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Violence Against Women-2010-Hester-516-23.pdf

Violence Against Women-2010-Hester-516-23.pdf

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Violence Against Women-2010-Hester-516-23.pdf
Violence Against Women-2010-Hester-516-23.pdf

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Violence AgainstWomen
Violence Against Women 
Marianne Hester
Heather Douglas and Tamara WalshCommentary on ''Mothers, Domestic Violence, and Child Protection,'' by
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by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from by Claudine Dombrowski on October 23, 2013vaw.sagepub.comDownloaded from 
 
Research Symposium
Violence Against Women16(5) 516 –523© The Author(s) 2010Reprints and permission: http://www.sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.navDOI: 10.1177/1077801210366289http://vaw.sagepub.com
Commentary on“Mothers, DomesticViolence, and ChildProtection,” byHeather Douglasand Tamara Walsh
Marianne Hester 
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Keywords
domestic violence, child protection, child contact and visitation
Douglas and Walsh outline the often problematic and negative outcomes for both womenand children experiencing violence from male partners, resulting from contradictory practices of professionals dealing with domestic violence. Though the article is about Australia,these are issues that are equally valid and relevant, and continually repeated, across manycountries (e.g., United States, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands,Sweden, Denmark; see Eriksson & Hester, 2001; Hester, 2002; Humphreys et al., 2007;Jaffe, Lemon, & Poisson, 2003; Radford & Hester 2006). The authors are especiallyconcerned with what they identify as contradictory practices and discourses relating todomestic violence within child protection work. However, these problems may also beunderstood within a wider set of contradictions related to the areas involving direct work with victims and perpetrators of domestic violence, child protection, and child contact or visitation. These three areas, at least in the United Kingdom, have developed in suchdifferent ways that they might be conceptualized as being located on three separate “planets,”each with their own separate histories, culture, laws, and populations (i.e., sets of professionals;Hester, 2004, 2009a).In each of the three “planets” of domestic violence work, child protection, and childcontact/visitation, there are distinct “cultural histories” underpinning practices and outcomes.Domestic violence work in the United Kingdom (and many other countries) has been
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University of Bristol, UK
Corresponding Author:
Marianne Hester, Centre for Gender and Violence Research, School for Policy Studies,University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TZ, UKEmail: Marianne.hester@bristol.ac.uk 
 
Hester 
517
influenced by feminist understanding of domestic violence as gender based, and tends tosee the problem as (mainly) male perpetrators impacting on (mainly) female victims or survivors. The work of child protection services in the United Kingdom has a very differenthistory to that of domestic violence, with the family, and in particular “dysfunctional”families, as central to the problem. Within this approach the focus is on the child and her or his main carer, usually the mother. These structural factors, with domestic violence andchild protection work on different “planets,” have made it especially difficult to integrate practice and have resulted in child protection work where there is a tendency to see mothersas failing to protect their children rather than as the victims of domestic violence, andwhere violent male perpetrators are often ignored (Hester, 2009a). These difficulties aremade even more complex when both child protection and arrangements for child visitation postseparation of the parents intersect. Within the contexts of divorce proceedings, mothersmust be perceived as proactively encouraging child contact and must not be attempting to“aggressively protect” their children from the direct or indirect abuse of a violent father (Radford & Hester, 2006). The child protection and child visitation/contact planets thuscreate further contradictions for mothers and children: There may be an expectation thatmothers should protect their children, but at the same time, formally constituted arrangementsfor visitation may be implemented that do not adequately take into account that in someinstances mothers and/or children may experience further abuse.While these “planetary” problems have been documented as applying to the UnitedKingdom, the United States, and many European countries, they also appear to be reflectedin Douglas and Walsh’s Australian example. The Australian research involved focus groupdiscussions with a range of professionals “who support mothers dealing with both domesticviolence and child protection matters,” and specifically staff from “community organizationsthat assist mothers in their dealing with child safety authorities.” These professionals maythus be construed as being located on the domestic violence planet, focusing on safetyand protection of women (the adults) experiencing domestic violence, and perceiving theworld primarily from that vantage point. The authors indicate that, “The primary concernraised by study participants was that child protection officials often misunderstood thedynamics of domestic violence and that this has negative consequences for both mothers andchildren.” This is not surprising within the “planetary” framework, where such frustrationsmay be understood as occurring because the professionals on the other planets do not, andcannot, perceive the world in the same way without a major realignment of the planetsconcerned.The remainder of this commentary will look more closely at the issues brought to thefore by Douglas and Walsh’s research, as it applies within the English context.
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Child Protection
In England the child protection framework is provided through the Children Act 1989 and2004, the Adoption and Children Act 2002, and to a lesser extent the Domestic ViolenceCrime and Victims Act 2004. The emphasis, as in Australia, is on intervention in families

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