‘The edge to him was really, really nasty’: abusive tactics used against informal supporters of domestic violence survivors

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  • 1 University of Bristol, UK
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Survivors of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) often seek support from people around them, and the responses, judgements and behaviours of these people have the potential to help or harm. Adults in survivors’ networks are rarely studied, and little consideration is given to what they might experience as they journey alongside the survivor. To address this, a qualitative study was conducted, with people who had a female friend, relative, neighbour or colleague who had experienced DVA, and the abusive behaviours experienced by participants were explored. Twenty-three interviews were conducted, and a thematic analysis of the narratives carried out. Findings indicated that participants had a variety of perpetrator behaviours directed towards them, including violence, threats, hostility, intimidation, despotism, punishment and manipulation. Occasionally these behaviours were overt, but frequently they were obscured, leading to confusion. There were parallels between behaviours used by perpetrators towards informal supporters, and those frequently used towards survivors. Factors that appeared to mediate what was experienced included characteristics of informal supporters, their relationship with the survivor, and whether there were children involved. These findings have important practical and policy implications if the needs of informal supporters of DVA survivors are to be recognised and met.

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