An Intersectional Analysis of the role of Cultural Beliefs, Norms and Practices, Help-seeking and Support in Nigerian women’s accounts of Sexual Abuse and Violence

Ajayi, Chinyere orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-8098-5676 (2020) An Intersectional Analysis of the role of Cultural Beliefs, Norms and Practices, Help-seeking and Support in Nigerian women’s accounts of Sexual Abuse and Violence. Doctoral thesis, University of Central Lancashire.

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Despite the growing number of studies into violence against black, minority ethnic (BME) women in the UK, the literature has focused mainly on the experiences of South Asian women in the UK, and to a limited extent, African and Caribbean women. Only one study (Femi-Ajao, 2018), primarily focused on Nigerian women’s experiences of intimate partner violence and abuse. As the UK population is becoming increasingly diverse, to inform policies and intervention strategies research into violence against women needs to include other BME groups. To contribute to this knowledge gap, this study aimed to: 1. explore if, and how, cultural beliefs, norms and practices might contribute to sexual abuse and violence against Nigerian women living in the UK and, 2. examine their experiences of support.
To address the aims of this study, in-depth narrative interviews were conducted with twelve women of Nigerian origin, living in the UK. The women were aged between 27 to 46 and all had experienced sexual abuse and violence. Women’s accounts were first analysed thematically then three case studies were selected for a more in-depth analysis using the listening guide method of narrative data analysis. This thesis was guided by feminist theoretical perspectives, placing gender and power at the centre of the explanatory framework to understanding of VAW. Drawing upon black feminist epistemologies, the concept of intersectionality was applied to explore the broader contextual factors that influenced women’s lived experiences of violence. The originality of this study not only lies in its findings but in the critical discussion of findings under the four domains of power relations proposed by Collins and Bilge (2016), structural, cultural, disciplinary and interpersonal.
Cultural beliefs, norms and practices: Analysis revealed that structural power relations in some religious settings underlie the practice of “spiritual baths”, which is a possible risk factor for the perpetration of child sexual abuse (CSA). Rape myths resulting from the intersection of gender and power could apply across the life course and may influence Nigerian mothers’ intervention in intrafamilial CSA. The practice of bride price could diminish women’s sexual and reproductive rights in a way that justifies the perpetration of sexual abuse and violence. The accompanying practice of libation posed a barrier to some women’s ability to leave abusive relationships or even move onto other relationships after separation. Analysis further revealed that women who have undergone the practice of FGM could be more likely to experience rejections and a breakdown of intimate relationships.
Barriers to help-seeking: This study found that the concept of ‘family and community betrayal’ proposed in this study are significant factors in Nigerian women’s inability to seek help for their experiences of sexual abuse and violence. It was found that Nigerian women who are claiming asylum in the UK on the grounds of sexual abuse and violence experience discrimination resulting from the intersection of gender, race, class and the structural forces within the Home Offices’ processes. Recurrent themes in women’s narratives reveal that the intersection of patriarchal gendered role socialisation and the isolation resulting from their immigration status posed a barrier to help-seeking.
Support: Also, as an original contribution to knowledge, two models were proposed. First, a feminist-intersectional model for understanding how Nigerian women might experience sexual abuse and violence in the UK and second, an intersectional model for support. Overall, the findings of this research illustrate the importance of using a feminist-intersectional framework in the explanation of VAW and argue that support provisions take cognisance of the need for intervention to be holistic, flexible, long-term and easily accessible.

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