Women’s perceptions of the recovery process along with adapting to the aftermath of domestic violence

Domestic violence (DV) affects people of all ages, races, religions, and incomes throughout the world. It refers to the violence or abuse that afflicts many people within a domestic setting, which occurs in close intimate relationships (Matthews et al., 2017). Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a form of domestic violence that describes abuse or violence that is common in a relationship between a partner or a spouse (Matthews et al., 2017).  Most of the abuse consists of violence perpetrated by men against women whom they are currently in an intimate and personal relationship with (Semahegn & Mengistie, 2015). Matthews et al. (2017) suggests that DV exists in many different forms, such as physical abuse, psychological abuse, economic abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. The violent and controlling behavior consists of physical assault, sexual abuse, rape, threats of intimidation, and harassment, which normally occurs over a period Most victims of DV incidences do not report to law enforcement officers since the perpetrators usually threaten them about the negative impacts of telling. (Matthews et al., 2017). Furthermore, most victims feel ashamed of the violence perpetrated against them or hold the perception that police and members of society will not be believe them, whereas others have received punishment from attempts to report their abusers (Middleton,

Sachs, & Dorahy, 2017). Blame may be placed on the women, which may become an obstacle to leaving the violent relationship. Obstacles may also include systematic, social and interpersonal barriers to leaving, along with the danger in perpetuating those stereotypes of those who have been abused (Jacobson & Gattman, 1998).



The journeys of the women may not end once the abuse is left, as control has already been taken from the victim. The removal of control may dramatically be life altering. Some women return due to culture, income level and psychological reasons (Lacey, 2010).

Nonetheless, some victims of DV eventually succeed in leaving their partners permanently, often after encountering a myriad of obstacles (Sukeri & Man, 2017). Khew and Hardesty (2007) link

the escape of these abused persons to empowerment of women and financial independence.

IPV is a global issue that affects all cultures, religions, and socioeconomic groups (Krug, Mercy, Dahlberg & Ziwi, 2002; World Health Organization, [WHO], 2012). Based upon Owen, Thompson, & Kaslow (2006) this form of violence is considered as a major public health crisis. IPV threatens the well-being of individuals, families and communities (American Bar Association [ABA], 2002), which are known as the most common form of violence occurring in the United States (Owen, Thompson, & Kaslow, 2006). Another possible cause of IPV is the lack of attention, even though this problem is recognized (Daugherty & Houry, 2000; Tjaden & Thoennes, 2000).

DV generated through IPV is an abuse problem that continues to proliferate a complex societal issue. This issue continues despite the advancements in the problems of abuse and violence (Daugherty, 2008). Due to IPV being a global and national threat, women are not the only ones who are affected, as society is also threatened (ABA, 2010; Krug, Mercy, & Dahlberg, 2002). For instance, the Feminist Majority Foundation (2014) indicated that DV continues to have a direct impact on future generations. This violence causes lives to be lost daily, along with the intergenerational transmission of abuse. Unless the public familiarizes themselves through awareness and the willingness to be more open to the issue, the future may be affected. Becoming more verbal is very important, as this will enable more awareness of the issues pertaining to domestic violence (Feminist Majority Foundation, 2014). Providing early awareness of the signs pertaining to the abuse through prevention/intervention services may help to decrease or eliminate the issue of intergenerational, along with other transmissions of violence (Anderson, Renner & Danis 2013).

Women are victimized the most by IPV-related violence (ABA, 2010). Since IPV is a form of family violence, children exposed are also at risk for negative outcomes. When children are exposed to the risk of negative outcomes, this may maximize the resilience of the survivors, as it is essential for them to achieve safety for their children who are being exposed to the violence (Knutson, Lawrence, Taher, Bank, & DeGarmo, 2009). According to Matthews et al. (2017) victims usually experience a range of emotions, which includes fear, reluctance, uncertainty worry and stress when wanting or attempting to leave the abusive relationship. These emotions can have a direct impact on their self-esteem and confidence (Matthews et al., 2017).

