As a mother living in an abusive relationship, you may have
had the experience of your child being used as a weapon
against you. This can happen when the child is deliberately
placed in danger or threats are made to harm, kill or kidnap
the children, or blame you for the separation.
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5. As a mother you may have felt that you had to deliberately
change your parenting style in response to the abuser’s
parenting style. If he is too authoritarian, you may respond
by becoming too permissive, or you could become too
authoritarian to keep the children from annoying the abuser.
Many mothers have had the experience of being left with the
task of disciplining the children, while the abusive parent
does the enjoyable or fun parts of child rearing.
6. It is possible that some of the ways you have used to try to
survive may have had negative effects on your health and
well-being and that of your children. Some mothers misuse
alcohol or drugs, or mistreat the children physically or
verbally, while some who just need a break may leave the
children with carers who do not look after them very well.
Adapted from Bancroft & Silverman 2002
Are some of these things happening for you? There is more
helpful information about how an abusive partner can affect all
parts of your life, including parenting, online at
10 ways you can influence your child’s behaviour
Adapted from Helping Children Thrive (Baker & Cunningham,
1. Be a good role model
Children do as you do. You can show how to respect yourself
and others. You can show yourself being polite, being honest,
making good choices, acting with love and understanding,
showing good ways of feeling sad, angry, confused, happy,
excited or disappointed. You can show how to be fair to women
and men. You can show any behaviour or attitude you want
them to show. To change children’s behaviour you must
influence your own behaviour!
Abusive men can be self-centred, thinking only about
themselves. They can make poor role models. Children may
learn that ways of power and control can get them what they
want and that it is acceptable to use these ways. An abusive
man may show that criminal behaviour, lack of respect for
police or others in authority, drug and alcohol use, racism, antiwomen attitudes, selfishness, lying or victim blaming is okay. It
is not okay!
Children might be caught between the mother’s rules and the
father’s rules, or be confused because the rules change all the
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2. Be clear about what you want them to do
Life with young children can seem to be saying “no” and “don’t”
and “stop that” all the time.
It is important to teach children what not to do, but also show
which behaviours are valued.
Instead of: “Don’t hit the pussy cat!”
Try: “Pat the pussy cat nicely”.
Instead of: “Stop that whingeing!”
Try: “Use your words to tell me what you want”.
Instead of: “Be home by 10 or else!”
Try: “When you get home at 10, we can watch TV together.”.
In other words, when you ask for one behaviour to stop, say
which behaviour should replace it.
3. Praise good behaviour
Inappropriate behaviour sometimes gets more of our attention
than good behaviour. Praising good behaviour encourages more
good behaviour! Try it!
“Well done for putting your toys away!”
“I like how you share toys with your sister.”
“Thanks for ringing me to say you’re going to Tina’s house after
school. Now I won’t worry.”
It is helpful to use 5 “praises” for every time you are not
Children may have been emotionally abused and called names.
They might have been corrected all the time, insulted and never
encouraged or praised. They may develop a fear of failure that
prevents them from trying new things. Encourage them by
saying “Good try”, “You nearly did it” “You had a good go at
Children may have been told that they are stupid or ugly. The
way they feel about themselves may be affected. They need to
hear that they are doing many things “right” or well.
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4. Focus on the behaviour
You love your children but you don’t always love their
behaviour. When you praise them (or want to influence their
behaviour) focus on the behaviour rather than the qualities of
your child.
Instead of: “You’re a messy boy!”
Try: “I don’t like this mess in the lounge room.”
Instead of: “You are beautiful.”
Try: “You know how to pick clothes that look great.”
When there has been violence in the family, don’t think that
boys will grow up to be abusers and girls will be victims. If you
catch yourself wanting to say these things, stop.
It isn’t helpful to say “You are just like your father!” or “You are
acting just like your father!” You could say, “Let’s find different
ways to do this – you can do things differently”.
5. Give the reason behind what you ask
Instead of: “Turn that TV down!”
Try: “I have a headache. If the TV isn’t so loud, I can rest.”
Instead of: “Get down from there!”
Try:“I need you to stop climbing on the bookcase because it
could fall over on you.”
If they know why you want them to do something or not to do
something they may listen to you more quickly. At first they
might not listen to you more quickly but over time they learn
that behaviour has consequences. They also learn to see that
others have different points of view.
It is likely to be unhelpful to continually give orders and expect
them to be carried out immediately and without question.
