The challenge of violence against women should be recognised as an issue for the state, citizenship and the whole community. This book examines how responses by the state sanction violence against women and shape a woman’s citizenship long after she has escaped from a violent partner.
Drawing from a long-term study of women’s lives in Australia, including before and after a relationship with a violent partner, it investigates the effects of intimate partner violence on aspects of everyday life including housing, employment, mental health and social participation.
The book contributes to theoretical explanations of violence against women by reframing it through the lens of sexual politics. Finally, it offers critical insights for the development of social policy and practice.
This chapter shows that feminists themselves have struggled with the obstacles created by the fitful and damaging politics of ignorance that help to sustain gender inequality. Whether unequal gender relations are merely natural, or whether men’s identity depends on maintaining their dominant position as patriarch of the family by necessary force, or whether somehow women’s psychology or childhood socialisation leads them to attract abusive men into their lives, or whether women need to learn how to manage their violent partner for the sake of the marriage, the children or their relationship with god are all questions that feminists have needed to work through. And, the chapter argues, this work must continue. The discursive effects of a politics of ignorance about violence against women have an impact on women as much as on men, and on our social and political understanding of violence as much as on social institutions and the state.
This chapter returns to the topics broached in the previous chapters and considers the progress made so far. It shows how there have been achievements in many countries in terms of housing, law reform, policy development, and the provision of support services for women leaving intimate partner violence. But, while these developments are important and could go some way towards improving the safety of women and their children, this chapter argues that not all state responses are sufficiently informed about the nature of the gender inequalities that enable violence, nor of the specific impact of intimate partner violence. It points to areas where state responses to intimate partner violence must improve in order to build women’s capabilities to exercise full citizenship. After all, male-dominated sexual politics continues to locate intimate partner violence as an issue of the private sphere while, at the same time, claiming that gender equality has been won anyway and is therefore irrelevant.
This chapter draws together theoretical perspectives in developing an argument about gendered violence and women’s citizenship. It suggests that the state’s role in securing, enabling, and maintaining the rights of citizens plays an important part in how violence is perpetrated and challenged. The apparent failure of the state to protect women as citizens from persistent violence is examined, with particular attention to the sexual politics of power and violence and the interconnections of material conditions, discourses, and subjectivities in the everyday life of the citizen. The chapter proposes that the persistence of domestic violence is implicated in the sexual politics of citizenship. In addition, the discursive impact of a politics of ignorance serves to deny or obscure how women’s inequality, materially and discursively, is produced and reproduced in everyday life.
This chapter is focused on the challenges of researching gendered violence. Here, the chapter presents the empirical foundation and design of a large-scale national study conducted across Australia; which included a major survey, in-depth interviews, and constructed life histories. This chapter also considers some of the challenges faced when conducting and participating in gendered violence research in the context of the politics of ignorance and sexual politics. Given the risks that can flow from participating in and conducting research into gendered violence, it was particularly vital that the study was tightly conceptualised and methodologically sound, so that the benefits of participation by contributing to the development of new knowledge clearly outweighed any risks. The research study outlined here aimed to reveal the breadth and interconnected nature of the impact of intimate partner violence on women’s citizenship as part of challenging wilful ignorance about violence and its relationship to gender inequality. As such, this research was an inherently political project that involved balancing a number of key considerations.
This chapter is about how living the connected effects of violence situates the argument that domestic violence reverberates across women’s lives and erodes their citizenship. A data analysis here reveals the effects of intimate partner violence on the material, emotional, and social aspects of women’s lives and how such violence disrupts and restricts their combined capabilities to participate in everyday life, very often for lengthy periods. The chapter offers insights into how women’s experiences are shaped by a range of factors, such as state legislation and policy, the resilience or hostility of their own families and communities, and the availability of opportunities to gain and maintain employment. It reveals that women who have experienced violence rarely regain their place on their original life course. The quality of their housing, employment, mental health, and social participation is generally diminished.
This chapter examines how the sexual politics of domestic violence gives rise to stigma and shame, eroding women’s confidence and trust in others. The analysis presented here therefore makes a new contribution to knowledge about how intimate partner violence interrupts and changes women’s social relationships and affiliations in ways that have lasting effects on the capacity to exercise citizenship. In common with findings in relation to employment, housing, and mental health, this chapter shows that women do not regain the levels of social engagement they had prior to intimate partner violence, and that the nature of social participation is also changed by intimate partner violence in ways that are not wholly negative. It explores how intimate partner violence affects women’s participatory citizenship and the interconnections with its impact on the three other key life domains. This chapter also examines how women rebuild the social relationships and connections in their lives.
This chapter is devoted to questions about why intimate partner violence is understood in terms of its psychological impact on individual women. It suggests alternative ways that the serious psychological and emotional impact of intimate partner violence might be understood and addressed so that policy and practice may be more beneficial. The notion of coercive control has become an important explanatory concept, exposing how intimate partner violence is almost always experienced as repeated, patterned violence, intimidation, isolation, and fear. This chapter shows how gendered discourses, practices, and power relations that are embedded in domestic violence erode women’s sense of themselves as persons, and hence their capabilities to exercise their citizenship.
This chapter argues that sexual politics is present in all aspects of our lives, including gendered violence, the state, and citizenship. It adds that sexual politics opens up new possibilities for understanding the persistent effects of domestic violence by shifting attention to the politics of gender relations. This shift away from the binary category of gender as men/women to the active and relational dynamics of sexual politics undercuts assumptions that gendered violence is natural or inevitable, or that violence is only caused by individuals. Sexual politics has material and discursive effects and offers an understanding of how the gendered dynamics of domestic violence and its long-term consequences have remained largely hidden from view. This chapter argues that the persistence of violence against women is implicated in the sexual politics of citizenship and the state. Hence, the challenge of violence against women is recognised as an issue for the state, citizenship, and society.