When victims have a clear understanding of how important it is to leave abusive and violent situations, the women can then be able to extricate themselves from the violent environment. Leaving can lead them to moving on to living a healthier life free of abuse (Anderson, Renner & Danis, 2013). Some survivors might be able to provide suggestions on different techniques that can be utilized to help others who are being victimized to leave the abuse. These techniques can provide public awareness where society could benefit from said suggestions. When victims are given the opportunity to recount their traumatizing experiences, some types of strength and resilience may be shown. During the recounting to these experiences, this may allow them the opportunity of being able to heal, give back to other women, while serving as a source of empowerment to others. According to Anderson, Renner, and Danis (2013), when provided with this opportunity, the women may feel stronger and more empowered. If the women feel more equipped, the women may be less likely return to an abusive relationship/situation.

According to Griffing and colleagues (2002), women may be affected in a dramatic way when subjected to IPV, which causes them to be ready for a change. Based on Lacey (2010), this problem negatively impacts the survivors in many ways. The stories of survivorship are important as these stories may contribute to helping through providing support. A space for healing is also important, as the women may not be prepared for or be aware of how to deal with the after-effects of the trauma which has been experienced. According to each story of the survivor, the stories may possess commonalities to the stories of others. Each of the domestic experiences may differ, as the stories may likely be unique, specific, while being reflective to the women’s survivorship. When understanding the lived experiences of the women survivors better, this might provide a complete picture of their relationship from the initial stages to the ending stages, which may provide a more supportive approach that may be used to empower others to live free of abuse, as it may show them just how important leaving the situation has become (Jacobson & Gattman, 1998).

Some women may be unaware of the resources that are available to them, in which these women need to be informed. The resources might either not be easily accessible or might not exist within their community. Sometimes larger cities have resources that are made more readily available, while those smaller cities might not, which results as a disadvantage of them receiving the support in which they need. A way of addressing the matter is to ensure that the smaller cities receive the resources needed, in which agencies and/or community centers may work together to disseminate the information (Tjaden and Theonnes, 2000). Support may be provided via therapeutic means, along with providing platforms for the women to share their story with others via support groups, creative outlets or public speaking groups (Anderson et al., 2013).

There seems to be a dearth of research regarding the issue of recovery from intimate

partner violence. Accordingly, Jacobson and Gattman (1998) assert the need to conduct qualitative research might as a means of highlighting the lived experiences of the women.

Discovering and disclosure of IPV is a great help seeker along with the ability of terminating violent relationships. When the decision to escape to safety is made, great danger may arise, as there may be an increased lack of the basic resources needed (Lacey, 2010). Due to the departure cycle being a repetitive one, some survivors may attempt to leave many times before leaving permanently.

Statement of the Problem 

The problem to be addressed in this study is to highlight and acknowledge the possible reasons as to why women remain in domestic violence relationships and what prompts them to finally leave them. IPV continues to affect many households across the globe (Khew & Hardesty, 2007). Violent partners continue to expose up to 275 million children across the globe every year (Howell, Barnes, Miller, & Graham-Bermann, 2016). Children of such households report a significant high rate of abuse and neglect. The failure to explore the manner in which battered partners eventually experienced healing can make it exceedingly challenging to understand the most effective interventions. Howell et. al. (2016) suggests that there is a steady rise in the prevalence of IPV. Although a significant proportion of victims do not report their partners. IPV often contributes to drugs and alcohol use and abuse, poor mental health, and other health risks (Mason & O’Rinn, 2014). However, many people who suffer from IPV do not seek medical intervention or any other appropriate care. However, there seems to be a dearth of research in the experiences of IPV victims who have overcome this problem. Failure to explore this subject may affect the potential to gain insight into the most effective strategies to overcome IPV.

