A resolution approach to family violence

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Consider the following scenario: A woman survivor of domestic violence approaches your service seeking assistance. Her son, aged eight, has just completed a children’s program to express/work through the violence experienced and to establish a personal safety plan. The child is both scared of his ‘Dad’ but also worries about him and waivers between wanting to know about him, see him and then not wanting to. The woman has accessed a support and education program, greatly valuing the support of the staff and the other women. She has legal orders keeping the offender from taking their child and preventing him from coming to her home.

Lately though, she has been having contact with her ex-partner and he has been discussing the IPV programme that he has attended. She is feeling that perhaps there is hope against their relationship and describes how they have been dating. She tells you she doesn’t want to agree to live back together yet but nor does she want to give up on the possibility of the relationship. He is the father of their child and she has a number of narrative scripts running about the importance of family. She asks for your opinion and your assistance to make a decision about whether you can help with their child talking to his father. She also asks if there is help for them to explore what would need to take place in order to entertain the idea of being back together.

How would you respond and ‘position’ yourself to this client’s request? You may be drawn to an advocacy position against reconciliation, or an optimistic position about the potential for this family. What cautions do you have about ‘where this woman is at’? What personal reaction do you have to her seeking help to have her child (who at some level is ‘scared’), speak to his father? What is your experience of the professional tension that develops and what dilemmas do you have about how to proceed?

This the dilemma Mike Cagney and myself posed in  a chapter titled  A resolution approach to dealing with IPV we wrote last year for the ‘No to Violence Journal‘ on  resolution approaches to intervening with family violence. In the paper we argued that a one size fits all approach is not the answer to intervention and that if we take a focus on reaching a ‘resolve‘ in often ‘difficult-to-resolve’ situations, this provides a direction for IPV work that further enables a process of shifting relationship and family dynamics to achieve ‘re-solution’, that is, establishing solutions that promote restitution and safety from the perpetrator of abuse to the survivors. We went on to argue that resolution work has addressing what accountability and safety means in real terms as a central aim. We also argued that linking adult protection with child protection interventions, which have traditionally been separate and silent practices, create more risk.

We would be interested in what you think about what we think.

Published on Monday, June 30th, 2014, under Family violence, Practice tips and techniques

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