Methods/Design: Women who experienced IPV (N=28) were recruited from a domestic violence program, a statewide coalition to end domestic and sexual violence, and social media. Data were collected through semi-structured, in-person interviews, averaging 59 minutes. Interviews were audio-recorded and transcribed. Data were stored and analyzed in Dedoose. Using a grounded theory approach, two themes, time lost and time left, emerged, unprompted, in the interviews. Results were then explored through the creation of a research poem to demonstrate how survivors experienced time lost and time left.
Results: In the first theme, time lost, participants' described feeling like important years of their life were stolen from them: "It's been so many years with a fake smile"; "He stole those best years of my life." Participants further described how healing after the violence requires time and patience: "You cannot heal 36 years in one year." In terms of time left, participants envisioned what comes next, with forward-facing orientation: “I’m not pussyfooting around...Who’s got time for that anymore? Let’s get to the good stuff”; “I’m 44 years-old, I want to know something different for the rest of my life." Within this category, participants also pondered alternative futures, where they expressed gratitude for the time left because they survived the violence: "I was basically, like, really lucky I didn't die."
Conclusion and Implications: By framing the topic of time and healing through a life course perspective, this research offers a unique contribution to the literature on survivorship and IPV; prior IPV research using a life course perspective has focused on trajectories of victimization rather than trajectories of healing. Social worker practitioners and other helping professionals can listen and normalize survivors' experiences of grieving the time lost, and interventions and programs should support survivors in their long-term healing of trauma beyond crisis intervention. Therapeutic and advocacy work with survivors can support them in envisioning their time left. In terms of methodological implications, findings demonstrate how combining diverse analytic methods—in this case, life course perspective, grounded theory, and research poems—can emphasize survivors’ voices in data representation in qualitative research.