Skip to main content

Women’s Perceptions of the Helpfulness of Strategies for Coping with Intimate Partner Violence

Abstract

Using the Intimate Partner Violence Strategies Index (IPVSI), we assessed women’s strategy use and the helpfulness of these strategies in preventing, stopping, or coping with intimate partner violence (IPV). We further examined which strategies women found most and least helpful and why, associations between strategy use and types of IPV experienced, and differences in strategy use and helpfulness by select demographic variables. We used data from Wave 1 of a two-year panel study of women who experienced IPV victimization and received civil legal services. The IPVSI includes 39 strategies across six categories: formal network, legal, safety planning, informal network, resistance, and placating. We collected data on women’s perceptions of the most and least helpful strategies and why, and whether they used other strategies not listed on the IPVSI. We used descriptive, bivariate, and content analyses to answer the research questions. Women used an average of 21 strategies. Placating, resistance, informal network, and legal strategies were the most frequently used; however, women rated resistance and placating strategies as least helpful and informal network strategies as most helpful. IPV types (physical, nonphysical) were differentially associated with the number and types of strategies used. Women expressed why strategies were helpful or unhelpful, along with what other strategies they used. Models of IPV help-seeking have evolved from viewing women as passive to seeing them as actively engaging in many private and public strategies to manage, prevent, and escape violence. Our findings highlight some discrepancies between what is used and what works.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Anderson, K. M., Renner, L. M., & Bloom, T. S. (2014). Rural women’s strategic responses to intimate partner violence. Health Care for Women International, 35(4), 423–441.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Anderson, K. M., Renner, L. M., & Bloom, T. (2017). Exploring protective strategies among rural women in an abusive relationship. Issues in Mental Health Nursing, 38(8), 610–618.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ansara, D. L., & Hindin, M. J. (2010). Formal and informal help-seeking associated with women’s and men’s experiences of intimate partner violence in Canada. Social Science & Medicine, 70(7), 1011–1018.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barrett, B. J., & Pierre, M. S. (2011). Variations in women’s help-seeking in response to intimate partner violence: Findings from a Canadian population-based study. Violence against Women, 17(1), 47–70.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bauman, E. M., Haaga, D. A., & Dutton, M. A. (2008). Coping with intimate partner violence: Battered women’s use and perceived helpfulness of emotion-focused coping strategies. Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 17(1), 23–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Black, M. C., Basile, K. C., Breiding, M. J., Smith, S. G., ML, Walters, Merrick, M. T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M. R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 summary report. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, J. (1997). Working forward freedom from violence: The process of change in battered women. Violence against Women, 3, 5–26.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Cattaneo, L. B., Bell, M. E., Goodman, L. A., & Dutton, M. A. (2007). Intimate partner violence victims’ accuracy in assessing their risk of re-abuse. Journal of Family Violence, 22, 429–440.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cho, H., Kwon, I., Shamrova, D., & Seon, J. (2021). Factors for formal help-seeking among female survivors of intimate partner violence. Journal of Family Violence, 36, 143–152.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Cho, H., Shamrova, D., Han, J. B., & Levchenko, P. (2020). Patterns of intimate partner violence victimization and survivors’ help-seeking. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 35(21–22), 4558–4582.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Coker, A. L., Derrick, C., Lumpkin, J. L., Aldrich, T. E., & Oldendick, R. (2000). Help-seeking for intimate partner violence and forced sex in South Carolina. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 19(4), 316–320.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Du Mont, J., Forte, T., Cohen, M. M., Hyman, I., & Romans, S. (2005). Changing help-seeking rates for intimate partner violence in Canada. Women & Health, 41(1), 1–19.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Duterte, E. E., Bonomi, A. E., Kernic, M. A., Schiff, M. A., Thompson, R. S., & Rivara, F. P. (2008). Correlates of medical and legal help-seeking among women reporting intimate partner violence. Journal of Women’s Health, 17(1), 85–95.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • El-Khoury, M. Y., Dutton, M. A., Goodman, L. A., Engel, L., Belamaric, R. J., & Murphy, M. (2004). Ethnic differences in battered women’s formal help-seeking strategies: A focus on health, mental health, and spirituality. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 10(4), 383–393.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gondolf, E. W., & Fisher, E. R. (1988). Battered women as survivors. An alternative to treating learned helplessness. Lexington Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goodkind, J. R., Sullivan, C. M., & Bybee, D. I. (2004). A contextual analysis of battered women’s safety planning. Violence against Women, 10(5), 514–533.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, L., Dutton, M. A., Vankos, N., & Weinfurt, K. (2005). Women’s resources and use of strategies as risk and protective factors for reabuse over time. Violence against Women, 11(3), 311–336.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Goodman, L., Dutton, M. A., Weinfurt, K., & Cook, S. (2003). The Intimate Partner Violence Strategies Index. Violence against Women, 9(2), 163–186.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277–1288.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hudson, W. W., & McIntosh, S. R. (1981). The assessment of spouse abuse: Two quantifiable dimensions. Journal of Marriage and Family Therapy, 43, 873–885.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Institute for Law and Justice. (2005). National evaluation of the Legal Assistance for Victims Program: Final report. Alexandria, VA: Author. Retrieved from https://www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/208612.pdf. Accessed 11 Mar 2021.

