Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Women’s responses to intimate partner violence in Rwanda: rethinking agency in constrained social contexts

Mannell, Jenevieve, Jackson, Sharon and Umutoni, A. (2016) Women’s responses to intimate partner violence in Rwanda: rethinking agency in constrained social contexts. Global Public Health, 11 (1-2). pp. 65-81. ISSN 1744-1692

PDF - Accepted Version
Download (471kB) | Preview


This paper explores instances of agency in women’s responses to intimate partner violence (IPV) in Rwanda. The literature on women’s responses to IPV conceptualises agency primarily as an individual’s capacity to take action by reporting violence or leaving a relationship, obscuring other ways women may respond to violence in contexts where reporting or leaving are unlikely. We aim to replace this narrow conceptualisation of agency with a social constructivist focus on the meanings women attribute to possible IPV responses. We draw on data from a study of IPV in Rwanda, which includes semi-structured interviews with women experiencing violence and four focus group discussions with women community members (n=39). Our findings highlight socio-cultural, economic, political-legal and historical constraints that shape women's actions in this context. In relation to these constraints, women describe four possible responses to IPV: reporting the violence; seeking emotional support; ‘fighting back’ against violence (including leaving the relationship); or remaining silent. While reporting and leaving violent relationships are identified, women also discuss the social constraints that make these actions extremely difficult in Rwanda. In designing effective strategies, we conclude that public health strategies need to consider women’s understandings of their own actions, particularly in social contexts where certain actions may be highly constrained.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2014 The Author(s)
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2015 09:59
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 03:21

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics