The aftermath of domestic violence: Listening to women’s voices of their experiences

Author Identifiers

Caroline Arisunta


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Advisor

Vicki Banham

Second Advisor

Graeme Gower

Third Advisor

Lucy Hopkins


Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) has been acknowledged as a significant social problem in Australia. It is one of the principal causes of injury, death, and illness among women. It affects individuals irrespective of their race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, beliefs, or age. Although it affects all genders, studies have acknowledged that more women are affected by IPV than men. While contemporary research has demonstrated progress in establishing programs and laws in relation to IPV, few studies have explored victim’s safety concerns in the aftermath of IPV.

This study analyzed women’s voices after leaving intimate violent relationships and factors that enabled them to choose assistance from either the Refuge program or the Safe at Home programs. The aim of this study was to understand women’s experiences by examining their safety/security issues regarding physical, economic, legal and identity security factors and how they make meaning of their experiences. To achieve these aims, the study employed qualitative methods including in-depth interviews to elicit women’s narratives about their experiences of safety/security either under the Refuge or the Safe at Home programs (See Appendices 1-4). The participant sample consisted of 15 individuals: four from the Refuge program, eight from the Safe at Home program, and three key informants from among the Refuge staff. The study identified four pillars that enabled women to leave IPV and seek assistance from either the Refuge or the Safe at Home programs: (1) Physical security (the need for security and safety while experiencing homelessness); (2) Legal security (access to police, legal aid, protection orders and a fair trial, and perpetrator contempt of the criminal justice system, removal of the perpetrator from home, police response and the right to remain); (3) Economic security (access to social security payments, employment services, affordable housing and availability of alternative income sources); and (4) Identity security (access to a safe cultural program, access to informal and formal networks and supports and self-efficacy, and the role of motherhood).

From these four pillars a theoretical model positioned within an ecological perspective and feminist standpoint emerged in this research. Each component consisted of individual, micro, meso, macro-level factors identified as key in contributing to a woman’s sense of safety. This model will assist in enhancing women’s safety experiences in the Refuge and Safe at Home programs with important implications for policy, practice, and future research.

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