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The Absent Voice: Female victims of domestic abuse experiences of civil disputes concerning contact between children and parents in Scotland.

Project Description

Scotland is engaged in an ambitious and innovative strategy to tackle domestic abuse. The negative impact of domestic abuse on children is recognized. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that the current approach to considering abuse in the context of child welfare, set out in s11 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, is not working.

Child contact decisions following parental break up due to domestic abuse present significant challenges. Notably, mothers, the victims of abuse face a range of barriers to expressing their concerns about contact with the perpetrator of the abuse.

This research will examine contact proceedings to understand how, if at all, changing definitions of domestic abuse and coercive control enable female victims to raise domestic abuse as a matter that the court must take in to account. The successful candidate will conduct a comparative review of other jurisdictions, review Scottish case law, sherival guidance on handling domestic abuse cases, and conduct qualitative interviews with female victims of domestic abuse across Scotland, including rural areas where access to legal advice can be difficult.

Essential attributes
- Experience of fundamental legal analysis and social research
- Competent in undertaking a range of research tasks ideally in Law, Social Policy, Criminology or relevant social science discipline
- Knowledge of family law and policy
- Good written and oral communication skills
- Strong motivation, with evidence of independent research skills relevant to the project
- Good time management

Desirable attributes
- A good understanding of social theory, and of qualitative research methods

Funding Notes

Funded PhD project (UK students only)

Academic qualifications
A first degree (at least a 2:1) ideally in Law, Social Policy, or Criminology with a good fundamental knowledge of the legal system in Scotland.

English language requirement
IELTS score must be at least 6.5 (with not less than 6.0 in each of the four components). Other, equivalent qualifications will be accepted.


Hunter, R Domestic Violence Law Reform and Women’s experience in court. (2008, Amherst:Cambria Press).

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