This is not just another book about domestic violence. Indeed, to learn about the detail of men's violence to women in intimate relationships - what it is, the damage it does to women's lives, what we can do about it - it will be necessary to look elsewhere. Over the last twenty years, a great array of books and other publications has been produced on the subject, furthering our knowledge and providing evidence and ideas to inform the way that society, governments and helping agencies respond (see, for example, Dobash and Dobash, 1992; Mullender, 1996; Hague and Malos, 1998). This, however, is a book with a different message. The message is about raising the voices of abused women themselves.
In this book, domestic violence is defined to mean violence between adults who are, or who have been, in an intimate or sexual relationship. We know that domestic violence has impacts on children witnessing or otherwise experiencing it (Mullender and Morley, 1994; Hester et al., 2000). We also know that it is a gendered phenomenon. While such violence can occur in gay and lesbian relationships and can be committed by women against men, the overwhelming majority of incidents are perpetrated against women, often by the men with whom they are most intimate (see Dobash and Dobash, 1992; Humphreys et al., 2000).
We have attempted here to pay attention to what women who have experienced domestic violence say and feel, especially if they have made use of service provision. However, we have also included a consideration of the views of abused women more generally. In the text, we often use the term, 'domestic violence survivor', because, even though many are severely victimised by the violence they have experienced, surviving is what all women try to do. We use the term as one of respect.
The argument which underpins this book is that it is necessary to reframe the way we think about the women who use domestic violence services and to see them as part of a service user movement, similar to other user movements which have lifted the voices of their members in recent years. Women experiencing abuse may be part of the women's activist movement against domestic violence, and are quite likely to have used services