For-profit companies have begun competing with women’s shelters for ‘clients’ trying to escape violence. Using discourse theory, this study examines how 20 private shelters describe their business. The analysis shows that private shelters describe themselves as: (1) having a broad expertise and target group: (2) being able to tend to the individual needs of any client; and (3) being highly available and flexible. We understand this as an expression of a neoliberal market discourse and as a way to differentiate themselves from women’s shelters. This may put pressure on women’s shelters to provide similar ‘inclusion’, availability and flexibility. Furthermore: (4) private shelters contribute to shaping a desirable neoliberal subject, that is, a self-reliant woman; and (5), by articulating needs as individual and inherently mundane, they lean more towards ‘providing accommodation’ than addressing the particularities of (gendered) violence.
This article critically analyses the assumptions and effects of the ‘daring to ask approach’ to gender based violence (GBV), as expressed in the policies that govern social services’ work in Sweden. We show how GBV is constituted as a sensitive issue connected with shame and as something that will not be brought up spontaneously; GBV is something that women who had experienced it carry with them as an ‘untouched truth’ waiting to be discovered by social workers while women’s worries about the consequences of telling are not made intelligible. The very speaking as such is seen as emancipatory, and the social worker is understood as a facilitator. With this approach follows standardised questions, aiming for neutrality and equity. However, these are so wide and unspecific, that the risk is that no one thinks the questions are directed to her. By making the assumptions and effects of a seemingly self-evident strategy visible, we demonstrate areas in need of further research and policy development, such as barriers to help-seeking (beyond stigmatisation) and effects of standardisation. This is an important undertaking since without critical scrutiny of the policies there is a risk that stakeholders assume that merely asking will resolve the problem of GBV.