Abstract: Informal and Formal Systems of Care for Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence in Kenya: The Role of Socio-Cultural Factors (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

Informal and Formal Systems of Care for Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence in Kenya: The Role of Socio-Cultural Factors

Friday, January 18, 2019: 1:45 PM
Union Square 25 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Brieanne Beaujolais, MA, MSW, Doctoral Student and Graduate Research Associate, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Cecilia Mengo, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Bonita B Sharma, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Texas at San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
Background/Purpose: Although efforts to address Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) have increased in many parts of the world, prevalence rates remain high. Approximately 46.2% of Kenyan women have ever experienced physical or sexual abuse by an intimate partner since the age of 15 (Rico et al., 2011). Experiencing IPV contributes to chronic and severe adverse consequences to women’s health. Accessing both formal and informal sources of social support has been linked to improved mental and physical health among women victims of IPV. Studies also show that victims of IPV rarely seek help or report their experiences with IPV (Rowan et al., 2017).

Several factors influence a victim’s decision on whether or not to seek help after experiencing IPV. The objective of this study is to comprehensively examine the relationship between help seeking and the influence of social cultural factors in Kenya. This study draws on the Cultural Determinants of Help Seeking (CDHS) model to explore the question: do sociocultural factors influence help-seeking behavior among women who experience IPV in Kenya?

Methods: The study used data from the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) for Kenya (2014), which is based on a nationally representative sample of ever married women (n=5265). Data were analyzed using bivariate and logistic regression analysis to examine factors associated with seeking help from various sources. The outcome variable for this study was seeking help from formal or informal sources. The formal sources were categorized as social service organizations, police, religious leaders, lawyers, or doctors. Informal sources included family members, their husband/partner’s family, neighbors, or traditional leaders. The independent variables were the socio-demographic characteristics, type and severity of violence, women’s justification for IPV and spousal control. Socio-demographic characteristics considered in this study were age of respondent, education level, wealth index, place of residence, and religion. The types of violence were conceptualized as women experience with physical, sexual, and emotional violence.

Results: Findings indicate that the majority of the women did not seek help after experiencing IPV (55.5%). For women who sought help, they primarily accessed informal services (39.7%), though few women also accessed formal services (5.5%). Some women accessed both formal and informal services (41.8%). Findings from bivariate analysis revealed significant differences in help seeking from formal and informal services based on the social-cultural factors of education level, wealth index, place of residence, religion, women’s justification for IPV and spousal control. Further, models from logistic regression indicate that women who experienced physical violence were 1.52 times more likely to seek help from informal services (AOR=1.52, 95% CI=1.34-1.75). In addition women’s justification for IPV significantly decreased the odds of seeking help from informal services by 0.82 times (AOR=0.82, 95% CI=0.69-0.95) and formal services by 0.55 times (AOR=0.55, 95% CI=0.34-0.88).

Implications: Findings indicate that understanding the cultural determinants of help seeking behaviors by social work researchers, policy makers, and practitioners is important, as it would contribute in the development of effective policies and programs for preventing and responding to different types of IPV among diverse populations in Kenya.