The emotional toll of family violence explored in Arthur V. Mauro Centre’s lecture series

Photo by Lauren Siddall.

The 2017 Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice brown bag lecture series opened Feb. 3 with a presentation examining responses to violence against women.

Judy Hughes, an associate professor with the faculty of social work, delivered a presentation titled “Finding Meaning in Our Response to Violence.” The half-hour talk centred on her research examining how women’s shelter employees work with victims of intimate partner violence. Her research was conducted through a series of interviews with both shelter workers and clients.

She emphasized that the longstanding notion of considering physical assault the only form of violence against women has to change because violence reaches beyond the spheres where force is used.

“I think ultimately, out of this, I would like to see people move away from an idea of thinking that in a way only physical violence is such a marker or definitive understanding of what violence is,” she said, stressing the need to shift focus beyond what happens to the body during moments of violence to the effects it has on the mind.

Hughes discussed violence as a violation of the victim’s agency to make their own choices, especially when it pertains to family violence and abusive relationships.

“It is not just what is done to the body – the shaping of the mind is important,” she said. “And a lot of women say that it was the psychological or emotional form of violence that stayed with them the longest.”

“People go into relationships with a lot of expectations,” she said. “You just meet someone, you feel great and you want to spend time with them. And if that person turns out to be abusive, it changes all of that, all of those expectations.”

Hughes highlighted shelter workers’ efforts to restore some semblance of control to clients by having them participate in cooking and meal preparations as an avenue toward emotional healing.

The brown bag series is a string of short lectures hosted by the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice in its St. Paul’s College boardroom over the lunch hour.

Three more sessions are scheduled through the winter term, with the next lecture, “The Socio-Political Challenges Facing Refugee Camp Schools,” slated for Feb. 17.