Purpose of the Study 

The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to identify women’s perceptions of the recovery process along with adapting to the aftermath of domestic violence

Flasch, Murray, and Crowe (2017) emphasize the need to conduct such research due to the evident gap regarding the recovery process of IPV victims and the most appropriate support that are critical to this process. Semi-structured, face-to-face interviews will be conducted with women who survived domestic violence and temporarily residing in a domestic violence shelter. The face-to-face interviews will consist of questions generated from a formatted script questionnaire that will be recorded via audio.  The interviews will be conducted at the Genesis House II, which is a Domestic Violence Shelter that provides temporary housing to women and children who are victims of domestic violence abuse.  The shelter is located in Detroit and the shelter allows the women to get away from the perpetrators, while providing them with opportunities for a new beginning that consist of the resources needed to begin their new life that is free from abuse.  The data obtained from the interviews will be used to compare the similarities pertaining to different stories provided from those women who were interviewed.

The intent of this study is to get a clearer understanding of a woman ‘s story of how she left and overcame being victimized by domestic violence abuse. Obtaining a better understanding may allow the opportunity of preventing other victims from experiencing the same form of abuse (Feminist Majority Foundation, 2014). When one understands, it may prevent abusive situations from occurring or continuing. When women are educated and are provided with a clearer understanding of the effects of subjecting themselves to these types of abusive situations, they may be equipped with the tools and resources needed to prevent or to extricate once it begins. This may cause them to think twice before entering the abusive relationship, along with staying in them and just accepting it for an extended period. When educated and provided with knowledge, preparation to leave may be easier than when a person has no knowledge or understanding at all (Jacobs, 2014). The Feminist Majority Foundation (2014), indicates that when a complete picture of their relationship development from the beginning to leaving is examined, this may lead the survivors into a more supportive approach that may empower other women to live a life that is free from abuse. Understanding the different sources of strength, resilience and mechanisms may assist in the process of why leaving the abusive relationship is so important (Burman 2003).

The study population will consist of twelve women who are currently residing in a domestic violence shelter and are no longer victims. Initially, the domestic violence shelter will be contacted and informed of the study that is being conducted and permission will be asked and hopefully granted via the administration, along with requesting those individuals who may be interested in participating in the study.  The research questions will focus on the scenarios in which each woman experienced. Interviews will consist of women from different walks of life (race, financial status, and mental state). Interviews will be conducted and recorded privately, which will allow them to tell their stories in full detail. NVivo software will be employed for data analysis. Thus, the intent of this study is to establish perceptions of the abused persons regarding the delivery of relevant services, with a keen focus on the value of those services in enabling the victims to overcome and the manner in which such services could be improved.


Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework of a study is aimed at providing a tentative theory of the phenomenon that the researcher plans to investigate (Maxwell, 2005). Feminist theory will be the guiding theoretical framework for this research. Proponents of this theory maintain that violence against women creates and maintains men’s power over women, which makes it difficult for them to leave the abusive relationships due to their lack of strength and power (Harne & Radford, 2008). Thus, this theory is useful in exploring the phenomenon of IPV and recovery of women who have overcame such a traumatic experience through their strength and resilience of being able to extricate themselves from the abusive relationship. The feminist theory on violence against women is centered in a historical context of cultural and structural power imbalances between men and women.  McCarthy, Mehta, and Haberland (2018) suggests that power and control are the core issues in domestic violence. The wide range of abusive behavior men use to control their female partner includes physical and sexual assault; intimidation; emotional abuse; isolation; denial and blame; using male-privilege, the use of children and economic sanctions

Researchers have suggested that acceptance of condoning of battery inflicted upon intimate partner may be rooted in traditional patriarchal cultural ideologies (Hoffman, Demo & Edwards,

1994; Lee & Hadeed, 2009; Xu, Campbell, & Zhu, 2001; Yoshihama, 2005). No woman wants to be abused and those who are abused play an active role in attempting to reduce, along with ending the abuse.  Some women stay on while others leave the relationship permanently (Hoffman et. al, 1994).




Nature of the Study 

The qualitative method will be used to conduct this analysis as this research method is

used to study human behavior, opinions, themes, and motivations.  The phenomenological method is the appropriate method and design for the research as it aims to describe, understand, and interpret the meanings as it relates to women who experienced domestic violence situations and how they left those situations (Mackl, Woodsong, MacQueen, Guest, & Namey, 2005; Ospina, 2004). This systematic subjective approach describes life experiences, while providing a formal, objective and systematic meaning. This study will use the phenomenological approach to examine the experience of the resilience of adult women survivors who were victims of intimate partner violence.