  • Kaukinen, C. (2004). Status compatibility, physical violence, and emotional abuse in intimate relationships. Journal of Marriage and Family, 66(2), 452–471.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kennedy, A. C., Adams, A., Bybee, D., Campbell, R., Kubiak, S. P., & Sullivan, C. (2012). A model of sexually and physically victimized women’s process of attaining effective formal help over time: The role of social location, context, and intervention. American Journal of Community Psychology, 50(1–2), 217–228.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Krause, E. D., Kaltman, S., Goodman, L. A., & Dutton, M. A. (2008). Avoidant coping and PTSD symptoms related to domestic violence exposure: A longitudinal study. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 21(1), 83–90.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Leone, J. M., Johnson, M. P., & Cohan, C. L. (2007). Victim help seeking: Differences between intimate terrorism and situational couple violence. Family Relations, 56(5), 427–439.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liang, B., Goodman, L., Tummala-Narra, P., & Weintraub, S. (2005). A theoretical framework for understanding help-seeking processes among survivors of intimate partner violence. American Journal of Community Psychology, 36(1–2), 71–84.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lipsky, S., Caetano, R., Field, C. A., & Larkin, G. L. (2006). The role of intimate partner violence, race, and ethnicity in help-seeking behaviors. Ethnicity and Health, 11(1), 81–100.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Macy, R. J., Nurius, P. S., Kernic, M. A., & Holt, V. L. (2005). Battered women’s profiles associated with service help-seeking efforts: Illuminating opportunities for intervention. Social Work Research, 29(3), 137–150.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Monterrosa, A. E. (2019). How race and gender stereotypes influence help-seeking for intimate partner violence. Journal of Interpersonal Violence. Advance online publication https://doi.org/10.1177/0886260519853403

  • National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2010). Safety plan friends and family. Retrieved from https://ncadv.org/safety-plan-friends-and-family. Accessed 11 Mar 2021.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline (n.d.). Ways to support: A little help can go a long way. Retrieved from https://www.thehotline.org/support-others/ways-to-support/. Accessed 11 Mar 2021.

  • Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). How to help a friend who is being abused. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/relationships-and-safety/get-help/how-help-friend. Accessed 11 Mar 2021.

  • Ohio Domestic Violence Network. (n.d.) Family and friends. Retrieved from https://www.odvn.org/for-family-and-friends/familyandfriends/. Accessed 11 Mar 2021.

  • Parker, E. M., Gielen, A. C., Castillo, R., Webster, D. W., & Glass, N. (2016). Intimate partner violence and patterns of safety strategy use among women seeking temporary protective orders: A latent class analysis. Violence against Women, 22(14), 1663–1681.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Peek-Asa, C., Wallis, A., Harland, K., Beyer, K., Dickey, P., & Saftlas, A. (2011). Rural disparity in domestic violence prevalence and access to resources. Journal of Women’s Health, 20(11), 1743–1749.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Riddell, T., Ford-Gilboe, M., & Leipert, B. (2009). Strategies used by rural women to stop, avoid, or escape from intimate partner violence. Health Care for Women International, 30(1–2), 134–159.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, P. H., Smith, J. B., & Earp, J. L. (1999). Beyond the measurement trap: A reconstructed conceptualization and measurement of woman battering. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 23, 177–193.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Smith, S. G., Chen, J., Basile, K. C., Gilbert, L. K., Merrick, M. T., Patel, N., Walling, M., & Jain, A. (2017). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010–2012 State Report. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tenkorang, E. Y., Sedziafa, A. P., & Owusu, A. Y. (2017). Does type and severity of violence affect the help-seeking behaviors of victims of intimate partner violence in Nigeria? Journal of Family Issues, 38(14), 2026–2046.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tolman, R. M. (1999). The validation of the Psychological Maltreatment of Women Inventory. Violence and Victims, 14, 25–37.

    CAS  Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Walker, L. E. (1979). The battered woman. Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  • Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (2019). Supporting someone experiencing abuse. Retrieved from https://wscadv.org/resources/supporting-someone-experiencing-abuse/. Accessed 11 Mar 2021.

  • Zweig, J. M., & Burt, M. R. (2007). Predicting women’s perceptions of domestic violence and sexual assault agency helpfulness: What matters to program clients? Violence Against Women, 13(11), 1149–1178.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by Award No. 2010-WG-BX-0009, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.

We thank Iowa Legal Aid and their AmeriCorps workers their support and contributions to the project. We also thank the research assistants and interviewers, who devoted so much time and effort to the project. Finally, we are grateful to the women who participated in the project. We hope this publication faithfully represents their voices and experiences.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Lynette M. Renner.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Renner, L.M., Hartley, C.C. Women’s Perceptions of the Helpfulness of Strategies for Coping with Intimate Partner Violence. J Fam Viol 37, 585–599 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-021-00293-2

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-021-00293-2

Keywords

  • Intimate partner violence
  • Domestic violence
  • Help-seeking
  • Rural intimate partner violence