Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 121-129

Barriers to Seeking Police Help for Intimate Partner Violence

  • Marsha E. WolfAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology, University of WashingtonHarborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, Seattle
  • , Uyen LyAffiliated withDepartment of Health Services, University of WashingtonSchool of Medicine, University of Washington
  • , Margaret A. HobartAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of Washington
  • , Mary A. KernicAffiliated withHarborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, SeattleDepartment of Epidemiology, University of Washington

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Intimate partner violence is underreported to police. A study was conducted utilizing focus group methodology to identify women's perceptions of the barriers to seeking police help for intimate partner violence (IPV). Facilitators used a structured format with open-ended questions for five focus group sessions that were recorded and subsequently analyzed using Ethnograph software. Participants were 41 women identified from social service agencies in an urban setting serving IPV women with diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Participants identified many barriers for victims, which fell within the following three themes: (1) Predisposing characteristics — situational and personal factors; (2) fears and negative experiences with police response; and (3) fears of possible repercussions. Participants also described positive experiences with police and generated a “wish list” for improving police response to IPV. Policies and actions that can be taken by police and social service agencies to address the barriers IPV victims face in seeking police help are discussed.

intimate partner violence domestic violence barriers police