The “freedom work” of feminist domestic violence advocates

Delanie Woodlock, Michael Salter, Deborah Western

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Since the 1970s, there have been dramatic shifts in domestic violence advocacy in Australia. Domestic violence activism emerged from the women’s liberation movement with a clear feminist and emancipatory agenda, but this work has now shifted into the mainstream. This has seen the previous focus of domestic violence advocacy, which included women’s freedom and liberation, narrow to an emphasis more on women’s safety and risk management. While this “safety work” is a needed priority, there must also be an examination of what is lost when domestic violence practice does not allow space for “freedom work”. This article explores freedom work with 10 feminist domestic violence advocates in Australia. They detail four principles of their freedom work with victim—survivors, which includes that feminism is central to their survivor-led practice; that safety work can expand freedom when done from a feminist perspective; that advocates’ knowledge needs to meet victim—survivors where they are; and that while freedom is central to their practice, they acknowledge that this freedom is aspirational. IMPLICATIONS A focus on risk management and safety in domestic violence work can narrow women’s freedom and choices. Feminist domestic violence advocates who ground their work in emancipatory politics expand their focus beyond women’s safety to honour women’s freedom. This “freedom work” is mainly aspirational but seeks opportunities to expand women’s space for action and freedom alongside broader political activism.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalAustralian Social Work
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


  • Aspirational Freedom
  • Australia
  • Children
  • De-gendering
  • Domestic Violence
  • Emancipation
  • Feminism
  • Freedom
  • Liberatory Politics
  • Post-Feminism
  • Radical Feminists
  • Radical Social Workers
  • Refuges
  • Risk Management
  • Safety
  • Self-Determination
  • Self-Empowerment
  • Survivor-Led Practice
  • Victim–Survivors
  • Victoria
  • Women
  • Women’s Liberation Movement

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