Domestic and Family Violence and Child Abuse

Exploring, understanding and evaluating the prevention and response to domestic and family violence

Our research contributes to exploring, understanding and evaluating the prevention and response to domestic and family violence (DFV) and child abuse. Our research agenda is applied and strives to be highly relevant to practitioners, policy workers and those with lived experience as victim survivors. We are profoundly interested in knowledge translation and design our projects with the end in mind at the outset of the research. Many of our projects involve co-design and work with the end-users of the research from the outset. There are a range of different specialisations within our team of researchers.

The contribution to prevalence surveys in Australia (National Community Attitudes Survey and the Personal Safety Survey) which identify the extent and nature of domestic and family violence and attitudes to violence and abuse have been central to our work. The interest in this research has been wide-ranging and has resulted in a major research program to assist in upskilling countries across Asia and the Pacific that are interested in running their own prevalence surveys.

The links between DFV and child abuse are a major theme of our research program. Since 2015 we have worked closely with David Mandel and the Safe and Together Institute on DFV participatory action research projects working with practice-led research to capacity build organisations while simultaneously building the knowledge base in this complex and sensitive area of work.

Our team holds expertise in evaluation and we have contributed to large and small scale evaluation of programs which seek to respond to domestic and family violence. We have been particularly interested in mother-child strengthening programs in the aftermath of DFV, and programs that work with fathers who use violence and abuse.

The participation of children and young people in research, working with them as active agents in their lives has been an important strand of the work within the DFV team. We are interested in their ‘voice’ and the ways in which they contribute to knowledge building in both the prevention and the response to DFV.

Collaboration with different organisations and different disciplines lies at the heart of our research team. We have strong and well established links with government, peak bodies and the NGO sector. The co-directing of the Melbourne Alliance to End Violence Against Women and their Children (MAEVE) ensures that we work closely with our colleagues from different disciplines and Faculties across the university.

Domestic and family violence (DFV), and violence against women and their children is a significant social problem undermining the health and well being of not only women and children who are the most common targets of abuse, but of the fabric of the society as a whole. DFV can be configured as: a problem of gender inequality and violence supportive attitudes; a child protection problem; a health and mental health problem; a housing problem; a problem exacerbated by the harmful use of alcohol and other drugs. It is by definition a complex and ‘wicked’ problem in which interventions need to be focused in primary prevention (stopping the problem before it starts); secondary prevention (addressing the needs of the most vulnerable); and tertiary prevention (responding to the crisis, healing and recovery). Intersectionality and the recognition of ways in which DFV is compounded by marginalisation and oppression of particular groups in the society creates an important lens for the research focus.

The domestic and family violence research team in the Department of Social Work, comprises up to 12 part time and full time researchers. Established in 2006, under the leadership of Professor Cathy Humphreys, more than 50 projects have been undertaken focused on all dimensions of DFV as well as violence against women more generally. We collaborate with researchers across the university (The MAEVE network) and within the department. A research program based around the prevalence of domestic and family violence nationally, and across countries in the Asia/Pacific region as well as the on-going development of the National Community Attitudes Survey has been led by Dr Kristin Diemer. The research agenda is applied and a wide range of methods used: qualitative, quantitative, administrative data systems analysis, action research and co-design all feature in the research program. For more information about our projects, PhD students and publications go to: https://violenceagainstwomenandchildren.com/