18 July 2009
More reports of WA mothers mistreating children
By Nick Taylor
The number of WA mothers reported for abusing their children has leapt in the past two years.
Figures from the Department for Child Protection, obtained by The Sunday Times, show the number of mothers believed responsible for "substantiated maltreatment" has risen from 312 to 427. In the same period - 2005-06 to 2007-08 - the number of fathers reported for child abuse dropped from 165 to 155.
A breakdown of all family-based child abuse shows and increase from 960 to 1505 last year.
Michael Woods, of the University of Western Sydney, said the data "debunked a common misconception about fathers and violence".
Dr Woods, who is also a co-director of the university-based Men's Information and Resource Centre said: "The figures undermine the myth that fathers are the major risk for their children's wellbeing.
"The data is not surprising. It is in line with the international findings regarding perpetrators of child abuse."
He said previous practices of lumping together de factos, live-in boyfriends and overnight male guests with fathers as male carers had "skewed beliefs" about who abused children.
Angela Hartwig, executive officer of the Women's Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services WA, said the increases were a concern, but child abuse, neglect and domestic and family violence could be reported in several ways.
"Because the woman is so often the primary care-giver she is held as being responsible for the neglect," she said.
"This could also explain why there is such a high number of neglect cases against women, as the data only shows the first person believed responsible.
"The statistics do not show the strong correlation that where there is child abuse there is often domestic and family violence and the women may be the victim of the abuse.
"If she is a victim of domestic and family violence, a woman has very little power to change the situation.
"It is difficult for a woman to provide for children when living with an abusive partner who has total control of all decisions made, which includes controlling the finances."