Beyond Silence

Project Details

The Beyond Silence project focuses on the hidden issue of intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV). Despite the fact that around 1 in 10 Australian women has experienced sexual violence perpetrated by an intimate partner, IPSV remains shrouded in stigma and silence. The Beyond Silence project aims to explore women’s lived experiences of IPSV through 38 in-depth interviews with victim/survivors.  Several papers have already been published from the study (see link below). The aim of this body of work is to further the idea that IPSV is a unique form of violence, similar to both intimate partner violence and sexual violence but with a number of key differences that set it apart from each. Key learnings include:

  • Women describe the experience of IPSV as being “Attacked from the inside out”. IPSV damages victim/survivors’ sense of womanhood and humanity, leaving them with lingering emotional scars. The sexual nature of the abuse is central to its harm; it is about both sex and power/control.  Betrayal of trust is also a key feature.
  • Survivors in the study engaged in “emotion work” when experiencing IPSV. “Emotion work” refers to the work someone undertakes to manage their own or others’ emotional responses. In the early stages, women convinced themselves that they were responsible for the abuse. As the IPSV progressed, women tried to convince themselves that the abuse was “not that bad”. Finally, they sought to manage the emotional fallout once they recognised and named the abuse.
  • Women perceived key connections between their partner’s use of pornography and his perpetration of IPSV.
  • Women perceived strong connections between sexual and psychological abuse in their relationships. Four distinct patterns were described in terms of how psychologically abusive tactics and sexual violence occurred.

A final outcome from this study has been the Beyond Silence website, a world-first, trauma-informed website for information, awareness raising and support.  The website was launched in August 2021 and is publicly available here:

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A/Prof Laura Tarzia

Research Group

Sexual and Family Violence (SAFE)

School Research Themes

Women's Health, Infectious Diseases and Immunity

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

General Practice and Primary Care

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