The Significance of Shame in the Lives of Women Who Experience Male Violence

Helen Baker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Recently there has been recognition of the cultural politics of emotion, that is, the ways in which emotions impact upon individual life experiences. Significantly, it has been shown how emotions can produce effects of power on and through the bodies of individuals. Despite this knowledge, the law and legal responses tend to minimise, obscure and deny the ways in which emotions, and in particular shame, impacts upon individuals. This article therefore argues that the lives of women who experience male violence cannot be fully understood without reference to the ways in which shame affects those experiences. It explores how shame operates as a gendered set of self-regulatory practices, which are also practices of male power in individual womens' lives. In order to do this findings from a small scale qualitative study which used semi-structured interviews with women who have experienced violence are utilised, together with a Foucauldian theoretical framework. The article contends that an awareness and understanding of how shame affects the lives of women experience male violence can improve law and social policy responses to male violence against women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)145-171
Number of pages27
JournalLiverpool Law Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Aug 2013


  • Emotion
  • Law
  • Male violence
  • Self-regulatory practice
  • Shame
  • Women


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