Method: Battered women were recruited through domestic violence agencies in four metropolitan areas: Dallas, Minneapolis/St, Paul, San Jose, and Pittsburgh. Those who saw flyers or brochures describing this study at service agencies called the research team when they wanted to participate in this research. All interviews were anonymous and over the telephone. A total of 114 battered women were enrolled in this study. A logistic regression analysis was separately employed for each of three formal services (police, legal and domestic violence) to identify statistical predictors of formal service use, including the degree of positive/negative informal social support along with battered women's socio-economic status, alcohol/drug problem of women and abusers, emotional and physical violence to women, and child abuse.
Results: The analyses showed that only positive informal support from families, friends or co-workers had a significant impact on the use of all three formal services when other socio-economic variables were controlled. Results specifically revealed that: (1) positive informal support, severe physical abuse, higher income, and ethnicity of battered women were significant predictors of the use of police services; (2) positive informal support, physical abuse, victims' age when the violence began were significant predictors of the use of legal services; and (3) only positive informal support was the significant predictor of using services from domestic violence agencies.
Conclusion and Implications: The results from the present study suggest that positive informal support networks are critical contexts in which battered women make decisions to seek formal services. Understanding domestic violence victims' social supports and working within informal networks may be a key strategy in reaching often isolated women and their children. These findings suggest more attention to developing and supporting informal networks to help victims choose to use formal services.