Two out of five local women surveyed say domestic violence began when they were pregnant

All of the participants in a local study about parenting in relationships characterised by domestic violence and abuse continue to experience abuse despite having left these relationships, it was revealed this week.

It includes psychological, verbal, stalking, financial, and social media abuse as well as a range of controlling behaviours which use children in a negative way to undermine their mothers.

Sixty per cent of the respondents said they first experienced domestic violence and abuse (DVA ) prior to pregnancy while 40 per cent stated that it started during pregnancy or after childbirth. A total of 90 per cent felt that the abuse affected their ability to parent and had impacted negatively on their children. Nine out of the 10 women interviewed for the study reported that their children continued to have access to their fathers.

The study was entitled “Parenting in the context of domestic violence and abuse: challenges for mothers and implications for parenting support practice” and was undertaken by Sarah Melvin, an MA student of social work. It was carried out in conjunction with the service users of COPE Galway Waterside House Domestic Violence Refuge and Outreach Service and the Community Knowledge Initiative at NUI Galway under the supervision of Dr Declan Coogan, NUI Galway.

The research sample consisted of 10 women who were all over 18 years of age; mothers; past or present service users of Waterside House, and were no longer in the domestic violent relationship.

Referring to the impact of domestic violence on parenting, the study outlined that almost 38 per cent of the participants who had female children felt they became negative towards men while 43 per cent of those who had male children believed their boys did not imitate their fathers’ behaviour.

Other findings were the ongoing undermining of the mothers’ parenting role and attempts to alienate children from their mothers, difficulties for them trying to manage access in the context of the ongoing abuse, mothers overcompensating or blaming themselves or others. In some cases, children took on the parenting role.

The study indicated that many of the women who accessed parenting courses felt they were geared towards the “norm” of two parent families and did not cater for one parent families who experienced domestic violence.

The author stated that the findings of this research support practice and policies which regard domestic violence and abuse as everyone’s responsibility.

“All staff of primary care and maternity care services have a key role to play in recognising the signs of DVA, responding appropriately and referring to relevant services. Ongoing post-separation abuse should be adequately assessed and taken into account by Tusla practitioners and the courts when access arrangements are being determined and support agencies working with women and their children who have experienced DVA.”

The study also called for a separate family law court to be set up nationally which would allow for privacy and consistency for the families attending it and for play therapy or other counselling services to children accessing DVA services.

It also recommended that further research for mothers as well as parenting and DVA information on a national level should include the voice of the service user in research design and implementation.

If you or anyone you know may be experiencing domestic violence or abuse contact COPE Galway Waterside House Domestic Violence Refuge and Outreach Service (24 hours ) on (091 ) 565985 or any of the numbers listed below:

Gardaí: Your local Garda station or in an emergency call 999/112

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