Abstract: Women's Help-Seeking in Asia and the Pacific: Factors That Impact Survivors of IPV (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Women's Help-Seeking in Asia and the Pacific: Factors That Impact Survivors of IPV

Friday, January 17, 2020
Liberty Ballroom K, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Kristina Nikolova, PhD, Postdoctoral Associate, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Jordan Steiner, MA, MSW, Graduate Research Assistant, Center on Violence Against Women and Children, New Brunswick, NJ
Iris Cardenas, MSW, Doctoral Student, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Rupa Khetarpal, MSW, Assistant Professor of Teaching, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Julia Cusano, MSW, Phd Student and Graduate Assistant, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ
Background: Women experiencing IPV face barriers when trying to seek help to end the abuse. Family values and social norms, childhood exposure to violence, fear of retribution, and lack of access to resources, impact the help-seeking decision. Most of the research on IPV survivors’ help seeking is from high-income regions, with little research on informal help seeking in Asia and the Pacific. This study aims to increase the understanding of factors influencing a culturally diverse sample of women seeking help and how family members respond to victims of IPV.

Methods: This study conducted secondary data analyses of 350 women from China and Papua New Guinea who have experienced physical IPV in the past 12 months. Logistic regressions were used to determine what factors impact women’s help seeking from family members and factors associated with a positive response from family members. Predictors include the type and severity of IPV, childhood experiences of violence, women’s mental health and drug/alcohol use, and sociodemographic characteristics.

Results: Women were most likely to report the abuse to female family members (85.1%) or a female member of their in-laws (69.4%).  Women approached male members of the in-laws (50.0%) and children (46.4%) the least. Only 4% of women did not seek any help from family and 25.4% approached all five types of family supports. 

Help seeking from female family members and in-laws was associated with the frequency of physical violence and having witnessed IPV as a child (R2=0.143, p<.01).  Seeking help from male family members and in-laws was associated with the woman’s beliefs in traditional gender norms and the frequency of physical violence (R2=0.205, p<.001). Women experiencing a negative response from family members were more likely to have experienced less frequent and severe violence, hold traditional gender norms, and exhibit higher levels of depressive symptoms (R2=0.199, p<.001). The only factor associated with women being more likely to be encouraged by family to go to the police was the presence of advertisements in the media about VAW (R2=.152, p<.001).

Conclusions: The factors associated with women’s decision to seek help from their family and friends have implications for women’s ability to leave an abusive situation, report the violence to authorities, and access formal services. Even when countries criminalize IPV, barriers in the enforcement of these policies and in women’s ability to seek help exist. Chief among them is the survivor’s ability to access formal avenues of support, which are time-consuming, expensive and often, culturally stigmatizing.  For many women, disclosure to formal support services is contingent upon receiving a supportive, positive response from an informal support system: family and friends. Therefore, a better understanding of the factors influencing informal help seeking and informal supports’ willingness to offer aid will help to identify areas of intervention for public education, outreach, and community services.