Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 31, Issue 7, pp 885–896 | Cite as

The Words of Violence: Autobiographical Narratives of Abused Women

  • Franca Tani
  • Carole Peterson
  • Martina Smorti
Original Article


Personal narratives tell the stories of people’s lives as well as provide insight into the meaning of those experiences. These narratives both reflect and are influenced by the relationships within which an individual is embedded. In this study, autobiographical narratives for two groups of women were compared: women who had experienced habitual gender-based domestic violence in their couple relationships and women who had not. The language of narratives was analyzed by LIWC (Language Inquiry and Word Count procedure). Results showed that the language and structure of narratives by women with a history of domestic violence indicated greater stress and trauma, more incoherent space-time organization, and poorer relationship quality. Women who experienced violence wrote longer narratives that contained proportionately more negative emotion words and more references to cognitions and physical/body issues, and indicated more disorganized structure by means of incoherent use of verbal tense, more impoverished use of connectives, and greater use of negative sentence syntax and discrepancy words. They also included proportionately more pronoun references to ‘I’,‘You’,’ and ‘He’, indicating self vs. partner conflictual relationships. However, women who had experienced relationship violence for longer decreased their references to the emotions of fear and anxiety, suggesting adaptation to violence over time.


Couple violence Autobiographical memories Narratives Romantic relationships Gender-based violence Intimate violence Violence against women Interpersonal violence 



This research was supported in part by a grant from the MURST-ex 60 % in 2013-2014. The authors are grateful to all of the women who participated in the study. They would also like to thank student researchers for their help with data insertion.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Health SciencesUniversity of FlorenceFlorenceItaly
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt. John’sCanada
  3. 3.Faculty of Educational SciencesFree University of BozenBozenItaly

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