Abstract: (Withdrawn) To Help or Not to Help? - Perspectives of Informal Help-Givers for Intimate Partner Violence in Lambayeque, Peru (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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(Withdrawn) To Help or Not to Help? - Perspectives of Informal Help-Givers for Intimate Partner Violence in Lambayeque, Peru

Saturday, January 14, 2023
Hospitality 1 - Room 443, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Lauren N. Whitmer, MA, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor, MI
Background and Purpose: Over 69% of women in Lambayeque, Peru self-report experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in adulthood. Help-seeking literature and this research find that women seek both informal and formal support for IPV, but often appeal first to informal helpers like family, friends, and neighbors. Because mujeres abusadas (local term: abused women) regularly express frustration with informal help givers’ inadequate support, this research asks: When, why, and how does support break down? What was asked – or not – of informal help givers, and what motivated/discouraged and facilitated/inhibited offering different kinds of support in both positive and negative encounters? What analytical frameworks do informal helpers employ?

Methods: This ethnographic research draws on two periods of fieldwork in Lambayeque: 4 months in 2010 and 18 months in 2017-19. Data come from ethnographic interviews and participant-observation with informal helpers of mujeres abusadas. Participants were recruited through personal contacts and participant recommendations. Data were analyzed using case study and grounded theory methods.

Results: Mujeres abusadas’ often rely on informal helpers to exert social pressure on abusers to stop abuse. For informal helpers in Lambayeque, though, offering help often comes into conflict with their own need to preserve social ties and conserve material resources. The naturalization of IPV in Lambayeque can undermine informal helpers’ willingness to confront violence in their social networks. Confronting violence is oftentimes considered more deviant than the IPV itself. Informal helpers report risking physical and/or social violence when helping, and express frustration and resentment if mujeres abusadas do not act in the ways the helpers think they should. These helpers were only willing to offer support to mujeres abusadas who were previously receptive to help and who acted in ways that the helpers considered reasonable and appropriate. Other potential helpers report being frustrated by limited material resources – they want to help but are barely navigating the survival of their own immediate family. Others yet want to help but are either afraid to make violent situations worse or feel they do not know how to help. Mujeres abusadas in this study who did receive help – especially moral support – were more likely to seek formal supportive services for IPV and reported being more satisfied and successful in navigating IPV.

Conclusions and Implications: In Lambayeque, the response of informal help-givers is either a significant barrier or facilitator to seeking formal help from formal service providers. Frequent denials of informal support legitimize IPV and discourage women from seeking help elsewhere. Mujeres abusadas who have been socialized to tacitly accept IPV and who have learned that they cannot rely on others to offer them support are deterred from both additional informal help-seeking and from formal help-seeking. Genuine offers of informal support (even when limited by the helper’s material conditions), however, are facilitators of informal and formal help seeking and empower mujeres abusadas who emphasized the importance of having a support system while navigating challenging formal systems that often revictimize them.