“I couldn’t move forward if I didn’t look back”: Visual Expression and Transitional Stories of Domestic Violence
AffiliationUniversity of Derby
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AbstractPsychological, sociological and feminist models of understanding domestic violence have contributed to the development of interventions that seek to raise awareness, keep women safe, and help them to create new lives for themselves and their families. Research literature has extensively paid attention to the ways in which women both live with and move away from domestic violence, documenting how they employ strategies of survival and resistance. The research methods employed to investigate domestic violence includes a range of quantitative and qualitative methods with particular emphasis placed upon enabling women to tell their stories in as authentic a way as possible. This thesis adds to the literature by considering how women construct what will be referred to as transitional stories of domestic violence, within which they imagine their future selves and develop the means to become what they hope for. The methodology used is original within the study of domestic violence in its synthesis of arts-based, feminist and participatory methods. The adopted epistemology sought to value the use of embodiment and imagination in the construction of knowledge, both of which are considered to be situated. The use of an arts-based method is chosen to enable a different way for women to tell their stories about their response to living with and transitioning away from domestic violence. The evaluation of this methodology shows that it is a valid form of enabling women to have the embodied subjectivity of their experiences and imagination witnessed in a way that complements the written and spoken word, whilst better allowing the physical and metaphorical quality of their stories to come to the foreground. Following a feminist agenda, attention is paid to the influence of gender upon the researcher’s findings, and upon the participants’ and researchers’ reflexive engagement with the research process. The research shows that the home has special significance for women as they transition away from domestic violence and plan for their future. The home becomes a physical manifestation and container for women’s hopes and fears for a harmonious future that often incorporates the desire for the return to the idea of a complete family. Relationships with family, friends and services are shown to be both enablers of women’s agency and resistance. Those same relationships are also shown to be capable of acting as barriers to women’s positive transitional journeys. The findings show that attention needs to be placed upon the appearance of women’s agency within the everyday tasks of creating and maintaining a home and managing relationships as they move away from domestic violence. The findings also point to the need for services to work harder on empowering women, both by adequately listening to the stories told about their pasts and hopes for the future, and by helping them to achieve their plans through challenging the limitations imposed by policies and economics.
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