Representing Others: An Exploration of Health Visiting Practices to Address Domestic Violence and Abuse in Black and Minority Ethnic Communities

  • Norma Jennifer Sarsby

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


An important aspect of health visitors’ (HVs’) role and responsibility is to identify and respond to domestic violence and abuse (DVA). To date, there has been limited exploration of HVs’ practice knowledge and the nature of their professional relationships during their day-to-day practice in addressing incidents of DVA in black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. Aim - The aim of the study was to explore the nature of HVs’ practice knowledge and professional encounters when trying to define, identify and respond to incidents of DVA in BME communities. Design - This study adopts the interpretative lens of a postcolonial feminist theoretical perspective as the focus for analysing the nature of HVs’ knowledge and their practices in addressing issues of DVA in BME communities. Postcolonial feminist thinkers offer the conjecture that knowledge about BME women’s lives must be analysed within the intersecting racialised, gendered and political contexts of their lives. The study utilises a mixed-method approach by conducting semi-structured interviews with twenty health visitors (HV) and documentary analysis of four key professional practice guidance documents on addressing DVA. Findings - The findings revealed the extent to which HVs’ theoretical and personal knowledge and practice in addressing DVA in BME communities are informed by the racialised, familial, gendered and political settings in which they work. The findings illuminate the complexities that are shaped by the neoliberalist approach to tackling health inequalities in the modern National Health Service (NHS). In particular, the study conceptualise the nature of HVs’ professional relationships with BME women to uncover DVA as a form of hegemonic representation. The findings offer the potential to transform the education and practice of current and future health professionals for the benefit of BME and other marginalised patients or service users. Implication for Practice - This research recommends a practice model which seeks to prioritise emancipatory knowledge. In particular, there are recommendations on the specific context in which HVs work with BME women to uncover DVA. It is suggested that further research in this area of practice should also explore the impact of a proposed Intersectionality framework for uncovering DVA in marginalised groups. This study represents an original contribution to knowledge by increasing understanding of the ways in which HVs work to address DVA in BME communities. Although implied in the literature, the understanding of HVs’ work at the intersection of DVA, familial and political perspectives have never previously been articulated in HV literature in this way.
Date of AwardFeb 2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorKay Aranda (Supervisor) & Huguette Comerasamy (Supervisor)

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