Methods: Six electronic databases (Academic Search Complete, CINAHL complete, Criminal Justice Abstracts, Social Sciences Abstracts, and Social Work Abstracts) were searched utilizing the following search strings: (1) intimate partner violence or domestic violence or partner abuse (2) help seeking; (3) African American or Black. A search for grey literature was also conducted. A total of 224 empirical studies were identified. Limits were set for the publication year (2004-2018), document type (peer-reviewed, journal-article), language (English), and the author’s institutional affiliation (USA), resulting in 26 articles after de-duplication. Inclusion criteria were as follows: the study (1) includes African American women as part of the sample, and (2) who were help seeking for IPV victimization. Articles were excluded if they fell short of including the influencers of their help seeking. Ultimately, 15 articles met inclusion criteria. A summary was compiled for each article, outlining research design, sample demographics, help seeking influencers, key findings, and strengths and limitations.
Results: Factors that impacted survivors’ formal help seeking were organized into four main contextual factors: types/severity of abuse, women’s perception of abuse, access to resources and responses from kinship networks. Each factor was evaluated for predictors of women’s formal help seeking. Access to resources and supportive responses from their kinship networks were positively correlated (73%) with increased formal help seeking. Predictors of formal help seeking included access to and preconceptions related to resource helpfulness, and supportive responses within the kinship network. Of particular note is the 27% correlation between African American women’s access to discretionary income and/or access to free low cost service.
Conclusions and Implications: This review underlines the need for research on the predictors of IPV help seeking among African American women survivors. Findings suggest that their decision to secure formal services are largely shaped by responses within kinship networks. Of particular note is the correlation between women’s increased help seeking and their access to discretionary income or free/low-cost services. The review highlighted the need to develop interventions that are informed by their needs. This finding, coupled with the need to increase community awareness of the deleterious nature of abuse and develop more support for survivors within kinship networks, underscores the potential to cultivate a more comprehensive approach to supporting their unique needs.