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Intimate Partner Violence and Work: A Hermeneutic Phenomenological Study of Middle-Class Women's Empowerment through Work Open Access

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Despite having attained economic self-sufficiency through paid work, middle-class women with college education often stay in Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) relationships that negatively impact their health and social well-being. This hermeneutic phenomenological study explored how ten middle-class women (considered as co-researchers for the study) described and understood the role of work in their process of empowerment. Because middle-class women often do not report their IPV challenges due to social stigma, there are limited or no interventions to address their problems. The study finds that women did not consciously enter into an empowerment process at work. Rather, they experienced empowerment while they performed their job responsibilities. Study findings suggest that work enabled the co-researchers to (a) find a sense of community at work, (b) seek support from their co-workers, (c) assume and negotiate power, (d) find the space to reflect, (e) rediscover or discover a sense of self, and (f) find their voice. Work often provided space for the women to notice a contrast between their IPV relationships and empowered work lives, which enabled them to label their experience of violence, raise objections to violence, and eventually make decisions to stop it. Work became the anchor or hope which not only healed co-researchers’ notions of inadequacy but also enabled them to change their IPV relationships. Most importantly, this study argues that empowerment interventions need to focus on the needs and goals of women in IPV that will allow them to experience feelings of accomplishments, owning and maximizing their strengths, support and simply feelings of happiness.

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