Female Sexuality And Intimate Partner Violence
Safinuk, Danaka Raine
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Sexuality is a broad term that is used to include biological sex, sexual acts, sexual feelings, gender roles, and attitudes towards sexual behaviour (Jackson & Scott, 1996). It is a dynamic construct that can be influenced by many factors, including experiences of violence and abuse. Intimate partner violence (IPV) is one factor that can affect women in many ways, including their physical health, mental health, parenting, and sexuality (Burgess, 1983; Faravelli, Giugni, Salvatori, & Ricca, 2004). The focus of this qualitative study is to understand how IPV impacts women’s sexuality in a sample of women who have experienced IPV. A review of the literature describes the many existing barriers that make it difficult for women to develop a positive sexuality, and discuss what role IPV may have in this development (Russell, 2005). IPV has been shown to influence women’s sexuality both directly, by a partner inflicting physical injuries and conditions that interfere with sexual functioning, and indirectly, through resulting lowered self-esteem, flash-back memories, mental health problems, and various other consequences of IPV (Cobia, Robinson, & Edwards, 2008; Faravelli et al., 2004; Meston, Rellini, & Heiman, 2006). This research project examined IPV survivors’ experience of their sexuality by analyzing 31 qualitative interviews using grounded theory methods (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). A propositional theory was discovered, grounded in the words of the participants, that allows for a better understanding of the impact that IPV has on female sexuality. This theory states that IPV negatively impacts both sense of self and sexuality. Damage to sense of self through abusive relationships could also act to damage sexuality, while regaining sense of self could contribute to the healing of sexuality. Emotional abuse aimed at weight, appearance, sexuality, or gender was found to be particularly damaging to sexuality. The women in this sample helped to define emotional-sexual abuse, which may inform future research attempting to understand specific types of abuse that impact sexuality. The findings from this study may provide insight and understanding about female sexuality and IPV that can inform sexuality education programs, and front-line staff and programs.