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Barriers to Domestic Violence Help Seeking: Implications for Intervention

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 11 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2005 Pages: 290-310
Date Published
March 2005
21 pages

This study focused on the help-seeking choices of abused women involved in the Chicago Women's Health Risk Study (CWHRS), whose primary goals were to identify risk factors for death or life-threatening injury for a woman being abused by an intimate partner and to provide key information for those working directly with women in abusive relationships.


The CWHRS screened all women for abuse who entered one Chicago-area hospital and four community-based health centers in 1997. Face-to-face interviews that lasted approximately 45 minutes were completed with a sample of 491 women who were screened as abused and a comparison group of 208 women who were screened as nonabused in the previous year. The analysis in the current study was based on the interviews with the abused women. "Abuse" was defined as being physically hurt or threatened or being forced to engage in sexual activity in the previous year. The study focused on participants' nonuse of formal and informal interventions or help-seeking. Contacting an agency or counselor was the least often used intervention; 82 percent of the abused women did not contact an agency or counselor. The next least used intervention was medical care; 74 percent of the women did not seek medical care. Four kinds of barriers were present across all types of help-seeking examined: hassle, fear, confidentiality, or tangible loss. The findings suggest the need for increased awareness among victims of domestic violence as well as the wider community about available services, a need for ongoing evaluation of existing services in meeting the needs of all victims of domestic violence, and reinforcement of the view that victims' safety should inform all efforts. 2 tables and 29 references

Date Published: March 1, 2005