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Supporting mothers

Supporting mothers to get help

To support mothers, be practical, open and always listen to her and the safety and support network around her. Practitioners must support her and at times, advocate on her behalf with family, friends, community and other specialist domestic violence service providers.

A single intervention is not enough

Most of the time, a single intervention will not work to keep a woman and her children safe. Yet women are often only shown one way out, such as pressing charges or getting a domestic violence order (DVO).

If a woman does not want to take legal action or finds the process distressing or complicated, she is often blamed for not complying or labelled as uncooperative. Many women report that they want the violence, not the relationship, to end.

Many Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander mothers are reluctant to involve authorities because of negative past experiences with police and the criminal justice system. Mothers from diverse cultural backgrounds and newly arrived migrants face language barriers, may not know their rights, and may not be aware that domestic violence is a crime in Australia.

These are just a few of the reasons why practitioners need to pursue more than one course of action to help keep women and children safe from violence.

Mothers-defined advocacy

Things can get complicated when there are many services working with a family. Not every professional will support mothers in the best way or in a way they are comfortable with. This is where the importance of advocacy comes in.

Advocacy work:

  • frame a needs assessment, services and interventions in terms of what a mother says she needs
  • listens to and considers what a mother says she needs, and the direction she thinks she needs to go in to keep her and her children safe. In the vast majority of cases, the mother is very skilled at keeping herself and her children safe and will be able to predict how her partner will react. This means she will know which interventions will keep her and the children safest
  • partners with mothers to make sense of the complex network of services
  • helps mothers get access to the services they and their children need, such as transport, housing, child care and financial help
  • understands and helps to bridge the gap between the different values and attitudes agencies or service providers may have.

Practice prompt

How can you use your skills in referral and your knowledge of the service system to make sure a mother does not need to keep re-telling her story of trauma and abuse?

Navigating the legal and social welfare system

A mother who wants to leave her partner and escape domestic violence may need to navigate a complex legal and social welfare system.

Practitioners can support her by:

  • giving her legal options to help stop the violence
  • if she is not fluent in English, trying to provide information in her first language. Domestic violence information in community languages can be accessed from the Immigrant Women's Support Service
  • placing her in contact with domestic violence support services in her area
  • helping her access financial support through Centrelink’s crisis payment.

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