The needs of women in a refuge: A qualitative study

UoM administered thesis: Doctor of Counselling Psychology

  • Authors:
  • Catherine Owen

Abstract

This is a qualitative study exploring the needs of women when residing in a refuge. In the context of the United Kingdom, women’s refuges are a specialist provision that provide temporary accommodation for women escaping domestic violence and abuse (DVA). Recent literature that looks at the needs of women who reside in refuges is limited. However, considering these needs is important at a time when austerity measures have resulted in funding cuts to the DVA sector, which have had a direct impact on refuge service provision. This study contributes to the literature on women’s refuge services, as they are the most likely specialist DVA service to be accessed, and are consequently in high demand. In this study, 35 participants took part in total. Within two research phases 32 residents across 6 refuges and 3 focus groups answered the first research question: What are the self-articulated needs of women in a refuge? Within the first phase a thematic analysis of the data from the first two focus groups identified six key themes: Accessing a refuge, Loss, To feel safe, Support, To move on, and To feel valued. Within the second research phase, a further focus group was conducted, the analysis of which is presented without decontextualising the content into themes, as it was felt to be important to represent the narrative structure of the documented accounts. The analysis of the material is presented by providing summaries demonstrating examples of the physical and emotional journeys that three women took to get to a refuge, and their subsequent needs upon arrival. In the third phase of the study, three semi-structured interviews were conducted with refuge staff members to answer the second research question: What do workers in a refuge setting perceive to be the needs of the residents? Thematic analysis of each interview identified 11 main themes, of which two themes per staff member were discussed. The final phase of the analysis process involved comparing and contrasting the salient findings that appeared similar or dissimilar across the data. Key emerging issues related to research question one identified the unexpected outcome addressing the needs of children and the helplessness felt by the mothers. Other issues discussed were the emotional challenges that accessing a refuge brought in terms of preparation, isolation, and location along with the importance of relational support in service delivery. In relation to research question two, key issues highlighted include the engagement of residents in support interventions and the impact that financial cuts have had on refuges. From a counselling psychology perspective, implications are identified for research and professional practice across a range of roles, from refuge personnel and funding commissioners to services that work alongside refuges, such as housing associations, local governments, and mental health professionals.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Award date1 Aug 2018