The complexities of being in an abusive relationship

In these podcasts, Dr Jessica Wild speaks to Ali about parenting her children while experiencing domestic abuse from her then partner, and her involvement with children’s social care.

Dr Jessica Wild, from Research in Practice, speaks to Ali about her experiences as a woman parenting her children while experiencing domestic abuse from her partner, and about her involvement with children’s social care. In this second episode, Ali discusses what good social work can look like and ideas for new ways of working.

Talking Points 

  • Disproportionate praise of fathers who take steps to do every day childcare duties, in contrast to mothers.
  • The complexities of being in a relationship with an abusive person – why people can’t ‘just’ leave.
  • Failure by professionals to recognise the tactics of the perpetrator of abuse, particularly in the context of children’s social care interventions.
  • Often, mothers do not experience the children’s social care system as a protective or supportive system, but rather one which it punitive and threatening. 
  • What a good social worker might look like in this context? Ideas for new ways of working. 
  • Strengths based, relationship-based practice which listens to, and respects mothers experiencing domestic abuse. 
  • The importance of trust between social workers and the people they support. 
  • Professionals involving mothers and hearing their voices in the formulation of plans.
  • Recognising the protective strategies mothers put in place to keep them and their children safe. 
  • The complex work of holding perpetrators of abuse to account, while partnering or working with victim-survivors on their journey. 

Questions for reflection 

Ali has compiled the following reflective questions to facilitate conversation and develop practice:  

  1. What measures are included in any plans, which relate to the person causing harm? 
  2. When looking at the plans in place, does the responsibility for stopping the abuse rest with the person causing the harm, or is it placed on the victim-survivor?
  3. How can you support victims-survivors of domestic abuse to feel more empowered and supported? Remember abusers take all the power away from a victim. 
  4. How can you ensure children’s social care responses do not reflect those of the abuser? 
  5. In what ways might you partner or work WITH victim-survivors and build their trust?
  6. Reflecting on previous cases, how might you do things differently, or what might you change moving forward when working with a family where there is a perpetrator of domestic abuse? 
  7. How can you ensure that the voices of adult and child victim-survivors are heard and taken into account, throughout the time you are working with them? 

Ali’s poem  

Below is a poem written by Ali, which may help to begin thinking differently about your practice with families in which there is a perpetrator of domestic abuse:

Don't tell me I'm a victim then punish me for his actions. 
Don't tell me the statistics "it takes on average 7 times before women leave" then punish me for not being some miracle who went against the statistics. 
Don't put me in a catch 22. 

It's half your fault I lied, either way was court, so I took the risk and lied.   
Don't lie and tell me you're there to help when your end vision’s already in mind and is only to move the problem by just leaving him behind. 

And to do this; lie to me, manipulate some truths but if I lie you punish me, 
And if he manipulates it's abuse! 
One rule for you another me. 
He was the risk but the pressures on me. 

As mother it's my job to protect, well what about him as the father! 
You gave him a list of things he must do then it was only ever me that heard from you. 
He didn't engage, is it any wonder why? No one spoke to him until I got mad and asked why?! 

You blamed him, he blamed you. 
What a childish way from both of you.

You give me advice say I take it or court. It's not really advice that's blackmail for sure. 
You blackmail me with my child. 
What makes you better than him? 

Oh yes, you're professionals as I was told in the past you're my daughter's social worker ‘n what you say is that. 
We'll I am my daughters' mother and I won't be pushed around.  
I'm done playing games so from now on I make the plans.

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