Domestic violence, child contact, post-separation violence Issues for South Asian and African-Caribbean women and children

Woman looking at daughterThis report sets out the findings from research undertaken with separated South Asian and African-Caribbean mothers who had experienced domestic abuse and are involved in child contact disputes with ex-partners.

Researchers reviewed the knowledge base around domestic violence and child contact and looked at the particular issues experienced by women in these communities in relation to child contact processes and post-separation abuse.

Author: Ravi K. Thiara and Aisha K. Gill
Published: 2012

The research reports on the findings from interviews with 19 children, 45 women, and 71 professionals.

It highlights the responses provided to women and children by a range of professionals and agencies, including legal professionals, the judiciary and the courts, Cafcass and child contact centres.

Women and children's abuse experiences

  • Women had lived with high levels of severe abuse over long periods with the majority experiencing daily abuse before separation and for several South Asian women the abuse was also perpetrated by other family members.
  • Control and isolation was a feature for all of the women but women who lacked family and social support, or knowledge of how things worked in the UK, experienced greater vulnerability.
  • Fear of abduction and/or separation from their children was a significant issue for all, but especially South Asian women.

Disclosing abuse and seeking help

  • South Asian women tended to leave quickly with support from agencies and professionals when separating, whereas African-Caribbean women were more likely to draw on support from friends and family members. Both groups had a great fear of reprisal from partners and/or families.
  • Both groups were likely to under-report abuse but often for different reasons.
  • Some South Asian women were very isolated and knew little of their rights.
  • Several African-Caribbean women wanted to deal with the abuse themselves, even if they were aware of support services, and in most cases they had not received support from agencies until after separation. Protecting black men from criminal sanctions was also a powerful factor for African-Caribbean women.
  • Notions of family honour and shame were central to contact battles in the context of domestic violence across all South Asian groups. For African-Caribbean women, too, the sense of shame and stigma was powerful in shaping their responses.

Involvement of the extended family

  • For South Asian women, the extended family was implicated not only in the perpetration of abuse but also in contact disputes so that family members were often reported to be dictating how things should progress rather than that being in women's control.

Professional responses

  • Although things are changing, responses to African-Caribbean and South Asian groups continue to be shaped by a range of dominant stereotypes.
  • Many professionals assumed that South Asian fathers, unlike African-Caribbean men, wanted to be a part of their children's lives.
  • In particular, professionals tended to accept the view of women and children in South Asian communities that sees them as the property of fathers/families.
  • Such stereotypes of communities, families and fathers were seen to inform decisions about contact, where 'culture' often replaced gender as a consideration.
Introduction 7
Section 1: Research Context 14
Section 2: Snapshot of Interviewees and Contact Arrangements 23
Section 3: Women and Children’s Experiences of Domestic Violence 27
Section 4: Professional Responses and Women’s Experiences 50
Section 5: Children’s Experiences of Contact 68
Section 6: Women’s Experiences of Informal Contact 78
Section 7: Women’s Experiences of Cafcass 86
Section 8: Women’s Experiences of Legal Professionals and the Courts 103
Section 9: Women’s Experiences of Contact Centres 126
Section 10: Women’s Experiences of Post-separation Violence 137
Section 11: Recommendations for Change 147

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