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Law, Language and the Power of "Invisible Threats" of Violence Against Women

Turner, Catherine; Swaine, Aisling

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Aisling Swaine


Violence, and the threat of violence against women, is a pervasive feature of women’s lives. From high profile threats in politics, to everyday harms such as domestic abuse, violence, threat and intimidation control women’s behaviour and silence their voices. Yet in many cases the pernicious and harmful effect of threat is not captured by the law. Drawing on the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and empirical research undertaken in Northern Ireland, this paper analyses the ways that both objectified and incorporated social structures generate invisible forces of fear and threat that the law does not see, but that women feel, and structure their lives around. The paper develops the novel conceptual tool of ‘invisible threats’ to capture threat as harm, to show the relation between threat and gendered (in)securities and to challenge institutions of the law to respond better to ‘invisible threats’ as felt, perceived and articulated by women.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Apr 11, 2023
Online Publication Date Sep 21, 2023
Publication Date 2023-09
Deposit Date Apr 25, 2023
Publicly Available Date Sep 29, 2023
Journal Journal of Law and Society
Print ISSN 0263-323X
Electronic ISSN 1467-6478
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 50
Issue 3
Pages 392-413
Public URL


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