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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

“Enduring violence” in the lives of formerly incarcerated women: A study in individual survival and societal indifference
by Johnson, Diane Miller, Ph.D., State University of New York at Stony Brook, 2009, 284; 3401708
Abstract (Summary)

Women in the United States who are released from prison face multiple obstacles in their efforts to establish stable lives outside the criminal justice system. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than half of the women released from jail are re-arrested within three years. Increasingly, research has documented the substantial likelihood that women who become incarcerated have childhood and adult histories of physical and sexual abuse and poverty. This qualitative study examines the “lived experience” of violence in the lives of formerly incarcerated women during three periods in their lives: childhood, adulthood and incarceration. An analysis of 41 in-depth interviews with twenty women reveals profound, “soul scarring” violence as the central defining theme of their lives. The analysis reveals not only the ways the violence impacted them at the time of occurrence, but also the ongoing, residual devastating effects of these experiences in their lives today.

Based on emergent themes from these interviews, I propose an analytic concept, that of “enduring violence,” to help understand how the women in this study have “endured” the violence in their lives and how they have coped with lives characterized by enduring violence. I examine how this concept explicates a seemingly paradoxical reality: the women can and do endure such violence enabling them to survive, while simultaneously subjecting them to extreme “costs” in terms of their emotional, psychological and physical well-beings.

Drawing from Patricia Hill Collins’ work on “controlling images” and Jean Baker Miller’s work on “relational images”, I build and expand upon existing theories of trauma, intersectionality and violence to create the concept of enduring violence. I discuss the ways the concept of enduring violence can deepen our understanding of the enormity of the task and the profound obstacles faced by formerly incarcerated women as they try to envision and create a life free from crime and violence.

Based on the findings of this study, I discuss recommendations for policy changes to foster preemptive and ameliorative institutional interventions in the lives of girls and women who face the kinds of violence that so permeated the lives of the women I interviewed.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Francis, Linda, Vidal, Carlos
School: State University of New York at Stony Brook
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 71/04, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Social work, Womens studies, Criminology
Keywords: Formerly incarcerated, Societal indifference, Survival, Violence against women, Women offenders
Publication Number: 3401708
ISBN: 978-1-109-69049-1
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