Life after violence: Women's experiences five or more years after leaving abusive partners
McDonald, Penelope Wilkinson
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Problem : Intimate partner violence is recognized as a serious problem in the United States; however, little is known about the lives of women after they leave their abusers to build a life free of violence. Objective : The purpose of this study was to examine the daily life experiences of women who self-identify as being out of violent or abusive relationships with a male partner for at least five years. Primary aims were to: 1) describe common meanings and shared practices for women who have been separated or otherwise out of relationship for five or more years; 2) identify current challenges confronting the women and the value of the resources they use to manage them; and 3) elicit practical suggestions for women leaving violent relationships, for friends, family and health care providers. Previous Findings : Previous research addressing the health status of women with a history of violence offered no clear definition of intimate partner violence recovery. Qualitative theories describing the process of intimate partner violence recovery focused on women's experiences with making the decision to leave, the process of leaving, and the rebuilding period in the early years after leaving. Research Design/Methods : An interpretive phenomenological approach using Heideggerian hermeneutics guided data collection and analysis. The sample included 21 women who self-identified as being out of an intimate relationship with an abusive male partner for at least five years. This time frame was chosen to focus on women's current lives and not on the leaving process. Questions focused on women's everyday experiences to gain understanding of the meaning a violent past has for their present life and challenges. Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed, and de-identified. The analysis approach of Diekelmann, Allen, and Tanner (1989) was used for team analysis of texts lead by the primary investigator. Findings : Six themes were identified: Developing and Maintaining Self-reliance; Negotiating Relationships; Challenging Societal Roles; Protecting the Children; Creating a Safe and Supportive Environment; and Nurturing the Self. One constitutive pattern, Engendering Independence While Living With Purpose, linked all themes and explained the meaning and influence previous violent experiences held for women's current lives. This research is significant because it provides insight and understanding of the meaning of violence in the lives of women who have been separated from abusive partners for longer periods of time. This information will facilitate development of appropriate interventions for women who have previous violent experiences and are moving on with their lives.