6. Keep emotion out of discipline
All mothers get tired, frustrated, and irritable sometimes. When
children misbehave at the same time, it can be a bad
combination. Before you react, count to three, take a deep
breath, and think out your next words. Discipline should be a
well thought-out strategy to teach children, not an emotional
...and keep your voice down
Children ignore yelling if it’s all they hear. Living with arguing
and yelling, can make them tune out. Make requests in a
normal tone of voice and let the words, not the volume, get
your point across. When yelling is used only in emergency
situations, like chasing a ball into traffic, they will take notice.
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Children who live with anger, yelling and conflict may cope by
tuning out the noise, distracting themselves with fantasy or
emotional numbing, or learning to yell themselves. Discipline
based on emotion is unpredictable and unfair. This type of
discipline can also be inconsistent, so children see they can get
away with the bad behaviour some of the time.
7. Give children choices but not wide-open choices
Instead of: “Do you want to go to bed?”
Try: “Time for bed. Should we read this book or that book?”
Instead of: “Get in the car”
Try: “Would you like to walk to the car, or will Mummy
carry you?”
Going to bed or getting in the car has to happen. There
is no choice so don’t give a choice. Getting a child to bed
may be easier when they know it is not negotiable and is a
predictable part of the day. Giving a choice between two
options (red or blue pyjamas) may distract them from the
impulse to resist.
Children might never have been asked about how they would
like things or asked for their opinions about anything. Teaching
them how to do this helps them in their future.
8. Expect what is reasonable
It is not reasonable to take a young child shopping during their
sleep time and expect them to behave. Enough sleep is really
important for children (and adults!). Expecting a teenager to go
to bed or to come home by 8pm may not be reasonable. Set
your expectations at a level that suits the child’s age. Talk to
someone who can help you with this if you’re not sure.
9. Keep adult matters among adults
Children too young to understand adult issues can be upset
to hear about them. Keep a clear line between what you tell
children and what you might tell a family member or friend.
It isn’t fair to expect a child to be the person you tell your
problems to. They need you to be in charge.
What are adult matters and what are children’s matters in
homes with violence may be confused and children will hear or
be told about intimate and private matters about their mother.
They may have heard or seen sexual assaults. They need to talk
about these things but they can’t cope with being an adult’s
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10. Make time to spend some time playing or talking
Children may act out to get your attention: if misbehaviour is
the only way to get your attention, expect the misbehaviour to
continue. Life is busy with many demands. So we need to make
time to play, talk or just hang out. If you have more than one
child, find one-on-one time with each.
Children may be separated from friends and other children their
own age, especially if the family had to move. A mother may be
exhausted by coping with daily life and not have enough energy
left for the children. Abusive fathers often ignore the children or
make children do unreasonable things before they give them
attention, for example, “when you come and live with me, you
can get your Christmas presents”. Children may even doubt
their mother’s love, feel unworthy of love and attention, or not
want to put pressure on a mother by asking for attention.
Other effects
In 2000 Levendosky, Lynch and Graham-Bermann, conducted a
study with women who had lived with domestic violence. Some
women in this study talked about the positive effects that
domestic violence had on their parenting. They said that they
demonstrated more empathy and care towards their children.
They also said that they tried to find alternatives to negative
discipline strategies such as verbal attacks. Women in this study
also talked about wanting to avoid the repetition of violence in
their children’s lives.
Do you identify with some of these things?
Whilst there are certainly negative effects on parenting, are there some
positive aspects?
Parenting styles
Different parenting styles affect children differently. Looking at
different styles of parenting can help you to understand your
own style better, as well as your children’s experience of that
style. A parenting style is not fixed – it is can change depending
on what is happening in your life (especially in response to
violence). You might use a different parenting style on each of
your children or change it depending on where they are at in
their development.
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The following model is a simple one. It has three parenting
styles – Indulgent or Laissez-faire, Authoritarian, and
Democratic. The main effects, positive and negative, are shown.
These are not definite or unchangeable, and the model does not
show styles that abuse or neglect children. Look at each style
openly and have a think about it - think about what has worked
in the past and what works now for you and your child:
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So why does Democratic Parenting seem to be the
most successful?
Control that is fair and reasonable to the child is far more
likely to be accepted and used
Nurturing parents who feel okay about the standards they
hold for their children show caring, concern, confidence
and appropriate behaviour themselves. A child’s copying
of these parents gives them ways to manage their
feelings, helps them to understand emotions and helps
them understand how things work amongst people when
they go out.
Parents who are warm, rational and reasonable are
probably more effective. They praise their children for
their efforts to meet the parents’ expectations and for
changing their behaviour if the parents don’t like it.
Democratic parents ask children to do things that fit the
children’s ability to be responsible for their own behaviour.
Children then learn that they are capable individuals who
can do things successfully for themselves. This helps
develop their self-esteem, the development of thinking
skills and their emotional maturity.
