Partnering with the mother
Restore her sense of self-efficacy and identity by partnering with her and highlighting her acts of protection. Mothers hurt by violence cope in a range of overt and covert ways—mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually. In society, there is an assumption that a victim has not tried to protect herself or her children unless she fights back physically.
If we don’t partner with the mother, we miss the opportunity to build trust and to identify specific acts of protection she uses to minimise the violence against her and keep herself and her children safe.
Noticing and being curious about acts of protection is absolutely central to working with mothers because:
- it can restore a mother’s power and self-esteem
- we need to know how people cope and manage the violence to have a full account of the violence itself and how safe or unsafe the child is
- understanding what she does to cope will help us to build safety plans.
Some acts of protection or coping strategies to be aware of
A mother may:
- drink or use substances to cope with the violence and control
- start an argument so that the father’s violence is directed at her instead of the children or so she can have some control over when he assaults her
- give him access to the home when a domestic violence order is in place, as a way to pacify him and prevent an attack
- seem emotionally detached, as a way of coping with the pain and suffering.
His actions and her acts of protection
The following table provides a guide to some common tactics used by violent fathers and the strategies mothers use to survive and cope. This is not a definitive list, and every mother will respond in her own way.
|What he does
|What she does to cope
|Tries to humiliate her
|Tries to control her
|Blames her for the violence
|Makes excuses for his use of violence
|Tries to hurt her
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