Historically, intimate partner violence (IPV) has been conceptualised as a gendered
problem of men’s violence towards women, based on a model of male patriarchy.
Within this paradigm, ‘victims’ are considered female, and ‘perpetrators’ male. Despite
the growing body of research challenging this perspective and suggesting more parity
between men and women in their propensity for violence, UK services and treatment
programmes continue to be influenced by the gender paradigm, thus neglecting men and
women whose experiences do not fit this dominant discourse.
The current study aimed to give voice to women who have been abusive and violent
towards male partners, to learn more about their subjective experiences. Interviews were
conducted with seven women. Transcripts were analysed using Interpretative
Phenomenological Analysis, underpinned by a phenomenological hermeneutic
epistemology. Three themes were developed; the women foregrounded past abusive
traumatic experiences in their accounts, and the way they repeated, replayed, and reenacted
these is illustrated in ‘Repeating the Past’. ‘From Pain to Violence’ captures
how their rage and violent behaviour appeared to be a complex manifestation of these
earlier unresolved experiences. ‘Disconnecting’ illustrates the way they disconnected
from their experiences, and experienced breakdowns in social connection.
The findings highlight the need for practitioners working with IPV to provide
multidimensional, relational approaches to treatment, in which the therapeutic
relationship is carefully considered. Individualised clinical interventions that develop
emotional, psychological, and neurobiological capacities may be beneficial. The study
advocates the need for practitioners to be aware of, and open to challenging
assumptions about intimate partner violence, thus reflective practice and supervision is