Regulation and resistance : an analysis of the practices of health visitors and women experiencing domestic violence
The titular themes of "regulation" and "resistance" provide a conceptual and theoretical framework for this research, which examines health visiting work in relation to women experiencing domestic violence. These themes, which are threaded throughout the study, arise from the feminist poststructuralist analysis underpinning this research. This draws attention towards the issues of power and knowledge, which are key sites for this analysis of the practices of health visitors and women experiencing domestic violence. Understanding health visiting in terms of the social regulation of mothers enables the analysis to focus upon the ambiguities and contradictions that arise from the double bind of welfare and surveillance inherent within health visiting work with women. These tensions are particularly visible in the context of domestic violence, where different understandings about male violence and abuse against women are associated with different practices. In particular, the feminist discourses about domestic violence that underpin this research and which are represented as "resistance", have made little impact upon the professional health visiting knowledge-base. The study draws upon qualitative data from semi-structured interviews with 24 health visitors, and 16 women with young children who have experienced domestic violence. It examines the practices through which health visitors "get to know" about women's experiences of domestic violence, and the extent that they were able to offer support or protection. The women who participated in this research all faced a number of difficulties in seeking help about domestic violence. These included dilemmas about disclosing their experiences to health visitors, as well as inadequate responses once they had broken their silence. The findings suggest that an urgent response, at the policy and practice level, is required to enable health visitors to improve their practices with women experiencing domestic violence.