Adapted from IWCADV mum’s group resource.
What can I see in parenting styles?
What style did my partner use?
What is my style of parenting?
How would I like to parent?
What would need to change?
Who could help with this?
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Loss and grief
Just like adults, children can experience many levels of loss as a
result of domestic violence. Losses include:
home and belongings
The grieving process is a very individual and personal process.
Children, like adults may need opportunities to move through
the stages of grief in their own way. There is no one way and
moving back and forward between stages can happen. It is
important to realise that a new loss may trigger a previous
grieving process and memories of a previous loss.
The following information has been adapted from Brasch and
Keen (2006). Further information can be found at
The five stages of grief are:
1. Shock and denial – faced with a painful event or
circumstance a child may refuse to believe that anything has
happened, and may hang on to false explanations. This stage is
usually short.
2. Anger – when children realise the painful ‘truth’ they can
find that their feelings are hard to cope with, for example,
feeling incredibly angry about what has happened. They may
feel “Why me”, and wonder why it hasn’t happened to other
people that they know. Children need help with talking about
their anger to stop them from feeling that their world will
always feel unfair and unsafe.
3. Bargaining – children can feel that they are to blame for the
loss, wondering whether the loss would have happened if they
had been a “better” child. A child may pray to God, or tell the
family that they will be “better” if they are all back together
4. Depression – feeling sad, sorry, guilty, helpless, hurt and
not having any hope can be too much for a child. Supporting
a child through this, letting the child talk about their loss and
feelings can be very painful for adults, but it really helps.
Professional assistance should always be found if a child says
they have thoughts of suicide.
5. Acceptance – saying what the loss is, talking about the loss
and coming to understand that things can change for the better
is really important. After this stage has been reached, children
usually go back to how they were before the loss happened.
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Tips to help children with loss and grief
Children lack life experiences and are still learning about
themselves. Children are individuals and respond to change
differently. Change does not always mean a child will be
disturbed, as some will respond with excitement and look
forward to something new. If your child is sad, angry or upset,
they are likely to be moving through a normal process of
accepting change. Things to remember that help are:
Communication is extremely important
make the time to listen to a child
encourage them and let them talk about and show their
thoughts and feelings in a natural way
let them know what happened is not their fault
be honest with children without frightening them
create a sense of security, reassure them
offer patience if children repeatedly ask questions
try not to make the children deal with loss like you have.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with loss.
Understandably adults can sometimes be so sad and caught up in their
own grief that they don’t realise what or how the children are feeling.
Contact with Dad
After separation, women most often want to keep a relationship
going between their children and their father, and might try
different arrangements that haven’t been organised with others.
Sometimes these arrangements can give the abuser the chance
to continue to be abusive or even more abusive. At changeover
times the abuser can try and manipulate you or try and talk to
you over the phone to change the arrangements.
Spending time with dad should be a positive experience for
children. It helps children if you plan ahead, if they know what
to expect, what they need to take, and when they will see you
again. Children are affected by change in different ways and it
can be hard for them to get used to these changes and to
separate from one parent and then separate from the other
parent. They may feel upset, anxious, or uncertain. They may
have difficulty expressing unsettled emotions and this may
change their behaviour. Children of different ages will
express themselves differently.
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You can help by:
Letting children know what will happen ahead of time, so
they can prepare themselves for contact
Allowing children to take along things that are important
to them, for example a favourite toy
Allowing a child time to recover from the change when
they get home
Telling your child that you love them
Letting your children know that you understand that it is
difficult for them
Listening, and providing chances for them to talk to you
about how they feel
Avoiding strong reactions to what your child tells you
about time spent with the other parent
Reassuring your child that you are there for them and
they can count on you to protect them
Providing a calm atmosphere that is the same every time
the children come home
Letting your child know that it is not their fault that mum
and dad are not together
Not using your child as a friend / counsellor for support
Not influencing your child to take sides and to think less of
their other parent.
If you feel that your child is being abused or is unsafe when spending
time with their father then you should seek legal advice.
If parents have trouble making or keeping arrangements for
parenting that suit them, either parent can talk to the Family
Law Court. Since July 1, 2006, across Australia, the way the
Family Law court manages parenting matters has changed. For
further information phone the Family Relationships Advice Line
Phone: 1800 050 321, or access Family Relationships Online It is critical that you
inform them of the violence that has occurred. It is also
very important that you seek legal advice. Contact Legal Aid
Queensland 1300 651188 or or your
nearest Community Legal Centre.
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Healthy relationships
The following information is helpful in considering our
relationships with everyone, especially our children, our
families, our friends and fellow workers.
Healthy relationships show respect, sharing and trust.
