Women's experiences in leaving abusive relationships

Baholo, M
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Background: Intimate partner violence is problem world-wide and has been attributed to many factors. South Africa has one of the highest IPV statistics in the world and therefore poses a definite need to address it. For abused women the process of leaving an intimate partner is difficult and mired in an abundance of complex and entwined factors which influence the decision to leave or stay in an abusive relationship. This qualitative study explored women’s experiences of leaving abusive relationships and the critical factors that pushed them to leave their abusive relationships. Methods: In-depth interviews were conducted with eleven women (over 18 years) who had experienced partner abuse and were current residents of Ikaya Le Themba Women’s Shelter in Johannesburg. All interviews were audio-taped with consent, and translated where necessary and transcribed verbatim. Thematic analysis, which entails an analysis of emerging themes from the interviews, was conducted in order to understand factors that led to abused leaving abusive relationships. Results: Two themes were identified as instrumental to freeing women from abuse. These were reaching a turning point and leaving the abusive relationship. The important turning points were progression of violence, realization that the partner will not change, effect of abuse on children and women’s feelings due to abuse. Leaving the abusive, relationship was facilitated by social and family support, access to shelters and availability of an opportunity to leave. Conclusions: Findings suggest that increasing awareness about existence of shelters is crucial to facilitate early departure. Social and family support was fundamental in facilitating leaving abusive relationships.
A research report submitted to the Family Medicine Department, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Family Medicine