A systematic review of barriers to formal help seeking for adult survivors of intimate partner violence in the United States, 2005 -2019

Author(s): 
Robinson, S.R., Ravi, K., & Voth Schrag, R.J. (2020)
Source: 
Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 1 -17.
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Summary: 

For individuals experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), formal services are critical resources but barriers often exist to survivors accessing these services. This review identified six key barriers: (1) lack of awareness, (2) access challenges, (3) consequences of disclosure, (4) lack of material resources, (5) personal barriers, and (6) system failures.

Expanded Abstract: 

Intimate partner violence (IPV), defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2018) as “physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner,” is a pervasive public health problem. Approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced physical violence, sexual violence, or stalking, while 43 million women and 38 million men report experiencing psychological IPV (CDC, 2018).

For individuals experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV), formal services, including community agencies, health services, or the criminal justice system, are critical resources. Understanding the specific barriers that hinder or prevent survivors from seeking help from formal services could reveal important implications for the development of services for IPV as well as for members of other organizations who encounter survivors. The authors conducted a systematic review of the literature to identify barriers to help-seeking from formal services for survivors. Ten electronic databases were searched for key terms related to IPV, help seeking from formal services, and barriers to help seeking. Articles were included in the review if they were U.S.-based, contained samples that were adults who had experienced IPV, and discussed barriers to seeking help from formal services. An initial search yielded 1,155 articles and after screening, 29 articles were included in the review. Data were extracted to reveal the state of the literature regarding help-seeking barriers for survivors.

Six barriers to help seeking were identified as follows: (1) lack of awareness, (2) access challenges, (3) consequences of disclosure, (4) lack of material resources, (5) personal barriers, and (6) system failures. These findings demonstrate the need for continued education surrounding available services for IPV as well as the continued development of resources that can mitigate personal barriers that survivors may face. Furthermore, these findings illuminate the necessity to increase the access of services, particularly for non-English speakers, immigrants and refugees, individuals with disabilities, men, and LGBTQIA identified individuals.

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