As an introduction, I just wanted to address the title of this blog. I chose ‘Surviving More than Once’ because I wanted to speak about my experience of Domestic Abuse as a professional and how this helped me to work with NVR clients who are mothers and survivors of domestic abuse. Surviving more than once felt right to me as survivors of domestic abuse often have experienced re-victimisation and victim blaming even after escaping an abusive relationship.

Prior to my NVR journey and becoming a practitioner I dedicated most of my career to the world of domestic abuse working with perpetrators and also survivors. Although my work in this field had been mostly positive there has been difficulties at times in terms of the approaches taken by agencies and professionals towards mothers who are survivors of abuse.

“Abused women are likely to be seen as ‘failing’ as mothers regardless of their actions, because the problems displayed by children who have been exposed to domestic violence are frequently seen as resulting from ‘deficiencies’ in women’s mothering.” — Lapierre, 2008

The negative impact of domestic abuse ripples out from the perpetrators’ choices and behaviours. It is their behaviours as parents and caregivers that undermine the other parents’ parenting, normal healthy development of the children, and the day-to-day functioning of families. Perpetrators can undermine a survivor’s parenting ability, making them feel like they are not a good enough parent. Children can be directly involved in coercive and controlling activities and perpetrators often attempt to damage children’s respect for their Mother. Despite the fact that domestic violence perpetration represents a significant parenting failure, perpetrators are rarely held accountable.

So, let’s look at why and how victim blaming, and destructive or neglectful practices can occur. Approaches to the survivor may include conclusions that ‘The mother is failing to protect her children from her partner’s violence’. This will just increase the mother’s sense of worth and harbour feelings of shame, guilt, and failure as a mother. Children are revictimised, penalised and punished for trauma-caused behaviours. These approaches go against NVR principles and responses to the child which will only lead to further trauma symptoms and escalate risk. Lastly, no connections are made between intersecting issues, such as substance abuse, and trauma caused by perpetrators. An example of this would be statements made such as ‘mother has relapsed putting the child at risk’ as opposed to the ‘’long-standing impact of the perpetrator’s behaviour has caused a relapse’’, again all this language does is dismiss the harm caused and places blame onto the mother. So how does being a survivor and experiencing neglectful and harmful practices show up to us as NVR Practitioners? Lacking in trust and a huge victim narrative along with an enormous sense of helplessness are to name a few obstacles.

How can we repair this within the world of NVR. Moving to more comprehensive strengths is something that NVR does very well as an approach anyway and is really beneficial for those who have experienced adversity. But for cases where mum is a survivor of DA, I like to draw out strengths specifically relating to times when domestic abuse was prevalent. What we do know, looking through a domestic abuse lens is that most survivors have worked hard to care for their children’s physical and emotional safety, their basic needs and maintain as safe, stable, and nurturing environment as much as possible. Helping survivors recognise these strengths involves helping them identify the steps they took even if the perpetrator thwarted their efforts or they themselves took their own efforts for granted.

Because some professionals are not trained to identify and validate her protective efforts, she may not have experienced this type of feedback before. Helping her make those behaviours visible to herself can hugely increase her sense of self-confidence and reduce feelings of hopelessness.

Domestic abuse-informed practice within NVR would also seek to understand how a previous abusive relationship would diminish the mother’s support network. Domestic abuse often relies on isolating the victim: the perpetrator works to weaken her connections with family and friends, making it extremely difficult to seek support. Perpetrators will often try and reduce a woman’s contact with the outside world to prevent her from recognising that his behaviour is abusive and wrong. Isolation leads women to become extremely dependent on their controlling partner. As a result of the past isolation, Mothers may have had positive relationships and support prior to the abuse. By understanding previous attempts to isolate mothers by the perpetrator I look to explore this further with Mum as well as remembering positive feelings of past support. Who was in your network before the abuse began? What would it feel like to have connections like this again? Are there obstacles you have that would prevent you from reaching out?

A message that I wanted to send out from this blog is that the survivor is her own expert. Let’s listen non-judgmentally to her experiences, learn about the impact of abuse, and celebrate her strengths throughout her adversity. Let’s advocate for our NVR Survivors, calling out neglectful and harmful practices and enabling her heroic narrative to shine as brightly as she does.

Written by

Rachael Ward, Inter-Familial Abuse Practice Lead and NVR Team Leader
Accreditation Module Participant, 2023



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