Domestic Violence and the
Maltreatment of Children
As we began to outline in Chapter 2, children are a crucial part of the equation for women experiencing violence from male partners. It is important to recognize that women may decide to leave a violent relationship because they see their children affected by the violence, but that they may also decide to stay 'for the sake of the children' because the material circumstances are more advantageous for the children if they do so. Domestic violence perpetrators may draw the children into their abuse of the mother, or the children may also experience abuse directly from him. For mothers who have left violent men, children may enable the ex-partner to seek her out and to continue his abuse. In this chapter, we consider some of these aspects, examining in particular documented links between violence to mothers and the abuse of their children. In Chapter 5, we go on to discuss the impact on children of living in a context where their mother is being abused, as well as the implications for practice.
In the UK as in North America, it was workers and volunteers in the women's refuges or shelters who first realized that children were also being affected by living in a context of domestic violence, and that there were overlaps between violence to mothers and maltreatment of their children. Shelters developed some of the earliest work with children on their experiences of living with domestic violence, which in the UK included the appointment in the 1980s of 'refuge children's workers' specifically responsible for children's welfare (Debbonnaire 1994; Hague et al. 2000). Recognition that children are