Children’s exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) is a form of child abuse and can have serious detrimental consequences on their health and well-being. Research has shown that a strong relationship with a caring adult, often the mother, is a protective factor against those consequences. For this reason, this study attempts to understand the overall experiences of victimized mothers with perpetrators, professionals, and institutions in the years following IPV disclosure.
We conducted 20 semi-structured individual interviews in Switzerland in 2020 with former patients who had been provided with a clinical forensic consultation between 2011 and 2014. The participants had reported IPV between 2011 and 2014 and had at least one minor child at the time.
Victimized mothers continued to experience harmful behaviors from perpetrators/fathers after IPV disclosure. They reported feeling in danger and that the perpetrators/fathers benefited from a certain level of impunity. In parallel, the mothers were held accountable for the safety and well-being of their children in this context. These overall and multi-year experiences had short-term and long-term negative impacts on the mothers’ and children’s health, financial and administrative situation, relationship, and on school life. In this sample, the years following IPV disclosure were characterized by an enduring sense of ordeal.
The professional and institutional handling of IPV situations, in relation to both victims and perpetrators, can endanger victimized mothers and their children and put them at risk of adverse consequences after IPV disclosure. Avenues for change to better protect mother and child and to provide relief to the mothers as an important protective factor for their children are discussed.