Abstract: Pathways to Seeking Help from a Partner Abuse Intervention Program: A Qualitative Study of Voluntary and Non-Court Mandated Latino Men's Experiences (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

581P Pathways to Seeking Help from a Partner Abuse Intervention Program: A Qualitative Study of Voluntary and Non-Court Mandated Latino Men's Experiences

Saturday, January 19, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Maxine Davis, MSW, MBA, Doctoral Candidate, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Bruno Fernandez, MSW, MSW, Dominican University, River Forest, IL, IL
Melissa Jonson-Reid, PhD, Professor, Washington University in Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO
Background & Purpose: Intervention for perpetrators is one of the most important areas of focus in the efforts to end intimate partner violence and abuse (IPV/A). However, involvement in treatment for IPV/A perpetration is most often limited to those who are arrested and convicted of domestic violence offenses. Because of this, the majority of research into partner abuse intervention programs (PAIP) has utilized data from court-mandated participants. Little is known about the experiences or perspectives of non-court mandated PAIP participants. Therefore, this study investigated the following research question: How do participants in a voluntary PAIP perceive their experience in seeking help from a PAIP?

Methods: Sixteen members of a voluntary PAIP, known as The Men’s Group (TMG) were recruited through purposive sampling. Data for this study was obtained through semi-structured in-depth interviews. Participants age range was 31-70 (M=44, SD=9.7). Participant ethnicity was Mexican (n=9), US Hispanic (n=4), and Latino (n=3).  The participants’ reported length of time in TMG ranged from completing 3 group sessions to an engagement period spanning 20+ years. Interviews ranged from 16 to 76 minutes. All interviews were conducted in Spanish, translated to English and transcribed by the same member of the research team, in order to reduce loss of information during data processing. In order to explore how each of the men interviewed made sense of seeking help, an interpretive phenomenological analysis, was conducted.

Results: Four major themes emerged. First, most participants viewed a series of co-occurring or succeeding factors as negatively impacting their intimate relationship. Participants viewed these external, intrapersonal, and interpersonal factors as main contributors to a break-down within the relationship overtime. Some men understood the problems in their relationship as being multifaceted but also recognized that the decay of the relationship was exacerbated by escalating unhealthy conflict, poor strategies for dealing with crises, controlling tendencies and violence. Second, all (N=16) participants experienced themselves or their partners reaching a critical moment in the relationship that moved them closer to taking action in getting help. This was often viewed as a crossroads, in which a decision was made to begin the process of finding help. Third, most participants’ recounted actions that led them towards seeking help. These were most often distinguishable moments in which specific trusted sources suggested TMG and provided concrete information on how to get involved. Fourth, all men reported perceived benefit from engagement in TMG, and most participants perceived their experience in seeking help from TMG as one that would continue indefinitely.

Conclusion & Implications: The findings in this study reveal that the decision to engage in a PAIP voluntarily is process laden. Participants described the process as involving a breakdown in health of their intimate relationship, reaching tipping points at which avoiding help was no longer an option, and locating specific information on where to seek treatment. Understanding how men reach the point of participating in a PAIP without court-mandate is crucial in moving toward greater preventive or early intervention approaches and developing strategies for engaging men who have acted abusively.