Policing intimate partner violence involving female victims : an exploratory study of the influence of relationship stage on the victim-police encounter

Shearson, Kim (2014) Policing intimate partner violence involving female victims : an exploratory study of the influence of relationship stage on the victim-police encounter. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a pervasive social problem associated with increased morbidity and mortality risk. Women experiencing IPV often seek assistance from police. Such help-seeking efforts are frequently perceived as problematic by both victims and police. Legal remedies, including orders of protection and criminal charges are the focus of most policing effectiveness research, despite being utilised at only a minority of attendances. Applying a symbolic interactionist and feminist perspective and guided by a constructivist grounded theory approach, this study aimed to explore a broader range of outcomes by examining the way police and victims understand their encounter, the consequences of those understandings and the influence of victims' relationship stage on such encounters. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 12 police officers and 16 female victims, with 14 victims participating in follow-up interviews. Processes previously associated with victimisation such as denial, minimisation and fear, as well as diminished sense of entitlement and the need to monitor their abusive partners' behaviour were found to inhibit victims from engaging fully with police. All victims sought to stop the violence. Their help-seeing aspirations included safety, ego-support and justice, which manifested differentially according to Landenburger's (1989) relationship stage model. Victims‟ safety and recovery was found to be enhanced when police name abuse, show intolerance for all forms of IPV, assume responsibility for victims' safety, including taking prescriptive action, and support victims to attain justice. Such outcomes are more likely to occur in the presence of a mutually empowering alliance. Victims seek an alliance at all relationship stages; however, police are more likely to engage in an alliance when victims are at the disengaging phase. Police decision making is influenced by their values and the attributions they make regarding level of physical violence, victim status and the likelihood of achieving long-term change in the victim-perpetrator dynamic. The limited ability of police to respond to psychological abuse, non-injurious physical violence, and ongoing harassment was perceived as particularly problematic by victims and police alike. Legal sanctions and formal processes to overcome these problems must be implemented if police are to continue their endeavours to uphold the rights of women experiencing IPV.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/28816
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1602 Criminology
Historical > FOR Classification > 1701 Psychology
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords domestic violence, relationships, assistance, help-seeking, empowerment, empowering alliance, victims, women, response, support, justice, protection, interactions, Victoria Police
Download/View statistics View download statistics for this item

Search Google Scholar

Repository staff login