Australian young women's perceptions of dating and dating violence
AuthorIyer, Deepthi Shriram
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusThis item is embargoed and will be available on 2021-12-17. This item is currently available to University of Melbourne staff and students only, login required.
© 2019 Deepthi Shriram Iyer
Dating violence, or intimate partner violence, in young people’s relationships is a serious, prevalent and important public health concern. It is estimated that approximately one in four Australian young women have experienced dating violence. Despite the well-known burdens of dating violence on Australian young women’s health and well-being, little is known about how Australian young women perceive dating violence in their romantic relationships. This qualitative study explored Australian young women’s perceptions of dating, other romantic relationships, and dating violence. Social constructionist and feminist theoretical perspectives informed the study design. Young women aged 17 to 25 years, were recruited from a range of social and occupational backgrounds if they screened positive for dating violence. Individual narrative interviews were conducted with 35 young women, from across urban and rural Australia, who had predominantly had romantic relationships with young men. Interviews were conducted face-to-face or via telephone. The interviews were analysed using a thematic approach while ensuring that the young women’s stories remained at the forefront of the analysis. This was followed by the application of social script theory with a feminist lens, as an explanatory framework, to better understand the young women’s perceptions of romantic relationships and dating violence. The young women shared stories of their experiences of romantic relationships which were predominantly with young men. Findings revealed that the young women had experienced a range of casual and committed romantic interactions. The young women discussed their experiences and perceptions of these relationships and their roles within them. The young women’s perceptions of romantic relationships, particularly committed ones, were overwhelmingly gendered and scripted. These scripts were reminiscent of romantic fairy tale narratives, such as Beauty and the Beast, which the young women strived to live by. This perception influenced how they made sense of and recognised dating violence within these relationships and therefore how they responded. The young women struggled to leave their abusive relationships and exit was usually only possible if a crisis occurred or if the young man left the young woman. An exit model was formed which highlights these pathways and also the defining gendered roles of the young woman and young man. The young women’s perceptions of dating and dating violence were in conflict with their perceptions of gender equality and feminist identities. While the young women in this study perceived themselves to be liberated individuals in the current wave of feminism, in contrast, their dating and relationship scripts were informed by oppressive and patriarchal master narratives, such as romantic fairy tales. This study contributes to a better understanding of dating and dating violence in the Australian context from the perspective of a typical Australian young woman living in the year 2015. The findings from this study are useful and important to inform policy and practice for the primary and secondary prevention of dating violence. Existing patriarchal social scripts should be challenged with feminist counterstories that empower young women and contribute to practical implications for promotion of gender equality.
Keywordsdating violence; intimate partner violence; young people; young women; public health; exit model
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