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Malicious Reports of Child Maltreatment as Coercive Control: Mothers and Domestic and Family Violence


Coercive control is increasingly recognized as fundamental to women’s experiences of domestic and family violence (DFV). Systems abuse is also being increasingly recognized by researchers as a tactic of coercive control in the context of DFV. This article explores the phenomenon of abusive partners or ex-partners making malicious false reports of child maltreatment to child protective services as an aspect of coercive control and systems abuse. The article draws on interviews with 65 women who have been victims of DFV, focusing on the experiences of 11 of the interviewees who have been maliciously reported, or received threats that they will be reported, to child protection services by an abusive ex-partner. Those interviewees who had been the victim of malicious reports of child maltreatment by an abusive partner or ex-partner experienced substantial negative impacts. The article concludes that improved investigation processes and investigating both parties, where the reporting party has been found to be a perpetrator of DFV, may better support victims of DFV and deter perpetrators from this form of abuse.

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This research was supported by funding from an Australian Research Council Future Fellowship FT140100796 (Heather Douglas).

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Correspondence to Heather Douglas.

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Douglas, H., Fell, E. Malicious Reports of Child Maltreatment as Coercive Control: Mothers and Domestic and Family Violence. J Fam Viol 35, 827–837 (2020).

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