This paper explores domestic violence in the rural location of Griquatown, South Africa. Although academics have long recognised that structural and cultural factors influence people’s experience of domestic violence, not much has been written about the manner in which this happens. This paper explores how personal relationships intersect with broader cultural and structural forces and, in so doing, shape people’s experience of domestic violence. This paper focuses on the life of one individual in order to demonstrate the multi-faceted context in which domestic violence takes shape. By bringing together individual choices, self-representation, personal relations, ethnic identity and societal demands, this paper illustrates how domestic violence is contingent upon, or mitigated by, broader societal processes that impinge on or moderate the behaviour of individuals and their spouses. It argues that domestic violence is an on-going process which results at the intersection between men’s and women’s personal quests to establish autonomy and collective processes that encourage conformity to ‘ideal’ ethnic categories and gendered social roles.