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Confronting "Victim" Discourses: The Identity Work of Battered Women

Amy Leisenring
Symbolic Interaction
Vol. 29, No. 3 (Summer 2006), pp. 307-330
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Society for the Study of Symbolic Interaction
DOI: 10.1525/si.2006.29.3.307
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Page Count: 24
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Confronting "Victim" Discourses: The Identity Work of Battered Women
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In this article I explore how battered women both draw from and reject victim discourses in their processes of self-construction and self-representation. Data gathered from semistructured interviews with forty women who experienced violence from an intimate partner in a heterosexual relationship demonstrate that available "victim" discourses are both enabling and constraining. Four common representations of a victim emerged as most influential to women's identity work: as someone who suffers a harm she cannot control; as someone who deserves sympathy and/or requires some type of action be taken against the victimizer; as someone who is culpable for her experiences; and as someone who is powerless and weak. "Victim empowerment" and "survivor" discourses also played a role in how women understood and made sense of their experiences. In their attempts to construct identities for themselves, battered women become caught between notions of victimization, agency, and responsibility.

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