Literature Review: Words Used by Women

Words used by women to convey and give meaning to their experience, Student Mental Health Nurse Kathryn Jane Lake, BSc Student Mental Health Nurse, University of East Anglia (UEA), England Co Author(s): Dr Paul Linsley Seniour Lecturer University of Easy Anglia

I found a fabulous abstract for a paper online, after someone thoughtfully tweeted at a conference.

Kathryn Lake wrote the paper as a third year Mental Health Student at the University of East Anglia. She has a keen interest in public health and the implementation of effective health promotion with regard to domestic abuse. She has participated in training workshops to raise awareness of the complexities of domestic abuse for all involved, as well as contributing to many written publications.

She and her co-author used case studies to explore the topic.

Her paper attempts to identify and address the barriers that healthcare professionals encounter when responding to disclosures of abuse/violence (and in my personal opinion/experience this should probably also extend to solicitors and police officers, who are often at the front line long before mental health professionals mop up the pieces.)

Language, or word choice, is vitally important in the context of who we are. Words serve as cues for action and feed into concepts of self/identity.

This study looked closely at the words women often use when recounting their experiences of domestic abuse to mental health nurses. I would contend that it’s as true for abused men.

Any explanation of human actions needs us to understand the person’s intentions and motivations, including when and why they seek help. Because people often develop and support self-conceptions through interaction with others, this is important.

(My own experience has been that I’ve been met with incredulity, a need to push me to a happier place, when what I’ve been trying to understand for myself what, in me, meant I couldn’t follow my own gut instincts, how I allowed myself to be played. But like most victims, I mainly just wanted to be believed.)

People have diverse values and attitudes, so the choice of words they use can have profound impacts on discovered that listening skills hinge on our ability to recognise these differing types of statements and words. These then serve as cues to the responses and behaviours of others.

Women were found to choose words carefully when talking about the abuse they have experienced, expecting certain responses from staff. Nurses often underestimated the importance of adopting the right language, which acts as a barrier to care.

By understanding the clues that word choice offers to others’ positions, and how the words we ourselves use  explain our own position, it becomes easier to develop better support strategies. It helps break down barriers and eases working together.

By being mindful and taking account of the language we use, the authors contend that outcomes for victims can be enhanced. I couldn’t agree more!

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