Mothering through Domestic Violence

By Lorraine Radford; Marianne Hester | Go to book overview

3
Resisting Mother Blaming

We argued in Chapter 1 that the individualization of responsibility for crime and victimization has provided a cultural and political context in which mother blaming can flourish and perpetrators 'disappear'. Women who are abused are sometimes seen by the police, child protection and the courts as responsible for their own victimization. Even some feminist interventions stress individual responsibilities by focusing on 'helping women to develop the personal resolve to stay out of an abusive relationship' (Nichols and Feltey 2003, p.785). We do not believe that there is one route that women follow when moving from 'victim' of domestic violence to 'survivor'. Not all women who have lived with domestic violence identify themselves as 'victims' or as 'survivors' because their experiences do not match the images that the terms 'victim' and 'survivor' of domestic violence invoke in contemporary cultural contexts. 'Victim' of domestic violence is associated with the term 'battered woman' so widely used in the US literature. This suggests the vision of severe, frequent physical assault verging on the lethal, and excludes the broader range of abusive, manipulative and controlling behaviour that domestic violence often includes. Women's experiences of domestic violence are very varied. Not all women who live with domestic violence are beaten daily by their partners, although research findings show that the violence may escalate in severity and frequency over the course of the relationship (Dobash and Dobash 1980). In our interviews with women, we heard that living with the threat of abusive behaviour may be constant for some women, but many also remember good times when the partner's behaviour rekindled their hope that things could change (Dominy and Radford 1996; Hester and Radford 1996a). The term 'battered woman'further invokes an image of the batterer as an all-powerful demon but the majority are ordinary men (Corvo and Johnson 2003), and, as others have noted, often also charming (Horley 2002). The

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