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Lifting the Domestic Violence Cloak of Silence: Resilient Australian Women’s Reflected Memories of their Childhood Experiences of Witnessing Domestic Violence

Abstract

Recognition is growing that childhood witnessing of domestic violence is tantamount to child abuse due to the damage the experience may have on the witnessing child’s long-term emotional and social wellbeing. This paper helps to lift the cloak of silence that surrounds the child witnessing phenomenon by presenting the recollected adult memories of six female former child witnesses. Utilizing a mixed case-study and consensual qualitative research design, the study’s findings reveal that the potential threat to a child witness’s immediate and long-term wellbeing can be mediated through the progressive development of a range of adaptive coping strategies. Of these, the strategy of establishing a safe place and a supportive relationship outside of the abusive nuclear family home seems pivotal to the witnessing child’s resilient ability to move on and lead a ‘rewarding’ adult life. The paper closes with a discussion on how the research findings can be progressed.

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Correspondence to Myra F. Taylor.

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Myra Taylor is a Research Fellow in the Lifespan Resilience Research Group in Edith Cowan University’s School of Psychology and Social Science. Myra is a published author with two books, a number of book chapters/articles in the fields of family issues, youth crime and child and adolescent, academic, emotional and behavioural disorders; Lynne Cohen is a founding member of Edith Cowan University’s Lifespan Resilience Research Group. She has extensive experience in resilience research and has delivered a range of workshops to enhance resilience; Julie Ann Pooley is head the Edith Cowan University’s Lifespan Resilience Research Group and is a widely published researcher in the field of community psychology; Kristy O’Brien is a former honours student in Edith Cowan University’s Lifespan Resilience Research Group.

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O’Brien, K.L., Cohen, L., Pooley, J.A. et al. Lifting the Domestic Violence Cloak of Silence: Resilient Australian Women’s Reflected Memories of their Childhood Experiences of Witnessing Domestic Violence. J Fam Viol 28, 95–108 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-012-9484-7

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Keywords

  • Domestic violence
  • Child witnessing
  • Resilience
  • Case study research