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Women's use of possessions to cope with abusive relationships

Domestic violence is a widespread social issue in New Zealand and throughout the world and is detrimental to both society and the individual. Public services, such as law enforcement and health care are frequently and directly impacted due to the prevalence of domestic violence, specifically in terms of financial costs. The literature has shown that women who experience abusive relationships are often battered, isolated and left with a shattered sense of self. Consequently, understanding how women respond to and cope with abusive relationships is important. This study therefore examines women’s use of possessions to cope with an abusive relationship. A hermeneutic phenomenological framework guided this study. Six New Zealand Caucasian women were interviewed through the use of the Me Box method. The women’s lived experiences were analysed and illustrated through interpretive collages in order to understand how these women used possessions to cope with their abusive relationships. The findings indicate that women use possessions in a variety of ways to cope with their abusive relationships. Five themes were evident in this study: nothing given back, secret possessions, my space, finding me, and the salience of possessions. Although the first theme relates to how the women were victimised by their possessions and their respective partner, the latter four describe how the women used possessions to cope with the abuse. The women used attachment to significant possessions to gain control, escape abuse and reconstruct their identity. The attachments to these possessions were unique to the women and their abusive relationships. These significant possessions enabled the women to strip themselves of their victim identity and recreate their sense of self. This investigation contributes to the literature in three ways. First, the findings of this study support the defining of the term possessions in relation to psychological appropriation rather than the tangibility of an object. Second, this thesis seeks to understand how women in abusive relationships are empowered rather than abused through their attachment to their significant possessions. Finally, the Me Box method used to investigate these women’s lived experiences supports the use of art-based research methods when examining sensitive and deeply personal topics.
Type of thesis
Elphingston-Jolly, B. L. (2012). Women’s use of possessions to cope with abusive relationships (Thesis, Master of Management Studies (MMS)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/7035
University of Waikato
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