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Using feminist phenomenology to explore women's experiences of domestic violence in pregnancy

02 June 2014
Volume 22 · Issue 6


This article presents the philosophical and theoretical dimensions of a doctoral study which aimed to explore women's experiences of domestic violence in pregnancy. The intention is to share some contributions from the literature that enabled the researcher to prepare to collect and analyse sensitive data. A qualitative methodology underpinned by feminist values and the philosophy of interpretive phenomenology was employed. The researcher aimed to locate the most congruent approach and method which would allow the women's voices to be heard and facilitate an understanding of the women's experiences of domestic violence and the impact on their general health and wellbeing during pregnancy. An overview of the context of domestic violence is provided to demonstrate the need for a gender sensitive philosophical foundation and theoretical framework for the research.

Domestic violence and abuse against women is a global public health issue (World Health Organisation (WHO), 2010). It has a long history, exists in many cultures, and is accepted as part of everyday living. It is embedded in society and pervades all socioeconomic, gender and cultural groups, has devastating impact on the lives of survivors and until the late 20th century has gone mostly unchallenged (WHO, 2005). Within the UK domestic violence is usually regarded as violence between adults who are or have been in an intimate relationship or family relationship with each other (Hague and Malos, 2005). In most situations, domestic violence occurs within the context of a relationship of a cohabiting couple and includes physical, sexual and emotional abuse as well as controlling behaviours.

Domestic violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women, although it can also be perpetrated by women against men. However, according to Kantor and Jasinski (1998) the violence is usually very different from the violence men perpetrate towards women, in that it is usually less harmful, frequently carried out in self-defence and less likely to be motivated by an attempt to control, dominate or terrorise. Domestic violence also occurs in same sex relationships, although currently there is a lack of knowledge about its extent and consequences or indeed an understanding about the differences between violence in a same sex relationship and violence within heterosexual relationships (Harne and Radford, 2008), with most of the existing research limited to lesbian relationships (Hester et al, 2010). According to Hester et al, (2010) this limiting evidence-base can be attributed to a potential for a homophobic backlash from society, and the hidden nature of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population means that it is very difficult to recruit a random or even a representative sample.

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