Seen but seldom heard
: The healthcare experiences and needs of migrant women affected by domestic violence and abuse

  • Nadia Khelaifat

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Background: Domestic violence and abuse (DVA) is a significant health burden and often concealed in healthcare. Migrant women face specific barriers to access and within healthcare. This PhD sought to identify the healthcare experiences, support pathways and needs of migrant women affected by DVA.

Methods: A systematic review and qualitative synthesis of 27 publications were conducted, using elements of a meta-ethnography synthesis approach. Semi-structured interviews were carried out with migrant women (n=8) and various professionals (n=12). 19 interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed thematically using the constant comparative method.

Findings: Both the synthesis and the interviews identified constrained help-seeking and help-receiving experiences due to lack of access and knowledge, immigration status and language barriers, as well as fear of consequences and potentially harmful responses, including breach of confidentiality. DVA severity and its impact on the health of women and children triggered disclosure, another condition for disclosure was trust. Person-centred care was perceived positively or desired, whether this may reflect a universal need or additionally requires cultural understanding is unclear. There is a need for adequate language provision and to improve access to mental health care. Additional training for healthcare professionals is crucial to improve their understanding of migrant women affected by DVA to facilitate appropriate help.

Conclusion: Research on migrant women and the role of healthcare professionals in their care has so far been sparse. This is the first qualitative synthesis on the healthcare experiences and needs of migrant women with DVA. This PhD begins to address this gap in research by developing novel ideas on possibly appropriate interventions and the potential role of healthcare services in DVA. This is highly important for both healthcare and policy.
Date of Award19 Mar 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorAlison R G Shaw (Supervisor) & Gene S Feder (Supervisor)

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