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Imaging Agency AND RESISTANCE: PHOTOS

AND DRAWINGS IN WORK WITH CHILDREN IN


SITUATIONS OF DOMESTIC ABUSE
Jane Callaghan, Jo Alexander, Judith Sixsmith, Lisa Fellin
University of Northampton
Understanding Agency & Resistance Strategies:
Children in Situations of Domestic Abuse (UNARS)
Project aims:
To explore young peoples capacity for resistance, agency and resilience
in situations of domestic abuse
To enable an articulation of young peoples voice, in situations of
domestic abuse
To challenge dominant professional & academic representations of
young people as damaged or as passive victims of domestic abuse
To build an intervention for young people to facilitate the expression
and development of agency and resistance, and to build resilience
To develop a training intervention for professionals working with young
people in situations of domestic abuse.

Project Overview
Methods
Semi-structured, one-to-one interviews with children & young people
Creative methodologies are used in conjunction with interview
Photovoice
Policy analysis conducted in each participating country
Focus groups with carers & professionals

Progress
Conducted 74 out of the 100 planned individual interviews
12 Focus groups with professionals, 5 with carers

Challenges
Recruitment of young people in some countries - dual parental consent required
Austerity Politics Statutory funding allocation - competition Vs collaboration
What does the literature say?
all academic literature published between 2002 and 2013 focused on children, mental
health, resilience and domestic abuse
183 articles were included in the review:
84 papers described psychopathological consequences of exposure to violence
5 papers focused on damage to neural system
6 articles outlined other poor outcomes like educational difficulties, criminality
The term exposure appears in 85% of the articles included in the review
The term witness is used in 67% of the articles
77% of the articles described children as victims or as victimised
Intergenerational cycle of violence
Children as contaminants (e.g. Carrell and Hoekstra, 2009: Externalities in the Classroom:
How Children Exposed to Domestic Violence Affect Everyone's Kids)

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Mother blaming
Childs response to violence is seen as mediated
by the mothers pre-relational psychological
functioning and her coping responses
Discursive construction Mothers experience
violence, children watch
A significantly large number of children are
exposed to maternal addiction and mental illness,
as well as interpersonal violence... Children
witness between 68% and 87% of all domestic
violence incidents, and are aware of violence
toward their mothers 90% of the time.
From Finkelstein et al, 2005: Building Resilience in
Children of Mothers Who Have Co-occurring Disorders and
Histories of Violence
wmatrix analysis revealed that mother(s) was
the fourth most frequently appearing term in the
dataset, appearing 607 times. More common
than domestic!
In contrast, father(s) appeared just 17 times


How does this translate into practice?
These constructions of the child have implications for professional and social
discourses around children in situations of DV
They have implications too for how children are able to position themselves their
capacity to construct a self-identity as agentic, resistant, capable...


UNARS
We want to explore childrens capacity to think and act to cope, to be creative, to
manage, and to resist
Challenge dominant representations of children as passive witnesses


What are we finding?
The creative and complex coping responses young people use in situations of domestic
abuse
At odds with policy and professional discourses that position young people as passive
victims
Gatekeeping practices

Why use creative methods?
Counter-hegemonic experience can be difficult to articulate verbally
Photo elicitation, drawing and other creative approaches enable articulation of
complex self accounts that extend beyond the dominant categories of witness
and victim
Enables an articulation of spatial and systemic dynamics to enable consideration
of resilience and resistance as contextual and processual, not just individual
Enables young people to re-vision the world in which the violence took place
Enables the envisioning of alternative futures and alternative understandings of
self-in-context
.


Safe Disclosure and Risky Speech

Lucy: Id always hesitate of what I would say...even if I said Hello, Id always think before
like, is he just going to shut me out? Is he going to respond in a nice way, or be angry or
anything like that? Id always think ahead of what I was saying




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Production of sanitised narratives and
rehearsed or therapeutised accounts
George: Sometimes you dont want to
say stuff but you need to.
Int: Does it help to talk or ?
George: It helps because then you
can leave the past behind and you
dont get in trouble and stuff.
Int: Do you want to leave the past
behind?
George: Yeah. ()
Int: Why?
George: Because you can start fresh

Int: What does it feel like when youre with your
mum
George: Nice
Int: Nice?
George: Yes
Int: Tell me a little bit more about nice?
George: Its just nice.
Paul: You need to put it another way!
Int: How do you feel about yourself when youre
with you mum?
George: Happy

Taken for grantedness
Ali: It just happens for everyone, like eating, everyone has to eat so whats the
same, whats the same with learning. You learn maths and science in here
((referring to school)) so whats the difference about learning how to protect
yourself at home.


