• Abused women's perceptions of professionals' responses: valued support, or collusion with perpetrator?

      Neale, Jo (Policy Press, 2018-10-19)
      Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is recognised as a serious public health issue that detrimentally affects the lives of victims during, and after exiting, the relationship. For staff in overstretched criminal justice, health and social care agencies, high prevalence rates of DVA place a significant strain on the financial and emotional resources available to them. Drawing on Angie Ash’s (2013) concept of ‘cognitive masks’, and using data collected as part of a larger study, I examine the responses from agencies that frustrated women’s attempts to leave an abusive male partner. Fourteen women, recruited via three specialist support agencies in two English counties and my own personal networks, participated in semi-structured narrative style interviews. Findings suggest that practitioners sometimes ignore significant aspects of the case, thus rendering the situation more manageable – for themselves. For women, however, this can frustrate their attempts to exit the relationship and remain abuse-free.
    • The beam and shadow of the spotlight: visibility and invisibility in women’s experiences of domestic violence and abuse

      Neale, Jo; University of Bedfordshire (University of Bedfordshire, 2019-01-29)
      Although it has received greater policy attention in recent years, domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is a global problem that, at a national level, remains under-reported, under-prosecuted and under-convicted. The apparent ineffectiveness of policy approaches in reducing the incidence of DVA, or mitigating its social and economic costs, not least upon those directly experiencing DVA, forms the backcloth of this enquiry. The aim of the study presented in this thesis was to explore, from a feminist poststructuralist perspective, the processes by which heterosexual women enter, endure and leave abusive relationships. Using semi-structured narrative style interviews, I worked with fourteen women with a wide range of characteristics in terms of age, ethnicity, physicality, socio-economic status and the length of time elapsed since their experiences of abuse. Using Nicola Gavey’s (2005) concept of cultural scaffolding (the discourses and [hetero]normative practices that make it so difficult to identify a relationship as abusive), I examined the space between normalised heterosexual relationships and abuse and, in the process, provided a better understanding of women’s routes into DVA. I have shone a spotlight on the full range of perpetrators’ behaviours that entrap and oppress their female partners and have identified four key domains in which the tactics of the abuser work to: ensnare his victim; dismantle her previous identities; prevent her from leaving the relationship; and punish her for leaving. These include behaviours used to manipulate women’s social and support networks in order to prolong or sabotage their attempts to escape the abuse. From a feminist poststructuralist perspective, participants’ experiences of entering, enduring and leaving abusive relationships can be read as part of the wider cultural scaffolding of heteropatriarchy, which left them exposed to ensnarement and exploitation. Using Dark Triad (Paulhus 2002) as a model for conceptualising perpetrators’ manipulation of their ex-partners, their children, and professionals, I offer an alternative way of understanding men’s abuse of their female partners.
    • "My head was like a washing machine on spin": (improving) women’s experiences of accessing support

      Neale, Jo; Hodges, Kathryn; University of Bedfordshire; St. Mary’s University (DigitalCommons@URI, 2021-02-01)
      This paper draws on data collected as part of two larger studies to set out the differences, according to women seeking support, between the feminist responses of the specialist women’s sector and the issues-led responses of other agencies. The first study examined the processes by which women enter, endure, and exit relationships with abusive men. The second study explored the barriers to help-seeking for those accessing a service for women involved in prostitution. Taking a feminist poststructuralist approach, the authors point to the gendered nature, both of the experiences that propel women toward help-seeking and of the responses they receive from agencies. They note the current socio-economic context within which those experiences and responses are set and the importance, for women, of the specialist women’s sector. Data were collected via narrative-style interviews with twenty-five women with lived experience of the issues being explored. Many women noted that, when initially seeking support from agencies, they had either been offered no service or inappropriate services. They spoke of being required to engage with multiple services, constantly retelling their stories, and the competing and conflicting demands made of them by professionals. These accounts were contrasted with the service they received from the specialist women’s sector. The findings are presented in terms of their meaning for and impact upon women accessing professional support. The implications for practice are discussed: the case for professionals’ proactive sourcing/using information about women’s services operating in their locality; the importance of effective communication, both within and between agencies; and the shared benefits of working alongside the specialist women’s sector.