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Safe at Home: Exploring the Intersection of Intimate Partner Violence and Child Abuse Prevention

By The National Legal Center on Children and Domestic Violence

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness that child abuse and neglect are preventable through reshaping system responses by centralizing the voices of the children they are charged to protect. There is consistent research that illustrates the high level of co-occurrence of intimate partner violence (IPV) and child abuse (Tullberg & Vaughon, 2023). In fact, 56.8% of children who experience IPV in their home also experienced maltreatment at some point in their lives (NCJFCJ, 2019). Child maltreatment, like IPV, thrives in silence.

Children’s voices are often disbelieved and pushed aside, drowned by the noise of other prevailing narratives. These narratives often encompass popular beliefs such as children are easily manipulated and are not able to discern what is in their best interest, victims of IPV often fail to protect their children, and parents raise allegations of child abuse to gain an advantage in custody litigation, making it easier for system practitioners to accept without much questioning. Accepting these as truths compromises the safety and well-being of children by erasing their reality and shifting accountability away from the harm-doer and into the child and adult survivor. 

Recent media stories have highlighted the devastating effects that adhering to these narratives can have on all involved. Countless children being removed from their mother’s care for being battered and the trauma caused to the children by the separation (Hirt, 2019; Mink, 2023). Children feeling unprotected by the court and using social media to live stream their experiences. “My own word does not matter, and they don’t believe my truth. The court system isn’t trying to save us, nobody’s trying to keep us safe. I am the one that’s going to have to choose my own safety (Dreyfus, 2023). Ashton Goff, now 20, shared how his mental health declined severely after being removed from his mother’s custody and ordered to reunification therapy with his father. Goff still suffers from depression, panic attacks, and night terrors (Gentile, 2023). These stories are pulling back the curtains on the realities of childhood abuse and are forcing us to re-evaluate how we effectively respond to this issue. 

So, what can we do to elevate the voices of children and keep children safe? First, we need to listen to and believe children. Children must be given an opportunity to share their experiences and to freely weigh in on matters that affect them.  As practitioners, we must become comfortable having conversations with children, create spaces that facilitate conversations, and enter these conversations without assumptions and biases. * In addition, we need to fully assess the nature and context of children’s experiences of IPV (Davis, 2016; NCJFCJ, 2022). ** Doing so will allow practitioners to support children and non-abusive parents by elevating their safety and well-being and provide services and resources that are tailored to their individual needs. This April join BWJP in centralizing the voices of child victim/survivors by learning more about the work of the National Legal Center on Children and Domestic Violence and explore the intersection of child abuse and IPV. *** 

Resources

*GALs: A webinar Series to Enhance DV Practice – Interviewing Children: https://ngbvlc.org/Registration/Register?instanceId=205 ; Guardians ad Litem: A SAFeR Approach to Enhancing Domestic Violence Practice Course: https://ngbvlc.org/Registration/Register?instanceId=197

**SAFeR Approach to Decision Making in Domestic Violence Related Child Custody Disputes: https://bwjp.org/site-resources/safer-approach-to-decision-making-in-domestic-related-child-custody-disputes/

***National Legal Center on Children and Domestic Violence: https://bwjp.org/our-work/children/

Citations

Davis, G. (2016). A SAFeR approach to decision-making in domestic violence-related child custody disputes. BWJP. https://bwjp.org/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/SAFeR-Summary2024.pdf

Dreyfus, H. (2023, Feb. 26). Barricaded Siblings Turn to TikTok While Defying Court Order to Return to Father They Say Abused Them. ProPublica. https://www.propublica.org/article/parental-alienation-utah-livestream-siblings

Gentile, O. (2023, May 27). I was forced into reunification therapy to bond with my emotionally abusive father. The next 3½ years were hell. Insider. https://www.insider.com/adult-children-parental-alienation-treatment-therapy-program-experience-2023-5

Hirt, S. (2019, Dec. 17). Florida blames mother when men batter them – then takes away their children. USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/in-depth/story-series/2020/12/16/florida-blames-mothers-when-men-batter-them-then-takes-their-children/6507973002/

Mink, C. (2023, Dec. 7). California can take kids from abused moms. Why the separation can harm both. CalMatters. https://calmatters.org/justice/2023/12/failure-to-protect/

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). (2019). 20 Facts for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. https://www.rcdvcpc.org/resources/resource-library/resource/20-facts-for-domestic-violence-awareness-month-october-2019.html

National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). (2022). Revised Chapter Four: Families and Children Model Code on Domestic and Family Violence. https://www.ncjfcj.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Revised-MC-Chapter-Four_-August-2023.pdf

Tullberg, E., & Vaughon, W. (2023). Revisiting the Co-Occurrence of Intimate Partner Violence and Child Maltreatment. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 38(3-4), 2957-2982. https://doi.org/10.1177/08862605221104533



 

TAGS: #BWJP Announcements #Children and Teens #Gender Based Violence #News

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