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Factors influencing intimate partner violence among women in Clermont : an exploratory study.

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Like many other countries in the world, South Africa still grapples with women’s subordination in society, which leaves them vulnerable to various forms of abuse. Available literature suggests that while policy and legislative frameworks exist to eliminate intimate partner violence (IPV) in the private and public spheres, women continue to experience abuse in their private lives. Strategies and interventions adopted at a global and national level to address the problem have been too limited in addressing IPV in a systemic manner. Based on this premise, a study located in the critical paradigm was conducted to explore the socio-economic factors that make women encounter abuse in their intimate relationships in Clermont – a township situated within eThekwini metro in the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The study employed a qualitative research design. Data collection method included in-depth individual interviews. A non-probability purposive sampling method was adopted to select seven individual interview participants. All participants attend counseling sessions at the shelter for abused women in Clermont. Data was analyzed using thematic analysis. The poststructuralist feminist approach, which identifies the intersectionality of race, gender, class and ethnicity was used as the theoretical framework to guide the study. Guided by the poststructuralist feminist framework, emerging findings demonstrate that the intersectionality of gender, race, class and ethnicity leave women from poor socio-economic backgrounds more susceptible to IPV. Hence, IPV unfolds in a specific context whereby layers of disadvantage keep women in a deprivation trap, resulting in a vicious cycle of poverty. This observation reiterates that women’s everyday realities are context specific. Against this backdrop, the findings suggest that women’s lived experiences influence how they construct the factors that perpetuate IPV in intimate relationships. Furthermore, it was established that, in most instances, emotional and physical abuse of women is interlinked. Again, a patriarchal system perpetuated oppression of women. Ultimately, emerging findings demonstrate that structural inequalities and socialization of women in Clermont contribute to individual and societal tolerance of IPV, thus perpetuating the subordination of women. Shelters for abused women provide protection; however, they fail to address the structural and systemic nature of IPV. Therefore, women who experience IPV lack long-term support that is offered in a transformative and sustainable manner. To promote the emancipation of women, it is recommended that changes need to occur at three levels: 1) at a personal level - women need to take responsibility for their own liberation through decision-making and unlearning destructive social constructs on what it means to be a normal woman; 2) at a community level - different role players and different institutions (shelters for abused women, police stations, courts and health care centres) should collaborate with communities to address the systemic nature of IPV; 3) through policy reforms, the government should tackle structural inequalities that leave women susceptible to IPV. This would mean developing policies that promote the empowerment of women to understand their human rights and address financial dependence on men, thus eliminating the scourge of IPV.


Master of Social Science in Community Development. University of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban, 2017.