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Staying quiet or getting out: Some ideological dilemmas faced by women who experience violence from male partners


Correspondence should be addressed to Dr Alison J. Towns, PO BOX 41124, St. Lukes, Auckland 1346, New Zealand (e-mail:


Violence against women by men who are their intimate partners is now recognized internationally as a significant problem and one that impacts on social and community development and on the health of women and children. Women commonly report little of this violence. In this paper, we discuss the various socially constructed dilemmas for women that may silence them from talking of such violence. Billig et al. 's (1988) concept of ideological dilemmas emerged as a useful analytic device from which to analyse the discourses of 20 women who had experienced violence from their male partners. In particular, the influence of ideologies of patriarchy and of equity, and ideologies of individualism and collectivism were found to impact on some women's talk of such violence. This research contributes to the current debate on the psychosocial by describing the ways in which ideological dilemmas interweave across the social and the psychological.