The Utilization of Protection Orders By Survivors in Shelter
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.