An exploration of the discourses women survivors of intimate partner violence draw on to understand intimate femicide
This study is about intimate femicide: The murder of a woman by a male intimate partner, namely her husband, boyfriend (dating or cohabiting), ex-husband (divorced or separated), ex-boyfriend or a rejected would-be lover. Intimate femicide has been identified as a dire social problem in South Africa. Although intimate femicide has been researched from a range of perspectives, there is a paucity of research on the discourses that women draw on to understand this crime in the context of South Africa. The primary aim of this study was to explore how women survivors of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) understand intimate femicide. This aim crystallised into the following objectives: 1) to explore how women survivors of IPV construct and understand the term intimate femicide, 2) to ascertain how women survivors of IPV understand the issue of risk of intimate femicide within an abusive relationship and 3) to investigate the discourses that women survivors of IPV draw on to understand intimate femicide. This thesis is couched in a feminist poststructuralist epistemology. Data was gathered through a qualitative approach, using in-depth semi-structured interviews. A Foucauldian discourse analysis was conducted on seven interviews with heterosexual women who had been in violent romantic relationships. In addition, ethical principles of anonymity and confidentiality were strictly adhered to. The findings of this study illuminate the immense difficulties that women experience in attempting to understand their level of risk while in an abusive relationship and the complexities experienced in attempting to understand intimate femicide. The discourse analysis revealed that fairy tale romance narratives present women with the idea that there is always hope for their relationships regardless of abusive circumstances, while dark romance discourses position romantic relationships as naturally abusive and present abuse as an invalid reason to leave a relationship. These justifications, beliefs, and understandings of the abuse hamper women’s ability to understand intimate femicide. This has significant implications for scholarship in general and feminist scholarship in particular. These findings emphasise the need for additional engagement in women’s understandings of intimate femicide - a group that has largely been consigned to the periphery. Moreover, given the excessive rates of intimate femicide in South Africa, it is critical that more research is conducted in order to increase awareness of intimate femicide amongst women in violent relationships.