Qualitative methods of research are characterized by the immersion of the researcher’s work that may allow an understanding of the topic from the perspective of the population in which it involves. Data that is being gathered via the engagement in fieldwork and through in-depth interviews may provide the participants’ voices and perspectives within an invariable privilege (Mackl et. al. 2005; Ospina, 2004). Questions in qualitative research consist of broad questions while asking for an exploration of the central phenomenon or concept within the study while providing a greater depth and nuance of understanding the unknown phenomenon (Creswell, 2009). The study will be organized in a manner that is consistent with a qualitative approach to the study of psychological phenomena.  This method will be completed using the information obtained from the domestic violence survivors via interviews.




Research Questions 

RQ1. What reasons do women have that leads them to leave a physically abusive relationship?

RQ2. What are the inner sources of strengths and resilience of women who have survived IPV?

RQ3. What reasons play a role that causes a woman to want to be free from the abusive behavior?

RQ4. What is the process of the women leaving the relationship? How do they describe their lives once they have extricated?

RQ5. What is the women’s perspective to the process of leaving? What were the barriers to leaving?  What were the resources that support their leaving?

Significance of the Study 

This qualitative study focuses on the experiences of abused women as it pertains to their leaving process along with the kind of resources needed to enable them to leave permanently, including the sustaining factors upon leaving. The knowledge gained can then be utilized to aid women who are trying to remove themselves from an abusive relationship.  The women can be given practical assistance, along with support using data gleaned from women who have already left as they too moved through the process of ending the abuse in their lives. The information gleaned from this study will be useful in many ways.  Firstly, an in-depth understanding of the women’s experiences of the IPV endured, along with the resources they relied upon for strength can help to inform the helping profession regarding what is the best way to assist those being abused.  Secondly, understanding the complexities involved in the leaving process as it may help various people to be empathetic in helping abused women who are trying to leave an abusive relationship.  The knowledge of sustaining factors upon leaving may improve the ability of helpers to provide proper support.  When knowing the resources needed to help the abused women in their leaving process, policy makers may want to consider making these resources more accessible or provide them for women who are trying to leave.

According to the thoughts of Barnett (2000), increased understanding of the dynamics involved in leaving will lead toward studies that will define appropriate counseling intervention for abused women.  Leaving an abusive relationship is very difficult for most women.  The long-term nature of the effects of trauma, the pattern of repeated assaults by intimate partners typically means misery for the women involved (Barnett, 2000).  The study will also provide a means for women to tell their stories and possibly raise the consciousness of those who read their narratives as they are given a voice regarding this phenomenon.  By sharing their stories, it might shed light for other women who are still un an abusive relationship, while helping to see an alternative way out.  Providing a more thorough understanding of the complex dynamics involved in leaving an abusive relationship will enable counselors to become more receptive to the needs of the abused women from the perspective of how these women are experiencing their realities (Barnett, 2000).

Barnett (2000) suggests that the experiences as told by the abused women who have left can promote continuation of social activism and advocacy to heighten public awareness, raise public conscience, while generating greater understanding of the plight of women who struggle to free themselves from the grip of IPV.  This needs to be translated into practical support, along with interventions from family, religious authorities, social welfare departments, the criminal justice system, along with all other parties concerned.  Knowledge is power and understanding opens up the possibility of change (Barnett, 2000).




Definitions of Key Terms 

Abusive Behavior. Behaving abusively, causing substantial emotional and/or physical pain and injury to an individual, which can also lead to death as well (Mouradian, 2000).

Barriers to Leaving. Barriers to leaving consists of the threat to personal safety when attempting to end an abusive relationship that includes shame/social acceptance, money, kids, religion, immigration status, fearing of being outed, promises to change by the abuser and love (Focht, 2020).

