Academic journal article Capital & Class

Fleeing from Fear: The Changing Role of Refuges in Meeting the Needs of Women Leaving Violent Partners

Academic journal article Capital & Class

Fleeing from Fear: The Changing Role of Refuges in Meeting the Needs of Women Leaving Violent Partners

Article excerpt

Media driven interpretations of fear and risk have failed to notify the general public that the most likely victims of violence are females who are attacked by a male partner. Domestic violence is pervasive throughout virtually all cultures, occurring across all social classes, all ethnic groups, and all age groups. Yet the true extent of domestic violence is generally agreed to be unknown. Domestic violence is a private fear and as is shown within this paper the search for sanctuary spaces that are offered by refuges is an important component in the acquisition of safe places. However, this paper examines how the 'professionalisation' of some refuges as well as other processes of institutionalisation may have had a negative impact upon the victims of abuse and violence.

Introduction

In the public mind, the geographies of fear centre on the street and on the fear of strangers (Pain, 1997, Valentine, 2001). It is a gendered fear which, despite evidence suggesting that the most likely victims of public violence are young men, focuses on the perceived dangers facing women. It is a fear continually reinforced by the media and through education in the home and at school (Valentine 1996). And yet, as researchers such as Pain and Valentine have argued, statistics show the most common place of violence to be the home, with the perpetrator most likely to be a male known to the (female) victim.

Domestic violence (1) is pervasive throughout virtually all cultures (Heise et al., 1994), occurring across all social classes, all ethnic groups, and all age groups (Hall, 1998). It is the most common violent crime against women in England and Wales: in any given year approximately one in nine or ten women experiences domestic violence (Stanko et al, 1998), whilst on average two women a week are killed by partners (Stanko, 2000). A survey carried out on 28th September 2000, aiming to provide a snapshot of the impact of domestic violence across the United Kingdom, found that police received a call from the public for assistance with domestic violence every minute (Stanko, 2000). The true extent of domestic violence is generally agreed to be unknown (Mooney, 2000), but such statistics as are available indicate that thousands of women are living in fear, sometimes of their lives.

The fear experienced by women and children whose homes are the sites of male violence is not something that is constructed through media representations, but through the lived experience of their everyday lives. It is a private fear, often not shared even with family or friends, partly because of shame, and partly because of the fear that family or friends might intervene and make the situation worse (Warrington, 2001).Yet although violence occurs within the spaces of the home, and although it is common for women not to talk about such experiences, the fear itself extends through time and space so that even when a woman takes the decision to leave a violent relationship, and move some distance away, the fear never leaves her (Binney et al, 1981, Kirkwood, 1993).

Many women live for years in abusive situations, unable to leave for economic reasons, through a sense of failure, through fear that their violent partner will find them and punish them if they leave, or even through the belief that the violence will stop. Sometimes, however, the fear of further violence, or an extremely violent episode forces women to leave their homes, sometimes just for a few days, sometimes permanently. Some women move in with families or friends, but often these cannot provide safety in the face of women's fear, and so many women each year turn to refuges to meet that need for secure space. Refuges are places where women can feel safe, where fear can be lessened, and where they are empowered to take control of their lives.

Refuges, however, have been changing and evolving, and in this paper, I shall attempt to assess those changes in the light of concerns raised by some authors who imply that the fundamental principles on which refuges were set up are being compromised in the bid for competitive funding, and that this is leading to a new style of refuges, which may be less effective in meeting the needs of those women for whom they are a lifeline. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.