Theses Doctoral

Accounting for Comprehensive Safety: Intimate Partner Violence, Marginalization, and Institutional Response

Shoener, Sara

This dissertation examines the ways intimate partner violence (IPV) survivors' experiences of poverty, mental illness, social isolation, and gender inequality shape their opportunities to protect themselves and their children before, during, and after separating from abusive partners. Ethnographic research was conducted in three communities in the United States over two years. In each site I observed and interviewed women about their experiences of abuse and their attempts to achieve long-term security. I also observed and interviewed practitioners across a range of disciplines about their work with IPV survivors.

The results of this study demonstrate that when women ended abusive relationships they often sustained a variety of losses related to their economic stability, social support, and access to their children. After leaving their batterers, many survivors faced debt, trauma, and protracted custody disputes that continued to disrupt their lives. However, the IPV interventions studied were routinely designed as though the collateral damage to an IPV survivor's life ended when she left her abuser. Interventions rarely accommodated survivors' post-separation social, economic, and parenting needs, and indeed, often placed additional strain on women's lives. As a result, the most disadvantaged survivors often found institutional resources in the domestic violence service system inaccessible, irrelevant, and at times counterproductive. This dissertation demonstrates that IPV is more than a series of isolated acts by individual people: it is the cause of many women's diminished agency and heightened suffering long after their abuse has ended.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Hirsch, Jennifer S.
Hopper, Kim J.
Dr.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Published Here
June 27, 2017