Deconstructing practitioners' understandings of intimate partner violence and abuse: implications for practice and supervision

PhD Thesis

Lawrence, Jane 2012. Deconstructing practitioners' understandings of intimate partner violence and abuse: implications for practice and supervision. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Psychology
AuthorsLawrence, Jane
TypePhD Thesis

Against a background of often acrimonious debate among researchers, and contradictory research evidence, the most influential perspective in deciding criminal justice policy and the organisation of services across North America and Western Europe for those involved in intimate partner violence continues to be the gender paradigm. Approaches to practice based on the view that women are always victims and men perpetrate violence against them to maintain patriarchy have been criticised as reductionist and prescriptive. However, calls by researchers to bring more psychological theory and relational awareness to understandings of domestic violence and its practices have tended to be ignored. In the UK, services are predominantly offered to either ‘survivors/victims’ or ‘perpetrators’, and many co-ordinated community responses take a gender perspective.
Using a thematic analysis, this study aimed to deconstruct the understandings and approach to practice of 20 UK practitioners, who primarily offered services to either ‘perpetrators’ or ‘survivors/victims’. Practices were found to be mainly informed by the gender paradigm, reflecting assumptions that men’s abusive behaviour was instrumental and chosen, whilst women behaved aggressively in retaliation or defence. However, some participants integrated a relational perspective, deliberately moving away from either/or approaches that allocated blame, and endorsing practices that held both partners responsible for their choices and facilitated understanding of their motivation.
Whilst not eschewing the advances that feminist theory has brought to this field, the author concludes that segregating services contributes to the re-production of gendered assumptions that downplay the impact of the relational context and individual motivation. Evidence-based approaches are needed that engage more effectively with clients’ attributions of blame, recognise the potential for reciprocal abuse, and move away from understandings and practices premised on the now out-dated assumption that intimate violence and abuse is only a gender issue.

Keywordsviolence and abuse; partners; criminal justice policy
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Deposited25 Feb 2013
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