Diminished Rights: Danish Lone Mother Families in International Context

By Valerie Polakow; Therese Halskov et al. | Go to book overview

Part III:
Violence and the culture of silence

The impact of family violence

As we reflect on the linkages between social and economic vulnerability and violence among the women in our study, it is significant to note that 11 of the 20 lone mothers we interviewed were also victims and survivors of domestic violence. While we did not purposefully select women who had experienced domestic violence (only four were contacted through crisis centres), it was during the course of our qualitative interviews that the experience of domestic violence emerged as a central and traumatic theme of family life. Of the 14 life stories presented in this study, eight emerge engulfed by violence, and for four of the women, childhood abuse forms another layer of a violent life history.

What does life under siege do to economically vulnerable lone mothers, and how do they cope with their dual responsibilities as nurturers and providers for their children? How do they and their children live with the daily terrors of threats, assaults and violations of their selfhood? And, more importantly, how do the social and legal authorities perceive the situations of battered women and their children – as marital discord? As the couple’s own problem to solve? Or as criminal behaviour and assault? As we listen to the following stories of Sanne and Lone – Danish women who have suffered extreme brutality at the hands of their male partners – and recall the experiences of Gina and Hanne in Part I, and of Carmina, Adriana, Emilie and Zeinab in Part II, it is clear that all these mothers have experienced varying levels of indifference and inaction from the police and the legal authorities, which were further exacerbated if the victims were ethnic minority women. In most situations chronicled in this book, the social authorities appear frequently neglectful of the women’s needs and fail to recognize the traumatic impact of violence on their lives and the destabilizing effect on the family unit. The patriarchal bias that favours fathers’ rights and the legal and social welfare presumption that the best interests of the children are served by ongoing contact with their fathers, irrespective of their violent behaviour, creates an ongoing

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