‘It was do or die’: how women’s offending can occur as a by-product of attempting to survive domestic abuse

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Female offenders are far more likely to have experienced domestic abuse than the general female population and, subsequently, the presence of victimisation in female offenders’ backgrounds is well documented. Yet, despite acknowledgement of a link between women’s victimisation and offending, the relationship between the two is still not well understood. This article outlines the findings of the first UK-based research of its kind which concluded that some women’s involvement in crime can manifest as a by-product of their attempts to survive domestic abuse. The study employed a feminist and symbolic interactionist perspective, drawing upon interviews with community-based female offenders, placing the women’s own voices and perspectives at the centre of the discourse. The study reveals how women’s situated, subjective and individualised experiences within, and responses to, their abusive relationships can influence their offending. What is important is that rather than women offending against, or with, an abuse perpetrator, or being coerced by an abuse perpetrator to commit crime, this article illustrates the broader, longitudinal effects of domestic abuse. Instead, women’s offences can occur without their abuser being present, after the relationship has ended, or even years after the abuse has ceased, yet their actions can still be attributed to their experience of domestic abuse.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283 - 302
JournalJournal of Gender-Based Violence
Issue number3
Early online date16 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


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