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The impact of intimate partner abuse on women’s experiences of the workplace: a qualitative study

By David Michael Beecham


This thesis examines the impact of intimate partner abuse on women‟s experiences of the workplace, a topic that has been under examined within the UK. Taking a pro-feminist perspective, and drawing on Foucault‟s conceptualisation of power, the thesis examines the gendered power relations that survivors negotiate in their relationships with their abusive partners and work colleagues in order to sustain their employment. The thesis also addresses a major gap in the literature, namely the experiences of women in professional and/or managerial occupations and the coping strategies they employ in order to sustain their employment.\ud The thesis draws on 29 in-depth qualitative interviews conducted with survivors of intimate partner abuse who predominantly were employed in skilled, professional and/or managerial occupations. These interviews were conducted via telephone, face-to-face and the internet. Adopting a symbolic interactionist approach, coupled with a Foucauldian perspective on power, it is argued women in professional and/or managerial positions adopt different coping mechanisms to women in unskilled employment in order to sustain their employment. Furthermore, it is argued that for some women disclosure of abuse within the workplace can prove to be a positive coping strategy. However, for those women in managerial positions, it could seriously jeopardise their authority within the workplace. It is also argued that disclosure could undermine the coping strategies that women adopt in order to survive and sustain their employment. This thesis also argues that earning an income and assuming the role of breadwinner within an abusive relationship does not necessarily grant women economic independence, that gendered power relations are far more complex than previous arguments propose.\ud Finally, this thesis not only contributes towards our theoretical and empirical understanding of gendered power dynamics operating within abusive relationships, but it also has a practical application by informing the development of workplace policies and practices regarding intimate partner abuse

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