Until recently our understanding of wife beating1 has largely depended upon what battered women in refuges have had to say about their experiences. Although such work is very important it has always been recognised that women going to refuges represent only the 'tip of an iceberg'. For every woman who goes to a refuge many more in similar circumstances do not, for a variety of reasons. At least part of this 'invisibility' can be explained by the way in which 'family matters' are regarded in our society.