On the outside looking in
: the shared burden of domestic violence

  • Alison Gregory

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is experienced by one in four women in the UK, and research suggests that most survivors will access support from people in their social networks. Support from these relatives, friends and colleagues has the potential to buffer against effects on the survivor’s physical and mental health, and has been shown to be protective against future abuse. There has, however, been an absence of research directly studying members of survivors’ networks, to consider how impacts of DVA might diffuse to affect them. The research undertaken fills this gap by exploring the impacts on the health and wellbeing of members of the survivor’s social network. A systematic literature review was undertaken, the generated themes from which formed the basis of a topic guide for qualitative interviews conducted with people in a variety of close relationships with a survivor. A thematic analysis of the narratives was conducted, and five major themes emerged: psychological & emotional impacts, physical health impacts, direct perpetrator impacts, relationship impacts and practical impacts. Not all of the impacts were negative, but it was generally clear that a great deal was being shouldered by adults close to the survivors, and that tolls were multifaceted, potentially profound, and often long-term. Certain factors appeared to mediate impacts experienced, including the supporter’s gender, the closeness of relationship between supporter and survivor, the severity of abuse experienced by the survivor, and whether or not the survivor had children. Participants also described the extent to which their experiences mirrored that of survivors, albeit to a lesser degree. Currently there is little, if any, support available which is directly aimed at friends, family members and colleagues of survivors. These findings therefore have practical and policy implications, so that the needs of informal supporters are both recognised and met.
Date of Award15 Mar 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorGene S Feder (Supervisor) & Emma Williamson (Supervisor)


  • domestic violence
  • informal supporters
  • health and wellbeing
  • trauma

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