Skip to content
Curtin University
Collaboration for Evidence, Research and Impact in Public Health

Beyond Survivor: Women's Identity after Intimate Partner Violence (2010-2012)


Chief Investigators

PhD Candidate

  • Ms Simonetta Cavilli (WACHPR, Curtin University)

Collaborating Partners

  • World Association for Sexual Health/Reproductive Health & Research Unit, World Health Organization

Project Aim and Objectives

The aim of this research is to establish theory that predicates the construction of a woman’s self identity, personal strength and agency after the permanent physical separation from an abusive relationship.

The research objectives are to:

  • Recapitulate the psychological, emotional, personal and social factors that precipitate Australian women to terminate their abusive relationship.
  • Characterise prevailing attitudes, intentions and behaviours of participants retrospective to their experience of their abusive relationship.
  • Examine the process of leaving and delineate the transition these women experience that engenders their permanent disengagement from the abusive relationship.
  • Establish theory describing construction of a healthy concept of self and identity post separation of the abusive relationship.


For women in Australia, sexual assault, domestic and family violence are some of the most pervasive human rights violations. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2005) nearly one in five Australian women has experienced violence by a current or previous intimate partner.

Research on intimate partner abuse and violence (IPV) has focused on factors related to a woman’s decision to leave or stay and the processes involved in arriving at that decision. However, studies on IPV have seldom ventured beyond the point of physical separation and little is known about the experience of women who have permanently left their abusive partners. The oppressive nature of the abusive relationship leads to restricted personal growth as survival was prioritised over self-development. Consequently, the post-separation period affords opportunities for redirection of energy and intention and extrication from false beliefs of their characteristics and identity. 

Project Overview

This research addresses the gap in the literature focusing on the women who have permanently left their abusive partner and extending the concept of leaving as a process to include the aftermath of separation and the psychological, emotional and physical well-being of the women as she constructs her self-identity. This proposed qualitative, grounded theory research will utilise explorative interviews with women, who are permanently separated from an IPV relationship, as the main source of data. The resultant framework will prove greater depth in understanding women’s process of leaving and recovery from IPV and what has assisted them regaining their psychological and emotional equilibrium.

Projected Key Outcomes

This information gained will also assist with designing recommendations for public health promotion & education, effective interventions and also assist with the implications of the current national plan aimed at the reduction of IPV and domestic violence (DV) in Australia.