Domestic Violence affects one in three women nationally. The national intimate partner and sexual violence survey reports 19.1 % of the women from the state of PA have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime.
According to National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the human service agencies in PA serves approximately 2500 survivors of domestic violence in a day, and the needs of the 252 people went unmet. This indicates that PA is not able to meet the needs of 21,168 people in a year with significant implications for survivors and their families.
It is important, therefore, to identify the unique needs and challenges faced by survivors served by a comprehensive service network in a large state like Pennsylvania. The results of this research will aid in the understanding of the nature and adequacy of services provided and the relationship between geography and socio-demographic characteristics of the persons served.
All 60 agencies composing the Pennsylvania Coalition against Domestic Violence (PCADV) were invited to participate and 43 completed a 45 to 60 minutes in-person and/or phone interview. A structured interview questionnaire was constructed to answer research questions related to the demographics of survivors served and the extent, nature, and adequacy of services, as well as, the challenges and opportunities perceived by the leadership of the Domestic Violence agency network in Pennsylvania. Researchers’ partnership with the leadership of the PCADV facilitated technical assistance in constructing and field testing the interview schedule and provided access to agencies’ leadership for this University funded study.
Twenty-seven rural and 18 urban agencies participated in the study with a participation rate of 75%. These agencies served 72,644 clients, and 51% of the clients had children. The majority (84%) of the clienteles served were women followed by 11% of the males and 2% belonging to LGBTQ+ community. Forty-eight percent of the client served identified themselves as Caucasian followed by African Americans (23%), Latinos (7%), and 20% as others. Fifty-five percent were in the age range of 30-40 years, and about 40% of the clientele made less than $20,000 per year. For rural areas in particular, respondents indicated that for about 50% of their clientele, childcare and access to healthcare were barriers for employment. Regardless of geography and size, agencies in Pennsylvania identified that their clientele had unmet needs related to access to services around the criminal justice system, limited access to emergency housing, and/or adequacy of shelter capacity. Additionally, respondents identified gaps, in transportation, and transitional housing. Other lesser gaps were in the areas of mental health and addiction services.
Conclusion and Implications
Findings provide empirical support to previously identified gaps in services for survivors of Domestic Violence in both urban and rural areas in a large state. For advocates of domestic violence survivors and social work educators, findings provide opportunities for deeper understanding of the needs of survivors of domestic violence and rich material for teaching policy implications for practice.