University of Tasmania
Pitman_whole_thesis.pdf (3.79 MB)

The legacy of domestic violence : how the dynamics of abuse continue beyond separation

Download (3.79 MB)
posted on 2023-05-26, 05:50 authored by Pitman, TM
In Australia, social and legal trends towards shared parenting after separation coincide with statistics conveying domestic violence as the single biggest health risk to women of reproductive age (UNPFR, 2005). Such statistics rely on the reporting of physical violence, yet there is a growing recognition that domestic violence is best conceptualised as a pattern of coercive control (Stark, 2007) that may include only minor, if any, physical violence (Johnson, 2008). An important concern for the Australian social work profession should be a coherent ability to identify and respond to domestic violence in order to ensure the protection of women and children in the trend towards shared-parenting post separation. This thesis explored women's experiences of post-separation shared parenting arrangements and the aspects of abuse which persisted beyond separation. The study was conducted from a feminist standpoint. Thirty (30) women were recruited using non-probability purposive and snowballing sampling procedures. Semi-structured, in-depth interviews explored their pre- and post-separation experiences of abuse from the fathers of the children. This data was then thematically analysed. The findings of this study show that there was a commonality of dynamics underlying the relationship each woman had with the father of their children. Despite the women's resistance, these dynamics gave rise to shared experiences of oppression both pre- and post-separation. The dynamics are conceptualised as a web of abuse emanating from their partners' attitudinal and behavioural style. A parallel is drawn between the web of abuse and a process of colonisation. Colonisation helps clarify the relentless and pervasive pattern of boundary violations experienced by the women both pre- and post-separation. It also explains the extent of the women's post-separation difficulties irrespective of the presence, form or intensity of shared parenting arrangements. The consequences of conceptualising domestic violence independently of physical violence and as a colonising process are discussed with regard to the implications for counselling, research, the socio-legal response, and social work knowledge and practice. A conclusion drawn from this study suggests that critical to the anti-oppressive practice of social workers in the field of domestic violence is their ability to detect and disrupt colonising attitudes and behaviours. Collusion with such attitudes and behaviours seriously undermines the value of our profession for women and children who are at risk of abuse.


Publication status

  • Unpublished

Rights statement

Copyright Copyright 2010 the author

Repository Status

  • Open

Usage metrics

    Thesis collection


    No categories selected


    Ref. manager