Unterhalter (2013) the limitation of voice in research with children
Creative Methodologies

Family Configurations Inclusion & Exclusion
Draw your family
Double moon
Ecograms and systemic maps

Spaces Exploring the family home

Photovoice Imaging agency & resilience, photo elicitation & community exhibits



Family Configuration
Functionalities:

On a practical level- drawings of the family aid researcher understanding into
configurations & hierarchies from the childs perspective

Act as a shorthand during interview e.g. Children can refer to particular family
members

Participant choose who they bring into the room, who they include & exclude

Family drawings can elicit participants reflections when used in conjunction with
interview

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Inclusion & Exclusion
Absence of fathers in family drawings
Out of 13 family drawings 9 did not include a
father. Of the 4 which included a father, 3 were
talked about or drawn in a negative light. Only 1
child included a neutral representation of their
father.
Oliver, 12 years old
Dylan, 15 years old
Sophia, 14 years old
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Self-Defining Family:
Choosing relationships
Int: ...Josh, I notice you dont call him
Dad.
Josh: No I dont call him Dad
Int: Did you ever call him Dad?
Josh: erm not really, I just called him
(name), even at home when I still lived
with him
Int: Why was that?
Josh: Because I dont want my mind to
think hes my dad, cause hes not, I
dont want a dad that hits me.


Family members are included
according to reliability &
trustworthiness:
Rachel: Ive only put people on my
picture who like I know I can rely on
and I talk to and I have to go to and
stuff like that, like people who have
always been there for me

Josh, 9 years old
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Self Defining Family
When asked to draw a
picture of her family,
Jess represents
perceived familial
divisions
Boundary lines and the
creation of sets
Redefines Family by
including her friend
Jess: Shes not even
family, but I class her as
family, I class her as my
sister because shes
always there for me,
shes been there through
everything, but them
(People who are there)
they just dont bother.


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Bethany
Refused to include father
Wont be pinned down to a single
close relationship
She is both central, and coloured in
under a bright smiley sun
Brothers initial sad face (linked to
family division, and his desire to see
father) is re-drawn by her as happy
Legs?
Bethany, 10 years old
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Family Roles
& Hierarchies
Int: Okay Nancy, so were here with your
picture of your family. To start with could
you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Nancy: Im the youngest. Im the
scaredest.
Int: Youre the scaredest?
Nancy: ((smiles)) Im scared about
everything
Int: Youre scared about everything?
Nancy: (Nods), I love animals, I run away
from arguments so I dont get hurt ((.))
Umm.


Nancy: Me being like ((.)) cowardly, and
being, like when people start being nasty to
me, I like, I feel like Im shrinking ((gestures
with her body shrinking with her hands))
Int: Youre shrinking?
Nancy: Yeah, like getting smaller and smaller
and theyre getting bigger and stronger, and
my, sometimes, my family come up and stick
up for me, and braver , and they make the
other person feel all sorry and scared and
they go away and leave me alone.
Nancy, 10 years old
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Birth Order
Angels
Cheated Death
Alison: Im protecting my family by being
alive, if I wasnt here, I couldnt do nothing
could I?
Used within the family to mock

Confides in absent sisters:
Alison: For me, if I was closest, Id be
closest to my two dead sisters. People say
this is weird and all that, but I can see
them, I can feel their presence. At night, Ill
just lay there and Ill be having a
conversation, and theyll (family) be like
who the hell is she talking to? ...I
suppose Im closest to them (sisters)
because I can tell them a secret and theyd
keep it a secret because they couldnt go
and say it to no-one else.



Alison, 15 years old
Spaces Exploring the family home
Functionalities:
Drawings of the family home layout can generate rich data when used in
conjunction with semi-structured interviews
Tells us how children experiencing DA use space within their immediate family
homes
Risky places Vs Safe places
Risky times Vs Safe times
What/who helps children to cope (Material, personal or relational)
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Josh- Identifies Living room &
Bathroom as places of conflict
Seeks safety & solitude in the Garden
Shed:

Int: Was there anywhere you felt safe?
Josh: In my bedroom, or I would have hid in my
shed
Int: What was it about those places that made
you feel safe?
Josh: Because he didnt know really where I am,
they just kept me safe because I kept things in
there that meant a lot to me.


Josh, 9 years
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Rachel: ...sometimes wed go into the garden
when they were fighting and like Id push
Marcus on the rope swing and ((umm)) Id like
lay on the hammock and stuff, wed like get
the net and go like fishing in the pond and
stuff trying to catch the fish ((said with joy)).
______________________________________
_____
Accesses place of safety prior to active
observation:
Int: So you were scared about going home
and when you were actually there, what was
it like?
Rachel: I went straight upstairs to my
bedroom, ((umm)) Id sort of like sneak
downstairs and check that no one was
arguing or anything and if it was all OK, Id
come downstairs and sit down ((umm)) ((.))
and watch TV with my brother ((umm)) but if
there was an argument Id run downstairs,
grab my brother and take him upstairs.

