register

Human Resources

Invisible behaviours mothers of domestic violence adopt to protect their children – new Australian study

Health Industry Hub | July 6, 2020 |

As emerging data shows an alarming rise of domestic violence during the pandemic, researchers at the University of South Australia are urging practitioners to look beyond clinical observations and focus on the strengths that mothers exercise to protect their children from domestic abuse.

It is important for each of us to understand the magnitude of this crisis, how common it is in our organisations and networks, and act by providing support and resources through our organisations.

The call follows UniSA research that upends the perception that abused women are unable to adequately protect their children, instead revealing the ways that women think and act to shield their children from abuse, often at the expense of their own personal safety.

In the past 12 months, more than 243 million women and girls (aged 15-49) across the globe, were subjected to sexual or physical violence by an intimate partner. In Australia, one in six (or 1.6 million women) have experienced physical or sexual violence with 80 per cent experiencing coercive control by a current or previous partner since the age of 15. More than a quarter of the women said that children in their care had witnessed this violence and abuse.

One in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15.

Lead researcher and experienced social worker, UniSA’s Dr Fiona Buchanan, says practitioners need to recognise mothers’ protective behaviour if they are to work towards increasing safety for women and children living in abusive environments.

“Far too often, women are perceived as passive victims of domestic abuse, who while enduring unconscionable abuse, are unable to protect their own children,” Dr Buchanan says.

“But what many practitioners don’t realise is that these women are protecting their children in many unseen ways, that hope to reduce the likelihood of an abusive partner lashing out.

“The mothers in our research talked about the things they did to avoid conflict with their partners, things like controlling the home environment – making sure dinner was ready and on the table; ensuring the children were clean and quiet; and by making sure the house was neat and tidy.

“By trying to pre-empt abuse, they sought to limit their partner’s aggressive outbursts, effectively managing his mood and behaviour to safeguard their children’s wellbeing.”

The study also showed that mothers intentionally tried to ‘keep the peace’ by purposely avoiding conflict with aggressive partners.

“Protective behaviours could span anything from keeping the children out of harm’s way when they thought an assault was likely to occur, to putting themselves physically close to their abuser to try and placate him,” Dr Buchanan says.

“In this instance, despite wanting to put distance between them and their violent partner, they placed themselves closer to the danger, arguably increasing risk to themselves in order to reduce the risk to the children.”

Using interviews and focus groups UniSA’s Dr Buchanan and Professor Nicole Moulding explored the lived experiences of 16 women who had mothered children in domestic abuse, hoping to better understand their thoughts, feelings and actions during that time. Each of the women had left their abusive partner at least one year prior to participating in the study.

Dr Buchanan warns that practitioners who rely on attachment theory (the observed emotional bonds between children and caregivers) in child protection practice are at risk of overlooking invisible acts of protective agency. 

“Despite the popularity of attachment theory in child protection, it does not offer much guidance about supporting women and children living in abusive home environments, especially as it categorises the child-mother relationship without context,” Dr Buchanan says.

“Clinical observation downplays the protective role of mothers in abusive relationships and promotes a notion of ‘bad mothering’.

“There is no evidence to assume that abused women are worse mothers.

“Instead of identifying deficits and assigning blame, practitioners should seek to understand the invisible behaviours that women engage in behind closed doors to protect their children from abuse.

“A strengths-based approach is essential if we are to move towards more positive and empowered practices of safety and protection.

“Sadly, we cannot remove women and children from these terrible scenarios without taking a good look at the society which tolerates domestic abuse and blames women for being victimised.”

Inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence

On 4 June 2020, the House Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs adopted an inquiry into family, domestic and sexual violence. The inquiry was referred by the Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator the Hon Anne Ruston.

Through this inquiry the Committee will seek to inform the next National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children.

Make a submission as an individual or an organisation.

Submissions close:  Friday, 24 July 2020

Other Domestic Abuse Statistics

  • One in four women have experienced emotional abuse by a current or former partner since the age of 15
  • Almost 40 per cent of women continue to experience violence from a partner while temporarily separated
  • Indigenous women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised due to family violence than non-indigenous women.
  • Violence against women and children is estimated to cost the Australian economy $22 billion a year.

News & Trends - Biotechnology

AusBiotech appoints new CEO: Former Sanofi corporate affairs and sustainability leader takes the helm

AusBiotech appoints new CEO: Former Sanofi corporate affairs and sustainability leader takes the helm

Health Industry Hub | April 23, 2024 |

Biotech News: AusBiotech, the nation’s leading industry body for the biotech sector, has named former leader at Sanofi, Rebekah Cassidy, […]

More


News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Federal government invests in Siemens Healthineers scanner to 'reduce wait times' for cancer diagnosis

Federal government invests in Siemens Healthineers scanner to ‘reduce wait times’ for cancer diagnosis

Health Industry Hub | April 23, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: The Albanese Government is investing $12 million through the 2024–25 Budget, to purchase and install a […]

More


News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Cardiac device benefits face more cuts, while technical services remain secure in the short term

Cardiac device benefits face more cuts, while technical services remain secure in the short term

Health Industry Hub | April 23, 2024 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: Starting from July 2024, Cardiac Implantable Electronic Devices (CIED) listed on the Prescribed List (PL) will […]

More


News & Trends - Biotechnology

CSL's world-first gene therapy heads for MSAC assessment

CSL’s world-first gene therapy heads for MSAC evaluation

Health Industry Hub | April 23, 2024 |

Biotech News: CSL’s world-first gene therapy for haemophilia B is scheduled for consideration at the upcoming Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC) […]

More


This content is copyright protected. Please subscribe to gain access.