Assessing violence in the family – social work, courts, and discourses
Nordic Social Work Research
This article investigates social work, decision making, and gendered violence in the family in Finland. Discourses on gendered violence in the family are compared in custody disputes, handled in district courts, and out-of-home placements, dealt with in administrative courts. Both data sets altogether include 237 cases. Proceedings in both courts share a legislative emphasis on the "child's best interest" principle, and both contexts also rely on documentation provided by social workers. The
... mination of the two studies is based on discourse analysis, through which we have identified hegemonic discourses that are active in both courts. The study found that violence was often disregarded or described only vaguely in the court documents. The results suggest that the victim's perspective is often overlooked in court decisions, and that the abuser is rarely blamed for the abuse. The discourses enable violence to be overlooked or underplayed when deciding on children's living arrangements, since these discourses centre on either the parents' conflicts (in both courts) or the failure of the mother to protect the child (in out-of-home placements). Furthermore, it is also important to acknowledge the experiences of the victimized parents, who in these studies were most often the mothers.