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Neither justice nor protection: women's experiences of post-separation violence

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Post-separation violence is an issue for a significant group of domestic violence survivors (and their children) leaving abusive relationships. This article draws on research conducted with women who have experienced post-separation violence. It explores definitions and the nature of post-separation violence experienced by women and often their children. More than three-quarters (76 per cent) of the 161 separated women in the study initially suffered further abuse and harassment from their former partners. Much of the violence ceased after the first 6-12 months, often due to the woman moving. However, more than one-third (36 per cent) of the women suffered continued post-separation violence. Against this background, women's experiences of legal routes to protection are examined and the effectiveness of the law in tackling the issue of post-separation violence explored. In so doing, post-separation violence is used to exemplify and further explore Smart's contention that there are many contradictions and complexities in the practice of the law, particularly as it relates to the on-going oppression of women (1995: 145). For a group of women, violence escalated over time. These women and their children were seriously at risk of harm. Poor law enforcement, the ineffectiveness of civil protection orders and inadequate prosecution and sanctions left these women (and their children) vulnerable to further assaults and harassment. Child contact was a point of vulnerability for on-going post-separation violence and abuse. The implications for future policy and practice are highlighted.
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Keywords: child contact; domestic violence; post-separation violence; protection orders; stalking

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Health and Social Studies University of Warwick

Publication date: 2003-09-01

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