Assessing violence in the family : social work, courts, and discourses
Hiitola, J., & Hautanen, T. (2017). Assessing violence in the family : social work, courts, and discourses. Nordic Social Work Research, 7 (1), 30-41. doi:10.1080/2156857X.2016.1195434
Published inNordic Social Work Research
© 2016 Routledge.This is a final draft version of an article whose final and definitive form has been published by Routledge. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.
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 examination 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. ...