The focus of this study is on women experiencing intimate partner violence. The research is based on qualitative methodology, focusing on women’s individually perceived reality. By utilising a qualitative in-depth interview we have searched for specific ways in which nine South African women depict and explain violence experienced from their partners. We have investigated these women’s understanding of violence, exploring how violence affects their views of themselves and their partners. The analysis of the interviews was conducted within a discursive framework. The objective of the analysis was to identify what discourses the women draw on when giving meaning to the violence they have experienced and to see which models of explanation these discourses carry and that have become accepted models of understanding. The data is collected by the authors, as an independent research project.
The nine women that participated in the study were all currently experiencing or had been experiencing intimate partner violence in the recent past. The violence was of a physical, emotional, verbal, financial and/or sexual nature. All women were or had been receiving counselling addressing this violence at the Trauma Centre of Survivors of Violence and Torture and were put in contact with us through their personal counsellors there.
We identified six discourses that the women repeatedly drew on in their understandings of their partner’s violence. A commonality found across five of these is the understanding of the violence as based in something outside the perpetrator. We also identified one alternative discourse where responsibility was placed inside the perpetrator. In the women’s explanations of the violence, gendered concepts like masculinity and femininity, strongly contributed to their process of understanding or giving meaning to the violence in their lives.