Abstract: The influence of informal support on domestic violence victims' use of formal services (Society for Social Work and Research 14th Annual Conference: Social Work Research: A WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES)

12144 The influence of informal support on domestic violence victims' use of formal services

Saturday, January 16, 2010: 5:00 PM
Pacific Concourse L (Hyatt Regency)
* noted as presenting author
Narae Shin, MA , University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Ph.D. student, Roseville, MN
Eonju Park, MSW , University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, PhD Candidate, St. Paul, MN
Jeffrey L. Edleson, PhD , University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Professor, St. Paul, MN
Background and Purpose: Domestic violence is a family crime that occurs in a social context. In order to recuperate from such a tragedy, battered women often require support from both informal networks and formal service sectors (Liang, Goodman, Tummala-Narra & Weintraub, 2005). However, many battered women may be reluctant to use formal services due to a lack of information about the services, stigma associated with using them or the inaccessibility of the services. Since battered women usually seek informal help before accessing formal services, the degree and quality of informal support networks available to battered women may affect their choices of formal services. Yet, little is known about relationship between informal and formal support for battered women. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to explore the association between informal and formal support among battered women with children and the factors that influence their use of formal services. Informal support in this study consists of: (1) positive informal support by family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, such as telling that partner's abuse is wrong and; (2) negative informal support such as avoiding a victim or trying to change the topic. The degree to which such informal networks affect the involvement of women with three formal services police, legal and domestic violence services is specifically explored.

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.