Safe and unsafe spaces? Using drawings and photos to explore children's sense of safety in domestic violence

Jane Callaghan, Jo Alexander, Lisa Fellin

Research output: Contribution to ConferencePoster


Objectives: Dominant professional and academic discourses position children who have experienced domestic violence as passive observers of abuse, ‘wounded’ by the things they have seen (Øverlien 2013). Challenging this representation of children, this paper explores how children represent embodied and spatial experience of violence, including a consideration of how children use their material experiences to produce resistant embodied agency. Method This paper is based on interviews with 107 children, in 4 European countries (Italy, Greece, Spain and the UK), focused on their experiences of coping and of maintaining a sense of agency, in families where domestic violence occurs. These interviews included use of photo-elicitation, free drawing, and guided drawing - including family drawing and spatial mapping (Bridger, 2013; Gabb and Singh, 2014), to facilitate young people’s expression of difficult to articulate experiences. The interviews were analysed using Denzin’s Interpretive Interactionism. Results: Visual methods facilitated children’s critical reflections on their experiences of embodiment, and how they used spaces and places within and outside the violent home environment. Three themes are considered: children’s experiences of displacement and disruption (the un-homing of the home), their accounts of creating safe spaces within their home, and use of space as a form of escape and resistance to abuse and control. Conclusions and Implications Findings suggest that children are capable and active agents, resourceful and inventive in their capacity to use, produce and construct physical, embodied and relational spaces for security, comfort and healing during and after living within violent and volatile contexts. The practical applications of these findings are considered.


Other21st International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (ISPCAN) International Congress
Period29/08/16 → …
Internet address


  • Domestic violence
  • children
  • creative methods
  • domestic abuse
  • embodiment
  • interpersonal violence
  • use of space


Dive into the research topics of 'Safe and unsafe spaces? Using drawings and photos to explore children's sense of safety in domestic violence'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this