Theory & Frameworks
Moving beyond the neurobiological and individualistic trauma-informed model of care for children and young people, is response-based practice (RBP). RBP differs from trauma-informed care and other modes of care in that it takes into account the resistance to violence displayed by the victim. RBP is a way of caring for young clients that challenges mainstream approaches in Western Australia, nationally and internationally.
RBP was formally documented in 1997 by Canadian researcher, consultant and family therapist, Dr. Allan Wade’s article entitled “Small Acts of Living: Everyday Resistance to Violence and Other Forms of Oppression” (Wade, 1997). RBP is a new, innovative and evidence-based way of psychotherapeutically approaching practice when working with victims of interpersonal violence. The maxim of RBP is that wherever there has been abuse from the perpetrator, there has also been resistance from the victim. Children and young people resist oppression in many ways, all of which can be seen as intelligible forms of self-preservation and the preservation of their sense of dignity when perceived in the context of abuse perpetrated against them. These acts of resistance can often be mislabeled and diagnosed as psychopathological illness which further disenfranchises young victims. Responses should not be pathologised, but commended and highlighted to the victim as forms of resistance to abuse.
Theoretically, RBP has origins in solution focused therapy which seeks to determine how victims respond to particular questions, narrative therapy which assumes the view that “the person is not the problem, the problem is the problem” (Carey & Russell, 2002) and discourse analysis which is not aimed at examining text, but aimed at analysing social discourses/messages and how they influence the psychosocial characteristics of a person.
There are two key foundations of RBP. The first is the understanding that whenever people are oppressed they will always resist. Where the violence and abuse is often documented, the resistance to the abuse often goes unnoticed, even by the victim themselves. The second foundation to RBP is the understanding that language and social responses are the most powerful tools in shaping outcomes for victims and perpetrators. Coates and Wade (2004) in "Telling it like it isn’t: obscuring perpetrator responsibility for violent crime" describe how language is unfortunately more often than not used to support these four discursive operations:
obscure and mitigate perpetrator responsibility;
conceal the victim’s resistance, and;
blame or pathologies victim’s
By knowing how language can support these four discursive operations, RBP tries to counter them by highlighting the violence, holding perpetrators accountable, honouring the victims resistance and challenging dominant discourses that blame the victim for their abuse.
The parallel history of resistance as a response to the violence is used when working with young clients. Wade (1997, p25) defines resistance as: “Any mental or behavioural act through which a person attempts to expose, withstand, repel, stop, prevent, abstain from, strive against, impede, refuse to comply with, or oppose any form of violence or oppression (including any type of disrespect), or the conditions that make such acts possible, may be understood as a form of resistance.” Here, RBP positions the victim as an agent that actively responds to abuse instead of an object that is acted upon.
Access a copy of AN INTRODUCTION TO RESPONSE BASED PRACTICE by the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services (WA).
The overwhelming majority of the world's soldiers, police and prison warders are men. Most of the generals, admirals, bureaucrats and politicians who control the social means of coercion and collective violence are men. Most muggers, armed robbers, murderers, and people involved in street violence are men. Nearly all rapists and domestic batterers are men (Douglas, 1993, p2). Women and their children face marginalisation as a result of these overarching dominant patriarchal sociopolitical systems. According to feminist theory, domestic violence will only be responded to effectively by challenging the inequality within gender relations in society (Taylor, 2006). While feminist frameworks emphasise gendered power dynamics as acting to oppress women and their children, it is critical to acknowledge the multitude of structurally oppressive forces that also lead to poor social responses to victims of domestic and family violence in Western Australian society. Discrimination and the oppression of women and their children are compounded by other societal structures and attitudes towards marginalised groups. Feminism understands that class, race, religion, sexuality, disability, etc. are all influencing factors that can add to negative responses by practitioners and agencies to victims of domestic and family violence.
Women, children and young people of diverse backgrounds that do not typically reflect social norms or the mainstream identity (middle-class, white, heterosexual, Christian-background, English-speaking Australian) encounter additional barriers. The impacts of domestic and family violence can be especially harmful to already marginalised individuals. However, by accounting for the complexities of diverse children’s and young people’s experiences and cultural differences, there is the risk of diminishing concepts like gender, race, and class (Mann, 2000) and also of downplaying the significant role that racism, sexism, social class, heterosexism, and other systemic forms of discrimination have on women and children (Sokoloff & Dupont, 2008).