Walking on Eggshells – Mothering
Through Domestic Violence
In this chapter, we challenge the notion that women who have lived with domestic violence will be inadequate parents. Parenting is physically and emotionally more challenging for women who are abused. It is important for professionals to recognize the impact that domestic violence can have upon women's physical and mental health, and take steps to identify violence and prevent it. However, an over-emphasis on women's behaviour as victims has limited thinking about mothering through domestic violence and encouraged the view that what women need most is treatment. This puts mothers in vulnerable positions when seeking help from relevant agencies. It precludes consideration of perpetrators' actions, the wider social and political control of women and, most importantly, how women cope with abuse on a daily basis and, in most cases, overcome it. After reading this chapter and our discussion of the policy implications in Chapter 3, readers should be able to apply a perspective critical of mother blaming and talk safely with women about how best to support them in mothering through the adversity of domestic violence.
Estimates of the prevalence and impact of domestic violence vary widely according to the definition of the problem and the methods used to measure it. Government crime surveys currently define domestic violence as including any form of physical, sexual or emotional abuse between people who are or who have been partners in an intimate relationship (Mirlees-Black 1999; Walby and Allen 2004). This definition is broad enough to include men's violence to women and women's violence to men in heterosexual