Counsellors’ talk about their understanding of, and practices in response to, intimate partner violence during pregnancy: a narrative-discursive analytic study.

by Anne Fleischack

Institution: Rhodes University
Department: Faculty of Humanities, Psychology
Degree: MA
Year: 2015
Keywords: Intimate partner violence  – South Africa; Intimate partner violence  – Psychological aspects; Abused women  – Counsiling of; Pregnant women  – South Africa  – Abuse of; Pregnant women  – Counseling of
Record ID: 1426326
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10962/d1016391


South Africa is a very violent society, where violence is often used as a social resource to maintain control and establish authority. Global and local research suggests that there is a high prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV), a facet of this violence, although little research has been conducted into the effects of IPV during pregnancy in the South African non-governmental organisation (NGO) context. NGOs globally and in South Africa have attempted to address IPV and IPV during pregnancy by providing services that aim to assist (largely female) clients emotionally and logistically. In light of this phenomenon, this qualitative study presents data generated through the use of a lightly-structured narrative interview schedule. The interviews were conducted over three sessions with eight counsellors, all based at two NGOs in South Africa and experienced in counselling women who have suffered IPV and IPV during pregnancy. This study used Taylor and Littleton’s (2006) narrative-discursive analytical lens, infused with theoretical insights from Foucault about power, discourse and narrative in order to identify the discursive resources that shape the narratives that the counsellors shared in the interviews and how these translate into subject positions and (gendered) power relations of the men and women about whom they speak. Six discursive resources emerged from the narratives, namely a discourse of ‘traditional “African” culture’, ‘patriarchal masculinity’, ‘nurturing femininity’, ‘female victimhood’, ‘female survivorhood’ and ‘human rights’. These informed the three main narratives that emerged: narratives about IPV in general, IPV during pregnancy, and the counsellors’ narratives about their intervention strategies. Within these narratives (and the micro-narratives which comprised them), men were largely positioned as subscribing to violent patriarchal behaviour whilst women were mostly positioned as nurturing and victims of this violence. The counsellors also constructed women as largely ignorant of their options about IPV and IPV during pregnancy; they constructed these phenomena as problems that require intervention and identified a number of factors that indicate what successful IPV interventions should entail. In reflecting upon this analysis, this study also aimed to address the questions of what is achieved or gained by using these narratives and discursive resources, what the significance or consequences are of constructing and using these particular narratives and discourses and whether different narratives or discourses would have been possible. Recommendations for further research includes incorporating more sites as well as interviewing perpetrators and IPV survivors themselves, perhaps in their home language where relevant rather than English, to gain a broader and more faceted understanding of the dynamics surrounding IPV during pregnancy. A recommendation for practice in intervention against IPV during pregnancy is to introduce more holistic/systemic intervention strategies and working with…