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Setting the foundation for a good partnership
From the very first meeting, how practitioners talk, respond and listen to a mother is crucial to keeping her and her children safe from harm. Practitioners need to show the mother they can be trusted, that they are there to help her and her child, and that she is believed.
The foundation of a partnering practice with the mother, a strengths-based approach, assumes that all domestic violence survivors have engaged in some protective efforts related to their children. Behaviourally-focused, it concentrates on identifying how a domestic violence survivor has promoted physical and emotional safety, healing from trauma, and stability and nurturance for the children.
A strengths-based approach does not mean:
- that a child is automatically safe
- that the adult survivor may not have concerning behaviours and issues
- that a child cannot be removed from a home because of domestic violence.
To be effectively applied, this approach requires the use of a perpetrator pattern-based approach and an understanding of gender double standards to fully assess protective capacity.
A strengths-based approach looks for a wide range of protective behaviours, especially day-to-day behaviours
A strengths-based approach may benefit survivors from marginalised and historically oppressed communities by reducing bias. It does this by using an approach to assessment that is not limited to engagement with formal systems and services. Adult survivors from these communities may have legitimate reasons to fear engagement with these systems and services, and may have developed other strategies.
In this video, David Mandel demonstrates how to build stronger partnerships with domestic violence survivors.
Mothers responding to violence need practitioners to:
- tell them through words and actions that they are not responsible for starting or stopping the violence
- tell them they are believed (in both words and in actions)
- acknowledge they think about their child’s safety and that practitioners are there to help them to keep their child safe
- help them know what supports and services are available to them in response to their needs
- do everything possible to support them in keeping their child and family safe and together.
Be aware that the father will use tactics to undermine the mother. He may portray his partner as mentally unwell, or tell you that she uses alcohol and other drugs. He may emphasise that she will not be able to manage the children without him. He may also present very well, and be quite charming, which may be a way of convincing professionals that he is not violent.
Tips to start working with a mother
- Ask her where and when she can talk, when to ring and when to visit.
- Acknowledge that the burden of confronting the perpetrator should not rest with her.
- Acknowledge that the intervention may have unintended negative consequences for her. Work on ways to minimise these.
- Ask her what she thinks would be the best time and place to talk to her partner. Ask her what concerns her about us talking to her partner.
- Show her the Power and control wheel and talk about the man’s actions.
- Listen for and identify acts of protection that have prevented, or reduced the impact of, harm to herself and her child.
- Help her to understand how violence impacts on children. Information sheets from Safe and Equal and Queensland Centre for Domestic and Family Violence Research can help with this.
- Focus on repairing the adult-child bond disrupted by the perpetrator's violence.
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