Revealing hidden realities: disclosing domestic abuse to informal others

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little is known about the initial disclosure process when victims of domestic abuse break their silence and tell family, friends, neighbours or colleagues. This study draws on interviews with 21 Swedish women and analyses the interactional and emotional processes of the first disclosure. Shame, perpetrator threats, child custody issues, fear over increased/expanded violence, and how disclosure will affect social interactions were mentioned as reasons for hesitating to reveal the abuse to their social network. Women who had a planned disclosure had decided to tell someone regardless of concerns about potential negative outcomes, referring to the need for emotional and practical support. These women told a person of their choice in a situation they themselves chose. Women also revealed their hidden realities as an unplanned response to a specific situation described as turning points. Unplanned disclosures were also a result of someone in the woman’s network noticing the abuse, more or less forcing the woman to tell. This study reveals the dynamics resulting in the interviewed women’s first disclosure of being abused. We also discuss the nuances in disclosure decisions and offer insight into what is crucial for making domestic abuse visible to others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-202
Number of pages17
JournalNordic Journal of Criminology
Issue number2
Early online date2020 Jun 30
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)

Free keywords

  • domestic abuse
  • informal others
  • planned and unplanned disclosure
  • Qualitative interviews


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