Domestic Violence (DV). Domestic violence is defined as the power misused by one adult in a relationship to control another through the establishment of control and fear in a relationship through violence and other forms of abuse (Kaur, & Garg, 2008).

Economic Abuse. Economic abuse includes behaviors that controls a victim’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain resources that threatens economic security and potential self-sufficiency, which controls what the victim can and cannot do. It occurs when the abuser gains complete control over the victim’s financial resources (Stylianou, Postmus, & McMahon, 2013).

Emotional Abuse. Emotional abuse consists of verbal abuse, harassment, confinement and deprivation of physical, financial and personal resources (Kaur, & Garg, 2008).

Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). IPV is defined as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression by a current or former partner and is a major public health concern (Stylianou, Postmus, & McMahon, 2013)

Physical Abuse. Physical abuse is defined as when an abuser uses their body or other objects to cause bodily harm or injury that is used to establish and maintain power and control over the victim. It includes hitting, kicking, biting, pushing, scratching, slapping, strangling, beating, punching, throwing, burning, poisoning, stabbing and the use of a weapon (DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2019).

Psychological Abuse. Psychological abuse is a form of abuse with no signs of physical abuse that can affect your inner thoughts and feelings along with exerting control over your life. It can destroy intimate relationships, friendships and even a person’s own relationship with themselves (Tracy, 2019).

Recovery. Recovery is defined as learning to regain one’s feelings of safety and mental stability (Holly, 2015).

Resilience. Resilience is defined as knowing how to cope despite setbacks, barriers or limited resources. It measures how much a person wants something and how much they are willing to overcome certain obstacles to achieve it (Alessandra 2014).

Sexual Abuse. Sexual abuse is unwanted sexual activity, where the perpetrator uses force, makes threats or takes advantage of victims not being able to give consent (American Psychological Association, 2019).

Strength. Strength is defined as being physically and mentally strong, as it is having the power to resist force, solidity, and toughness (Vocabulary.com, 2019).

Survivor. Survivoris defined as the person who was or is being abused or harmed by the other person (DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2019).

Trauma. Trauma is experiencing an event that inflicts injury or stress to the victim’s physical or psychological well-being, (DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2019).

Victimized. Victimized is defined as a person being subjected to abuse, harm or being killed by another person, (DC Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 2019).



Domestic violence is a common issue across the globe that affects people of all ages, races, religions, and incomes (Matthews, O’Leary, Turner, & Sleeper, 2017). Within the United States, intimate partner violence is a multi-causal, multi-faceted phenomenon. According to Fossey et al. (2002), current research on factors that are relative to the strength and resilience lacks in helping women who are victims of intimate partner violence to extricate themselves from their violence relationships. Thus, the problem to be addressed in this study is to highlight and acknowledge the possible reasons as to why women remain in domestic violence relationships and what prompts them to finally leave them. The purpose of this qualitative phenomenological study is to identify women’s perceptions of the recovery process along with adapting to the aftermath of domestic violence. Five core questions will guide this research.

This research will be conducted by carrying out face-to-face interviews with women who are in these domestic violence situations to understand their views of the phenomenon of interest. The qualitative approach is appropriate to this research since scholars have completed limited studies to explore the topic. The phenomenological design is useful because it is useful in describing, understanding, and interpreting the meanings of the phenomenon of interest, which is consistent with the goal of understanding the experience of women and domestic violence situations and how they overcame those situations. Thus, this study is significant because survivors’ experiences can inform the community of ways they can be involved in helping and supporting women in their experience of being abused while assisting them in ending the harmful relationship in the event in which they make the decision to do so. Understanding the mechanisms that will help battered women to extricate themselves from violent relationships is very important for many reasons (Morrow, 2005). It may also be helpful to provide information about treatments that can be therapeutic, along with social support services, which may be created for diverse backgrounds that include ethnicity, culture, socioeconomic status, and other demographic characteristics. Through the development of more effective interventions and support, women who are in these violent relationships can be empowered to leave them and make valuable life changes that may have a long-reaching ripple effect on their lives and the lives of their children in the future, along with an overall impact on society.


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