Family & Domestic Violence

What is Family Violence

Family violence presents in many forms. In addition to physical assault, it encompasses the following:

  • Direct or indirect threats
  • Sexual assault
  • Emotional and psychological torment
  • Economic control
  • Property damage
  • Social isolation
  • Any behavior that causes a person to live in fear

Research has shown that family violence and violence against women commonly arises when these particular factors are present:

  • An imbalance of power typically due to an unequal distribution of resources between man and woman.
  • Holding fast to rigidly defined gender roles.

Women and children are the most common victims of family violence. Many clients will have experienced family violence growing up. Whether or not they were directly physically harmed or a witness to recurrent violent behaviour, it’s highly likely the client suffered emotional and psychological trauma.

Such trauma usually has far-reaching, long-term effects on the client’s daily life, relationships and parenting.

Young people who have witnessed or experienced violence may go on to repeat that behaviour. In addition, they may have difficulty forming relationships as family violence can compromise and damage their emotional development and disrupt developmental milestones. These clients may experience difficulty learning and significant problems, understanding and processing emotions. They are also far more likely to be prone to intense anger, loneliness, guilt, confusion and/or despair.

A significant proportion of young mothers engaged with young parents’ programs are in relationships that present varying degrees of domestic violence.

Educating clients about Healthy Relationships

When a client’s partner is prone to behaviours that concern Child Protection (domestic violence, substance use etc.), it’s imperative that you educate your client on the many kinds of abuse that exist (physical, emotional, financial etc.).

If your client is able to identify an abusive relationship, hopefully it will aid your ability to support her as well as improving her ability to address these issues.

In situations where the partner’s behaviour is the primary source of your client’s problems and concerns, try and educate both parties together on healthy relationships; that is, cover subjects such as how to function best as a couple, how to manage disputes, how to communicate constructively, how to demonstrate respect for one another etc. Remember that many clients have grown up around unhealthy relationships and therefore never learned what constitutes a healthy relationship or how to build and maintain one. It’s also important to educate your client on what to do if the relationship breaks down again.

Forming a safety plan is recommended so that in crisis situations the client has a clear understanding of where she should go, who she should speak to and where she can seek support.

Safety Planning

In crisis situations where a client and/or her children’s safety is at risk, the safety plan might involve the client leaving her home and engaging domestic violence services that will remove the mother and children from immediate danger. However, in many cases this action can create additional stress and complication for the client due to the crisis nature of the situation and limitations of support that services are able to provide.

In collaboration with other services and supports involved it’s important to make sure a comprehensive safety plan is in place providing a safe and structured response for the short term.

Further Reading