Navigating social policies: Paradoxes and dilemmas for women leaving abusive relationships
Jeannine T. Moreau
Recognizing that issues concerning women in the process of leaving abusive intimate relationships are still pervasive I undertook a study, titled “The structuring of women’s experiences of leaving abusive relationships: A feminist critical discourse analysis”. Through in-depth interviews with three women I learned of their capacities, their struggles, and the barriers they encountered when seeking support and assistance with housing, jobs, and education. I heard about their turning points, insights, strengths, and accomplishments in their processes of leaving abusive relationships. I explicated various assumptions, ideologies and power relations integral to dominant discourses (e.g., concerning family, marriage, violence, abuse, religion, social policies and so forth) embedded in the women’s talk. The analysis illuminated how dominant discourses influenced the women as well as how they resisted the effects of the discourses when developing their self-images, making decisions and taking actions such as determining means of participating in society in ways relevant and meaningful to them. The women’s talk reflected their dilemmas and struggles with the paradoxes and ironies inherent in the discourses associated with policies and practices of social services, e.g., the assumed advantages to welfare in contrast to the demoralization and oppressive underlying implications of dependence when in the ‘system’. The analysis and questions drawn from my study can inform future social policy development and practice in institutions and agencies designed to support women in abusive intimate relationships. Questions such as: What do the women’s ideas about independence and responsibility suggest for social policy development and institution/agency practices? How can I make use of my research results to influence social policy and practice in an effort to facilitate women’s movement out of abusive intimate relationships?
My administrative work, education and teaching experiences, primarily in the human and social development sector, at the University of Victoria (UVic) for the past several years have convinced me of the necessity of praxis, the interweaving of theory and practice within my everyday experiences. This became most apparent in the process of completing a UVic degree in the faculty of human and social development policy and practice (in health and social services) multidisciplinary master’s program during the years 1996 to 2001 as I also worked full time in the UVic School of Nursing. Although my focus was in the field of nursing I learned how comprehensive concepts such as connecting policy and practice, organizational context of practice in health and social services and theory for the human services are not only integral to many aspects of my immediate teaching, writing and administrative work but also to the interpretation of my master’s thesis. Currently I am a faculty member at the UVic School of Nursing and my areas of interest are women’s health, feminism, critical discourse analysis, social policy, health promotion and community development.
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