Rianne Houghton

Reclaiming the Domestic: What the homespace means to victims of domestic violence and abuse


Professor Harry Ferguson and Dr Louise Isham

Rianne HoughtonRianne’s research rests on three premises: first, that domestic violence and abuse is enabled by its location; second, that acts of domestic violence have a unique spatial quality; and third, that feelings of autonomy and independence are intimately linked to where we live.

Her PhD aims to explore the ways in which domestic violence and abuse affects victim-survivors’ spatial relationships. It will ask if women’s experience of (private, domestic) space, and their understanding of ‘home’, is changed by incidences of domestic violence, and if that space was implicated or used during times of violence. This project hopes to explore whether there is a difference between a house and a ‘home’ for women who have experienced violence and abuse – and whether acknowledging a greater distinction between the two can aid recovery and improve existing services.

Through in-depth interviews and the application of Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA), this project intends to present an authentic and sensitive account of victim-survivors’ lives after they leave a place of violence and move into a new space. Much is understood about the long-term physical, mental, and financial effects of domestic violence and abuse, but this research will explore original questions concerning the effects it has on a person’s everyday lived experience, how they interact with and negotiate space, and how in turn, what consequences that can have on their identity.


Rianne is a final-year PhD student in the School of Social Policy at the University of Birmingham. Her research is focused on the impact of domestic violence and abuse on women’s relationships with ‘home’ - and how the relationships we form with public and private space contribute to our identities.

Rianne co-organises the student-led research network PGR Feminisms, hosting reading groups and regular discussions on a variety of topics relating to feminist and gender theory. She is also a teaching associate within the school, leading seminars for undergraduate students on the BA Criminology programme.

Beyond the university, Rianne is in the process of establishing a multi-disciplinary studio alongside an urbanist architect. The practice aims to produce applicable research and real-world projects, with a focus on considered design and public space interventions.


  • BA (Queen Mary, University of London)
  • MA (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Research Interests 

  • Domestic violence and abuse
  • Gender-based violence
  • Feminisms
  • Theories of ‘the home’
  • Identity and space

Teaching responsibilities 

Teaching Associate, University of Birmingham:

  • Crime and Society
  • Violence in a Global Context

Professional memberships 

  • British Sociological Association
  • Feminist Studies Association

Contact details