Learning from the Past, Looking to the Future: Session 4 – Domestic Abuse – Women’s Voices

Hearing hidden voices: Scottish women’s experience of domestic abuse in late twentieth-century Scotland

Andrea Thompson, University of Glasgow

Andrea Thompson


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–          Period when women’s aid emerged and their work

–          Benefit of oral history in feminist research and underrepresented groups

  • Reveal and trace hidden experiences of abuse
    • Valuing the individual experience

–          Scottish Women’s Aid

  • Contributed a new discursive space as well as shelters and aid

–          1970s Dobashes found society still dominated by men and patriarchy

  • This conditioned women’s experiences of domestic abuse and their ability to deal or escape it

–          Women still forced to be financially depended on men

–          Still a concern by police and organization to not break-up families, and the reconciliation more important than protection

  • Broken home seen as evil and a tragedy (Glasgow Marriage Guidance Council 1963)

–          Popular Discourses of alcohol and female provocation also continued to interfere with intervention for abused women

–          Actions by Women’s Aid provided support as well as somewhere to go

  • An opportunity for women to discuss their experiences with others and people who understood

–          The commonly held belief that marriage was a private matter interfered with women’s ability to speak out

  • Feared reactions from the local community and family members because sometimes, more often than not, they were unsupportive

–          Themes of isolation and control visible in oral history

–          Scottish Women’s Aid provided recognition and the ability to find communal support to dispel the notion of isolation

–          Issues of internal conflict within women realizing they had been victims of domestic abuse; popular discourse caused this conflict before there was a voice for those women

  • Could be inhibiting for women to seek help or question their situation

–          1970’s-80’s—attempts to leave were not socially acceptable

  • Evidence profound practical and emotional implications of institutional responses to domestic violence
  • SWA essential for victims of domestic abuse