“I don’t have an address”: Housing instability and domestic violence in help-seeking calls to a support service
Increasing recognition of the long-term negative impacts of gendered violence has led to the establishment of a variety of social support services. Feminist research has examined the barriers that prevent women from accessing these services and the problems women report getting the help they need. However, little is known about what happens in situ when women interact with support services. This paper is a novel empirical investigation of naturalistic social interactions where women seek help with problems resulting from violence at home. We used conversation analysis to examine how problems of housing instability and help-seeking unfolded in recorded telephone calls to a victim support service. We found that the routine institutional practice of asking for an address posed interactional trouble for women who were seeking to leave violence, had left a violent home, or were homeless as a result of violence. When answers could not be provided, callers’ responses included disclosures of violence or challenges to the meanings of address. Our findings point to an interactional burden that women confront in institutional interactions. We suggest institutions should carefully consider how routine practices such as asking for an address might pose unintended problems for service users in vulnerable circumstances.