Journal of Child and Family Studies

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 436–443 | Cite as

‘Acting in the Children’s Best Interest?’: Examining Victims’ Responses to Intimate Partner Violence

  • Silke Meyer
Original Paper


Victims’ responses to violent experiences within intimate relationships are highly diverse and can range from remaining silent, at least temporarily, to disclosing the abuse to informal and formal sources of support. Decisions to remain silent or to reach out for support are influenced by a complex range of factors, including situational circumstances, such as the presence of children. Using data from in-depth interviews with victims of IPV (N = 29) in Southeast Queensland, Australia, I examined victims’ responses to IPV when children are present in the abusive household. Victims, who accessed general formal support sources, including the criminal justice systems and Child Protection Services (CPS), frequently faced stereotypical and victim-blaming attitudes along with a lack of understanding of the dynamics of IPV and the circumstances surrounding victims’ help-seeking decisions. The presence of children in abuse relationships complicated victims’ help-seeking decisions because fear of harm and loss of custody often delayed or hindered the disclosure of IPV to formal support sources. Once disclosing the abuse victims often found themselves trapped between CPS expectations to protect their children by leaving the abusive partner and a reluctance on behalf of judges and magistrates to offer the necessary protection by including children on granted Domestic Violence Orders (DVO). These findings highlight the ongoing need for specialized training of CPS personnel, judges and magistrates along with an ongoing collaboration with the women’s sector to ensure the safety of victims and their children throughout the help-seeking process and to improve victims’ confidence in disclosing IPV.


Domestic violence Intimate partner violence Help-seeking Child protection Victim safety 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute For Social Science ResearchThe University of QueenslandBrisbaneAustralia

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