Teenagers' Experiences of Domestic Violence Refuges

Bracewell, Kelly orcid iconORCID: 0000-0003-4635-7489 (2017) Teenagers' Experiences of Domestic Violence Refuges. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

[thumbnail of Thesis document]
PDF (Thesis document) - Submitted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.

[thumbnail of Thesis document - Appendices] PDF (Thesis document - Appendices) - Submitted Version
Restricted to Repository staff only
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike.



Refuges have been central to UK domestic violence service provision since the 1970s. Early studies focused on the needs of adult women but increasingly, children and teenagers have also become the business of refuges. Much of the existing research regarding users’ experiences of refuges has, however, failed to distinguish the needs of teenagers (aged 13 to 18 years) from those of adult women and younger children. This study aims to redress this balance by examining the current service response provided by refuges for teenagers.
Teenagers aged 16 and 17 are now incorporated within the Government definition of domestic violence and abuse in England and Wales (Home Office, 2013). This policy shift requires refuges to ensure appropriate provision for under-18s. The research investigates how teenagers experience refuges and whether refuge provision responds effectively to the needs and rights of teenagers. The findings can be used to inform policy and service development.
This study is influenced by elements of feminist theory and the sociology of childhood which prioritise subjective understandings of experience and children’s agency. Data collection took place in refuges across the North West, East and West Midlands of England. It involved telephone interviews with 25 members of staff and face to face repeat interviews using participatory methods with 20 teenagers, resulting in 89 interviews. Originality resides in the detailed exploration of teenagers’ experiences across the length of their refuge stay and, in some cases, into their new homes.
Interviews revealed an absence of educational, emotional and social support throughout the period of a teenager’s stay, and the picture was similar upon resettlement from the refuge. Difficulties experienced by teenagers during their refuge residence related to specific features of adolescence; refuges’ focus on safety and protectionism was particularly problematic for adolescent development. Refuge life was found to have severe negative effects on teenagers’ education. This study found that refuges are currently missing opportunities to reduce harm and promote prevention of future domestic violence and abuse by building teenagers’ resilience.
This thesis argues for attitudinal change as well as relevant resources. The research highlights the shortcomings of refuges and links them to conceptions of victimhood in refuge policy and the changing nature and reduction of services. These conditions are restricting refuges’ ability to respect, protect and meet the rights of teenagers. This thesis advocates for teenagers to have greater visibility and recognition as service users in their own right.

Repository Staff Only: item control page