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For our family support research we did in fact interview men who have care of, or contact with, their children

The research to which Sarah Morton refers in her letter was conducted by Circle, a family support organisation with a long history of working with vulnerable families (Letters, November 22).

Contrary to her assertion that "these men probably have lost contact because their partners and children were abused and do not want to see them", the men interviewed for the research all now have care of, or contact with, their children. The research tells their stories, validated by documentary evidence, of protracted battles to reach this stage.

With extensive direct experience of working with families, Circle is well aware of the need to listen to victims of abuse. We do not, however, believe that in seeking to challenge the abuse of women we should collude with assumptions or practices that deny men a legitimate role in their children's upbringing. Relationships in the families we work with are invariably complex, as a Centre for Research on Families and Relationships ought to understand.

Maura Daly,

Operations Manager, Circle,

18 West Pilton Park, Edinburgh.

As researchers and practitioners working in the area of gender-based violence, we were concerned by the article "Sexism stops fathers from seeing children" (November 20) and, in particular, by the conclusions that institutional sexism denies fathers a role and a voice in child protection matters.

In this complex and sensitive area it is vital that research is both theoretically informed and methodologically robust.

There are significant limitations in the design of the Listening to Fathers study described in the article, not least that it draws on interviews with just eight men, all of whom are involved in child protection processes.

Where there are positive relationships and the child wishes contact to take place, we support safe and positive contact, and value the role of fathers in this.

However, a wealth of national and international research has demonstrated there is a real risk to women and children following separation in abusive relationships, and that contact should only take place after a full assessment of associated risks.

It is essential that existing evidence, specifically that which supports the child-centred approach adopted in Scotland, is considered when interpreting findings from this small-scale study.

We would like to echo the sentiments of Peter McLeod of the Association of Directors of Social Work and emphasise that, in such cases, the priority of agencies should be the avoidance of risk and the protection of children.

Professor M Burman (University of Glasgow), Dr O Brooks (University of Abertay), Dr N Lombard (Glasgow Caledonian University), Dr S Morton (University of Edinburgh), M McGowan (ASSIST), N Whiting (Scottish Women's Aid), C McFeely (University of Glasgow),

Members of the Scottish Gender Based Violence Research Network,

7 Endfield Avenue,

Glasgow.

Contextual targeting label: 
Families

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