The post-separation journey of women who have experienced intimate partner violence

Found in: Resources on violence against women and girls

The post-separation journey of women who have experienced intimate partner violence

This thesis by Sarah Jayne Parkin explores the experiences of both women who have experienced IPV, and formal support workers in order to generate a theory that explains the post-separation journey of women after leaving an IPV relationship. The findings of the study highlighted that although the post-separation journey is unique for each woman, there were common individual processes that influence long-term wellbeing. The findings  support and add to prior research which concludes that the approach of formal supports can serve to either help or hinder women’s wellbeing post-separation The individual journey of women post separation was found to occur as the result of interactions between a woman, other people, situation, services, community and cultural context. In order to highlight all the external influences identified by participants the individual post-separation journey of women was positioned within context using an ecological perspective.

According to the researcher, although IPV research has begun to conceptualise the causes and consequences of IPV as a complex interaction of numerous individual, relational, situational and socio-cultural factors, the participants in the current study identified there continues to be somewhat “simplistic” perceptions of IPV in friends, family, colleagues and some formal supports. This lack of understanding contributed to women experiencing stigma, fear of disclosing IPV, a lack of support, and pressure to end the relationship despite the individual circumstances of the relationship. This finding, the researcher says, suggests the importance of continuing to actively involve women in informing research, policy, and practice. It also suggests a greater need for new knowledge to be incorporated and represented in our communities; including in current practices within service provision, policy development and community intervention.

The study’s findings are consistent with research conducted by Pennington-Zoellner (2009) who emphasised that a ‘community response’ to IPV needs to involve informal support networks, individual support services, therapeutic services for women, children and perpetrators, legal services, child protection departments, criminal and family law departments, religious and spiritual supports, employers as well as community services such as schools, General Practitioners, child care services, and other community groups. The researcher writes: “a collaborative community approach will better support women, men and children who have been involved in IPV relationships, and is more likely to lead to a change in community attitudes. Therefore, continued reflection on current practices within services and possible areas of improvement should endure.”

Importantly, the researcher notes that: “As each woman’s journey will differ it is important to acknowledge that not all women will choose to leave an IPV relationship. Some women will choose to remain in an IPV relationship based on positive feelings towards their partner, increased ability to satisfy basic needs when with the partner (e.g., housing, food), risk of escalated abuse if the woman leaves and perceived better ability to manage the IPV while remaining in the relationship.” The researcher further states that:” Leaving an IPV relationship is not consistently linked with better outcomes for women and children as abuse or risk may increase after separation or living conditions may decline. Consequently, for some women the decision to stay in the relationship is the safest option at that time.” Some women in the study expressed feeling pressure by informal and formal supports to end the relationship even if this was not their goal. For some women this led to them seeking support without disclosing IPV e.g., seeing a counsellor to reflect on themselves in an attempt to improve the relationship. Such findings emphasise the importance of considering the individual characteristics of a relationship in shaping the support provided.

Access the thesis here