Domestic Violence and Child Protection: Directions for Good Practice

By Cathy Humphreys; Nicky Stanley | Go to book overview

Introduction

Cathy Humphreys and Nicky Stanley

Promising developments are now beginning to emerge in the professional response to the needs of children living with domestic violence. These interventions are in contrast to the previous history of child welfare services which have been castigated for their generally poor record in responding to domestic violence. Archival research on child-care agency files since the early 1900s points to decades of attention to children's needs which has excluded recognition and consideration of violence towards mothers (Gordon 1988). Further research on statutory case files in both the US (Stark and Flitcraft 1988) and the UK (Humphreys 2000; Maynard 1985) demonstrates that the trend continued. Women have been either urged to stay with their abusive partners for the sake of the children (Maynard 1985) or more recently blamed for their 'failure to protect' through not separating from violent men (Humphreys 1999). The link to direct child abuse was slow to emerge (Farmer and Owen 1998; Stanley 1997) and the destructive effects of children witnessing domestic violence underestimated (Brandon and Lewis 1996). The problems for black and minority ethnic women accessing services were minimised (Imam 1994), the issues for disabled women relocating ignored (Pryke and Thomas 1998), and there was a consistent slippage away from the man's violence to focus on the mother's problems (Mullender 1996). In some states in the US, this position has been taken to the extreme with women facing legal charges when they do not separate from violent men (Magen 1999).

The consistency of this pattern points to a profound separation in the discourses of child abuse and woman abuse which underpins structural and organisational barriers to an integrated response to the issue. An integrated response is one which centralises the following principles: first, the development of policy and practice which directs responsibility to perpetrators and their abuse; second, a commitment to work with domestic violence survivors (usually) women and children from diverse backgrounds to ensure their safety and well-being. This

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