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Beyond staying and leaving: Battered women's responses to abuse

Ingrid Semaan, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Women who are battered by their intimate partners are simultaneously objects of domination and subjects with the ability to act. Rather than conceive subordination and agency as polar opposites, we must understand them as part of a dialectic that is full of contradictions and tensions. The actions of women who are battered reflect both the ways that they are subordinated and the ways that they find to resist that subordination. Thus, they may consent or acquiesce to the control and abuse their partners exert over them in some ways and resist it in others. I argue that women who are battered respond to abuse and control in three ways: by consenting, by acquiescing, and by resisting, and that they often respond with elements of all three simultaneously. I define consent as accepting control or abuse by one's intimate partner, acquiescence as a decision to yield to the batterer despite recognizing his behavior as controlling or abusive, and resistance as active opposition to domination. In this dissertation, based on in-depth interviews with 25 women who were battered by male intimate partners, I analyze the ways access to economic resources, kin and friendship networks, the meaning and practice of mothering, laws, the desire for a relationship, and desire for respect and safety together shape the ways that women respond to abusive partners.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Womens studies

Recommended Citation

Semaan, Ingrid, "Beyond staying and leaving: Battered women's responses to abuse" (2006). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3212751.