The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

The Utilization of Protection Orders By Survivors in Shelter

Friday, January 17, 2014: 3:30 PM
HBG Convention Center, Room 008A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Jill T. Messing, MSW, PhD, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Alesha Durfee, PhD, Associate Professor, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Meredith Bagwell, MSW, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ
Background: One-third of women experience intimate partner violence (IPV) in their lifetime (Black et al., 2011). Protection orders (POs) are an important resource for survivors of IPV. POs prohibit the abuser from contacting the victim, and may also force the surrender of weapons, require the abuser to vacate a shared residence, prohibit the abuser from coming to the victim’s residence, workplace, or school, and/or prohibit or restrict contact with any minor children. POs tend to decrease the violence that women experience (Logan et al., 2009; Dutton, et al., 2007), and women generally feel safer as a result of obtaining a PO (Logan & Walker, 2008). Most research on POs has been conducted with survivors who have obtained an order; relatively little is known about why survivors’ choose to/not to obtain a PO as a means for achieving safety in their relationship.

Methods: IPV survivors (n=273) in the Southwestern US were surveyed upon their intake into one of 10 participating shelters about their use of POs, demographic and relationship characteristics, experiences of violence, and previous help-seeking. Logistic regression was utilized to examine the following 3-part research question: What (1) demographic and relationship characteristics, (2) experiences of violence, and (3) previous help-seeking actions are associated with the decision of a survivor in shelter to seek a PO?

Results: 81.4% of respondents knew what an order of protection was prior to entering shelter, though only 36.5% had tried to obtain one. Of the women who choose not to obtain an order of protection, 64.3% believed that it would increase the violence that they faced in their relationship and 51.8% were afraid to obtain a PO. Demographic and relationship characteristics – including race/ethnicity, having children, employment, citizenship status, and marital status – were not related to seeking a PO. Experiences of violence were not related to seeking a PO, but experiences of moderate violence significantly increased the chances of obtaining a PO (OR=6.65). Previous help-seeking was significantly associated with seeking a PO, including seeking social services (OR=3.05), informal assistance (e.g., from family/friends; OR=2.18), safety-planning (OR=2.73), calling the police (OR=2.62), pursuing criminal charges (OR=3.32), and seeking legal assistance (OR=2.91). Women’s satisfaction with these services, however, was not related to their likelihood of seeking a PO.

Conclusions: IPV survivors make active choices about help-seeking, including the decision to obtain a PO. POs are not a good intervention option for all women; over half of the respondents who did not obtain a PO believed that it would increase the violence that they faced. Also notable is that women’s experiences of violence did not affect their decision to obtain a PO, but were important in the judge’s decision to grant a PO. However, women who are actively seeking other forms of assistance, and therefore more likely to come into contact with social workers, are more likely to seek a PO and information/education about POs should be provided, including information about important factors to include in the PO application.