Who is the perpetrator and what does this mean for children?

Usually, it is the male (father) who is the perpetrator of the abuse and the female (mother) who is the victim. Where the mother is the victim, it is extremely common for a child or children to also be involved in some way.

Nonetheless, it is important to recognise that in some cases, it will be the mother who is the perpetrator and the father the victim. In some cases, both parents will be violent and abusive, to each other and to their children. However, there is very little available research exploring the nature, extent and impact of domestic abuse where the man is the victim. It is unclear, therefore, to what extent, male experiences and needs are different, how services might need to respond differently and how children might be affected. Some research has shown that where mothers are the perpetrators, they can actually be more violent and abusive towards their children. Perhaps part of the reason behind the lack of research in this area can be linked to a reluctance to recognise that women can be capable of the levels of violence and abuse usually associated with men.

A small US study of 190 callers to a domestic abuse helpline for men (the only such help-line in the USA) reported that over half of the respondents said that there were children in the home (Hines, Brown & Dunning, 2007). In conclusion, the authors of this study felt that, “….the male victims of severe IPV in many ways resemble female victims….but in many ways, they have experiences that are unique to male victims, such as their experiences with a system that is designed to help female victims of IPV” (p69). A UK study of domestic abuse in same sex relationships, found that children were present in nearly a fifth of relationships where domestic abuse occurred; nearly two thirds of the survey respondents were women. (Donovan et al., 2006). The Scottish Government has also conducted an important piece of work in this area [click here for more details available through the UK ENCARE web-site].

To understand what this means in terms of identifying children who are living with parental domestic abuse and who may need help, you can [click here] to find out more about common signs to look out for, and ideas of how to talk to children to find out if they are living with parental domestic abuse.