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Battered women and child custody : The ongoing exposure to abusive ex-partners : A qualitative study Shalansky, Catriona Elizabeth


Wife abuse has become an epidemic in Canada. Research studies have documented that abuse does not end when a women is divorced or separated from her abuser, but, in fact, the danger increases. A father's legal right to custody of and access to his children and the children's bond with their father prevent a women from truly breaking free of her abuser. Theoretical literature has addressed how custody and access can serve as a means for a batterer to continue his abuse and expose his children to ongoing abuse and discord. Research on how custody and access issues are affecting battered women is limited. Key details about this phenomenon are not known. Hence, a research study using the qualitative methodology of phenomenology was conducted of battered women's experiences with custody and access and the ongoing exposure to abusive ex-partners. Six single mothers who had left abusive relationships and were at the time sharing custody of and/or access to their children with their abusive ex-partners participated in the study. Unstructured, non-directive interviews were conducted. Direction for analysis was taken from the specific steps outlined by Giorgi (1975). Data analysis revealed that al l of the women were living in great fear for their safety and that of their children. The ongoing danger and stress of living with the restrictions of the law and legal system took it's toll on the women and ultimately affected their physical health and psychological well-being. The women described their experiences as having four components: 1) SAFETY: Living with Ongoing Danger; 2) STRESS: Living with the Restrictions of the Law and the Legal System; 3) COPING: Social Support Systems; and 4) TO HEAL AND MOVE FORWARD IN LIFE. Themes within these components were identified, and implications for nursing practice, education and research were discussed.

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