Violent women?: an explorative study of women's use of violence

Fitzroy, L 2005, Violent women?: an explorative study of women's use of violence, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.


Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title Violent women?: an explorative study of women's use of violence
Author(s) Fitzroy, L
Year 2005
Abstract The study examines women's use of violence, focusing on the experiences of seven women who disclosed that they had perpetrated serious indictable crimes. The crimes included murder, accessory to murder after the fact, manslaughter, child sexual and physical assaults, grievous bodily harm, stalking and threats to kill. The narratives of the seven women form the central focus of the study and these stories contribute to our understanding of the lives of individual women who perpetrate violence. I also include the narratives of one hundred and twenty workers, analyse relevant sentencing comments, and draw on key insights from other research. I began the study believing that I would discover a single truth as to why women hurt other people. My original hypothesis was that women perpetrate violence because of their previous experiences of violence perpetrated by men and/or disadvantage due to structural oppression. In part this assumption has been borne out, with all of the women who participated in the study disclosing that they have been victims of serious violence as both children and adults. However, during the course of the study, I discovered that women's lives and their choices to perpetrate or participate in violent crimes are more complex and contradictory than my simple original hypothesis suggested. I found that the women whom I interviewed and the women whom the workers worked with, were active agents in their own lives, they made choices and engaged in activities that met some of their own needs. Sometimes these choices meant another person suffered extreme pain, injury or death. I came to the conclusion that all of us have the potential to seriously assault others. Drawing on a feminist analysis of male violence, I believe that women's, like men's, violence is also 'individually willed' and 'socially constructed' (Dankwort and Rausch, 2000: 937). I locate women's behaviour in an analytical framework that views violence as a deeply embedded part of our shared ideology, beliefs and social activities. This social fabric contributes to, and fundamentally influences, the choices of individual women who perpetrate violence. The familial, social, cultural and individual factors that contribute to women choosing to perpetrate violence against others are complex and challenging. The study critically examines these factors and describes how different factors intersect with each other.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Violence in women
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