Dale BagshawUniversity of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia
Recognizing and disclosing domestic violence is difficult for the “victims” or “survivors, ” who are usually women and children. The difficulties women face in disclosing domestic violence to service providers was highlighted in 1996 by two Australian studies. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) national Women's Safety Survey ( 1) found that only a small proportion (26%) of women subjected to violence use crisis services or contact the police. Most women reported that they “dealt with it themselves” ( 2). In the same year, another Australian study ( 3) of mediation and domestic violence identified that of the 75 identified abused women who had attended family mediation sessions with their partner during the process of separation or divorce, 8 had told the agency “hardly anything, ” and 12 said “nothing” about the abuse or violence in their relationship, in spite of being asked. Seven did not answer this survey question.
This chapter will explore the many factors that constrain women from diverse cultural backgrounds from disclosing violence to mediators and other service providers, with reference to the political, social and cultural context within which violence occurs. As mediation relies on a roughly equal balance of power between the parties, and competence to negotiate for oneself, it is argued that screening individuals separately for experiences of domestic violence is necessary before mediation, in particular, during separation and divorce when violence is more likely to occur. This requires special mediator knowledge of the likely