Sheltering from violence: Women’s experiences of safe shelters in Cambodia

Naomi Graham

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis centres on the lives of Cambodian domestic violence survivors who have fled their abusive partners to live in NGO-run safe shelters. Through in-depth interview research undertaken across 2016 with 17 survivors and 11 staff in the safe shelters of two NGOs, I explore their experiences of the shelter and the services they provide including counselling, skills training, and legal assistance. Empirically the thesis addresses a knowledge gap which exists on shelter spaces, both in Cambodia, but also in the discipline of geography.

The narratives discussed in the thesis provides new insights into experiences of violence and the (in)efficacy of after-care services from a survivor-centred perspective. The findings show how the impunity of the legal system means that Cambodian society operates as a safe space for perpetrators of domestic violence and spatially excludes survivors from it to guarantee their safety from injury and even murder. The research argues that safe shelter provision in Cambodia, albeit essential, does not necessarily afford freedom from violence, but rather a punitive safety from it. Survivors are too often being excluded from decision-making processes in the shelter and treated as passive recipients of physical safety. Exploring their practical as well as long-term strategic goals reveals a more complex set of needs which the shelters struggle to meet. As such, this thesis makes important theoretical contributions to debates on agency, choice, and capabilities and raises challenging questions about the opportunities and limitations that women face when striving towards living an economically independent life that is free from violence. The thesis demonstrates that while women’s shelters in Cambodia are vital life-or-death services, there is a significant need for improvement and ends by suggesting ways forward to achieve this.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Brickell, Katherine, Supervisor
Thesis sponsors
Award date1 Apr 2020
Publication statusUnpublished - 2020

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