Rachel, years
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Negotiating
unsafe
spaces
Int: When there was fighting going
on, where was it most likely to be?
Jess: Well when it would happen with
(older brother) it was always in the
bathroom, but with mum, it was
between the kitchen, the garden, living
room all downstairs basically.
Downstairs was never safe if Dad was
about because theyll be an argument.
Hed make an argument out of an old
argument, so downstairs was all his
power, I suppose.
________________________

Emma:...when I had friends round,
nothing would happen, he wouldnt dare
try anything, so...then when I did realise
that I used to get friends round all the
time.
Int: ...And how did you feel, when they
were there...?
Emma: Safe, I could just go wherever I
wanted, Id go downstairs, sit in the living
room, be a bit of a daredevil, in my head.

Jess, 18 years
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Hideaways
Int: You know you said that when you go to
your dads and if theres fighting, you go to a
tight space, why a tight space?
Nancy: That way they, they couldnt get to me
Int: Who?
Nancy: Everyone. It means like, they cant
come and start bothering me, which means I
feel safer, which means when I feel calm, I go
back, ((.)) and being in a tight space it feels like
part of a game, like being in a cave
Int: Was there a particular space in the house
that you felt safest?
Jess: Upstairs cupboard
Int: Why did you feel safest there?
Jess: Because it was dark and I could close the
door behind all of it.
Lizzy: ...hed take her into the living room
and sometimes I had to hide in a tiny
cupboard with little like piles of blankets and
stuff in there and just hide in there and then I
just, there was a neighbour next door and
every time that he used to start I used to get
out, I used to run over to the other people.
Int: So when there was fighting in the house, where
would you go to?...
Rachel: My brothers room.
Int: You went to your brothers room?
Rachel: Yeah, we used to hide under the bed
((jovial)) and stuff like that cause he had his little
den built and we used to hide in there.
Photovoice The Process
Following initial interview children are invited to take photos:
Telling us about their lives
How they cope & manage difficult circumstances & what helps
Participants are also invited to include text with their photos

Children & young people are asked to be mindful of their own & others privacy
when taking photos and not to take identifiable pictures of people

Photo elicitation - Second interview talking through photos
Creative collaboration All Photovoice participants meet as a group & work
together to build a community exhibition using their photographic work


Dichotomous relational constructions
Nice Mums & Bad Dads

Int: What does it feel like when youre with your mum
George: Nice
Int: Nice?
George: Yes
Int: Tell me a little bit more about nice?
George: Its just nice.
Paul: You need to put it another way!
Int: How do you feel about yourself when youre with you mum?
George: Happy

George: We get to do swimming, fun things, thats fun
Paul: But only with our mum, never with our dad
Photovoice - capturing the complexities within familial relationships:
Father rendered relatively unspeakable
Boys smuggled him in through photos of his dogs


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Escapism
Emma talks about walking: This just
helps if I have a lot on my mind, or if
Im just over-thinking...I tend to walk
alone in the nature and normally
listening to music. It gives me twenty
minutes of thinking of nothing, just
calming down and letting the wind
blow everything away
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Xbox
When physical escape isnt an option,
escaping into other worlds :
George and Paul
Grand Theft Auto- A game reflective of
fathers lifestyle, but a space in which
they are in control of the dangerous
things around them
Oliver - Xbox
Lizzy Super Mario

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Catharsis? through Sport
Emma: So it would be football, rugby
and gym right now and thats how, if I do
get upset or angry I let out my anger when
Im playing the sport, thats what helped
me deal with things

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Music
First visit Oliver took Jo out to look
at drums
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Creative outlets
Int: ...when it was very difficult at home, was
there anything that made you feel better?
Emma: Drawing.
Int: Drawing?
Emma: Yeah.
Int: And what is it about drawing?
Emma: Its like, this is how I put it to my art
teacher, its like letting out your emotions on a
bit of paper.
__________________________________
Emma: ...no one actually has to know what you
went through, but they can know how you feel
just with a drawing.
Int: Right. So you express yourself through
drawing, but no one has to actually know the
exact details.
Emma: Yeah. They can know how you feel, but
they dont know, they dont have to know the
details, its a lot easier that way.


Conclusions
Overwhelmingly the imagery and talk associated with children and domestic
violence positions them as passive recipients of damage, and as consequently
pathologised.
Need for alternative ways of talking about children and young people that enables
positioning as agentic, resistant and resilient
Make space for young people to articulate their experiences and take possession
of their sense of agency and creative coping
Create space for positive framing of young people in situations of violence - a
future for young people to populate
Finding us

UNARS website www.unars.co.uk
Follow us on twitter: https://twitter.com/JaneEMCallaghan
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/428946693916205/?fref=ts (yes,
thats a really handy, memorable address)