Respect - listening to each other, caring about the other
person’s opinions and listening in an open way. Respect also
means trying to understand the other person’s feelings and
accepting that the way they feel is okay.
Trust and support - supporting what the other person wants
to do in their life and respecting that they have their own
feelings, opinions, friends, activities and interests. It is about
letting others be what they want to be and how they want to
Truth and honesty – being open and truthful, saying you
made a mistake or that you were wrong, and for the abuser,
being open about the use of violence and accepting
responsibility for their behaviour.
Sharing responsibility - making family/relationship decisions
together, agreeing how the work at home can be shared so that
it is fair to both partners. Couples share the responsibilities for
parenting and act in a positive way without using violence.
Economic partnership - in marriage or living together,
making financial decisions together, and making sure both
partners get equal positives out of these financial
Negotiation and fairness - being willing to give way a bit so
that the other person can have some of what they want and you
can also have some of what you want. It is also about accepting
change and seeking ways that satisfy both people in the
Non-threatening behaviour - talking and acting in a way that
promotes both people’s feelings of safety in the relationship.
Both people should feel comfortable and safe in expressing
him/herself and in engaging in activities.
Healthy relationships are important for kids too!
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Basic rights in a relationship
Looking at the things listed above, if we were to make that into
a bill of rights for relationships, it could look like this:
The right to have support for your feelings
The right to be listened to and to be spoken to politely
The right to have your own point of view, especially if it is
different from the other person’s
The right to have your feelings listened to and what you
are going through listened to – and valued
The right to live without being accused and blamed
The right to live without being criticised and judged
The right to live without threats as to how you feel and
without threats of violence
The right to live without angry outbursts and rage
The right to be respectfully asked and not ordered to do
Adapted from Patricia Evans (1992) The Verbally Abusive
You deserve these rights
in all of your relationships
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We know that many of the ideas in this book are new and
possibly challenging, and some might be asking you to do
things that are too difficult at the moment. This is okay and we
hope that you find some of these things useful, as you go
through this difficult time in your life.
Being a mother can be demanding. One of the most important
things you can do to help your kids is to look after yourself and
your health – eat well, sleep well, use relaxation and have
regular medical checks. There is no need to feel alone as you
continue on this journey. There are people around who can help
and support you. Seeking support is a sign of courage and
commitment to both yourself and your children. The journey
may be harder and more overwhelming if you attempt to face it
alone. Even though you may no longer be living in domestic
violence, workers in domestic violence services can offer
support and guidance as you continue along the path of self
discovery and healing. School counsellors and parenting groups
are also a great source of information and assistance. It’s
important to work out what you and your children need and
continue to follow your intuition and inner guidance as to what
is best. Once you find this place of ‘knowing’ it can help you to
create a safe, happy and healthy environment for yourself and
your family. Enjoy this journey, there will be steps both forward
and backward; be patient with yourself. Remember it is the
journey and not the end result that is important.
If you would like to provide feedback on this resource or if you
would like further information please contact:
Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Service
Phone: 07 4639 3605
The Advocacy and Support Centre (Community Support
Phone: 07 46169700
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BAKER, L. L., and CUNNINGHAM, A. J. (2004) Helping Children
Thrive: Supporting Woman Abuse Survivors as Mothers, a
Resource to Support Parenting. Centre for Children and Families
in the Justice System, London Family Court Clinic, Inc [web
page], date accessed 26 July 2006.
BANCROFT, L. and SILVERMAN, J. (2002) The Batterer as
Parent: Addressing the Impact of Domestic Violence on Family
Dynamics. California: Sage Productions.
BRASCH, M., & KEEN, B. (2006) Grief and Loss [web page] date
accessed: 15 Sept 2006.
EVANS, P. M., (1992) The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to
Recognise It and How to Respond. Canada: Adams Media
‘Parenting Styles - IWCADV Parenting Group Resource’.
JAFFE, P. G., and CROOKS, C. V. (2005) Understanding
women's experiences parenting in the context of domestic
violence: Implications for community and court–related service
providers. Washington, DC: Violence Against Women Online
Resources [web page]
ndv/parentingindv.html date accessed 15 Sept 2006.
(2000) “Mothers’ Perceptions of the Impact of Woman Abuse on
Their Parenting”, Violence Against Women, Vol 6, No. 3 March,
pages 247-271.
RESEARCH (2003) Fact Sheets- Children and Domestic and
Family Violence [web page] date accessed 10 Nov 2006. date accessed 7 Nov 2006.
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES date accessed 17 Aug 2006. date accessed 1 Nov
2006. date accessed 10 Sept 2006. date accessed 1 Nov 2006. date accessed 15 Sept 2006.
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