How important are informal supporters of women experiencing domestic violence?
Yet the perpetration of domestic violence occurs within a community context that contributes to the maintenance or alleviation of the problem. Such a shift would require a reconceptualization of the role of the domestic violence practitioner and the scope and nature of services. Keywords: intimate partner violence, domestic violence services, social support, community, network-oriented approach Intimate partner violence IPV , that is, phys- formed public perceptions of IPV from the view ical, psychological, or sexual abuse and control that it is a private matter between two family perpetrated by a current or former intimate part- members to the view that it is a problem requir- ner, causes devastating physical, psychological, ing a formal systemic response.
Although IPV is cial service system has developed a far-reaching now recognized as a widespread social problem, response.
However, the antidomestic violence this was not always the case. Hindin, Both the part- Formal Sources of Support ner who is abusive and the partner who is Research in a variety of ethnically diverse sam- abused are embedded in relationships with fam- ples in the United States shows that two thirds to ily, friends, and neighbors, whether or not those virtually all IPV survivors access informal social relationships have become strained or disrupted. Indeed, ical safety, emotional health, and overall well- survivors who are marginalized by race, class, being.
In this article, therefore, we propose a sexual orientation, nationality, or language are practice and research agenda that would move particularly likely to seek help exclusively from the dominant social service system toward those they know Sullivan, We begin by grounding our versity among agency staff, and the gap between proposal in a review of existing research on the what services can offer and what survivors want role of informal social support in female survi- and need Laughon, ; Sullivan, A decision to enter a shelter, for example, Social Support Among IPV Survivors may trigger ostracism by friends and family who may perceive the survivor as stepping outside Informal social support, defined here as the indigenous cultural norms or betraying her own availability of instrumental and emotional assis- community Bograd, Among sur- mal supporters Mancini et al.
Schene, Goodman, These feel- ings often become deeply entrenched. Many relied efit overall to women living with IPV, they have on the survivors themselves to let them know reduced access to it.
Survivors in shelters and in what kind of support was needed. When survi- the community report lower levels of both emo- vors could not do so, some network members tional and practical assistance than nonsurvi- engaged in blaming the victim or offered solu- vors Levendosky et al. It is important to note that network mem- manding that they stop having contact with fam- bers who knew something about IPV either ily, friends, coworkers, or anyone else with through professional or personal experience whom they have interacted in the past.
These findings are consistent with a direct ways. Whatever the reasons, the result is engage the survivor in a far-reaching and sys- often diminished access to social support, leav- tematic discussion of who is in her network and ing a survivor with fewer resources to deal not how each might be helpful. Significantly, few only with the abuse itself, but also with other are as accessible to network members as to needs as well.
For the most part, women who survivors. This gap, although understandable, report more severe abuse report the highest nonetheless represents a missed opportunity for level of social isolation Thompson et al. As a result, sur- substantially and that many practices are al- vivors are not only forced to leave their abusers ready more network-oriented than their formal but must sever ties with their friends, family, descriptions would indicate. It is entirely possible, how- to others.
Other key shelter rules often include ever, that if trained and supported in the right strict curfews, which prevent survivors from way, other survivors or friends and family traveling to visit people from their home com- members could help each other find needed munity or participating in culturally relevant resources or apply for critical benefits Smyth, events; requirements that survivors quit their in press. As the next section shows, people jobs; limitations on use of the telephone; or living in the same community may be particu- explicit prohibitions on contacting friends and larly equipped to support each other not only in family for the first few days, if not longer addressing issues directly related to DV, but Glenn, Certainly, these rules support.
By talking in groups, survivors can In the past several years, activists have begun come to understand their experiences as part of to discuss the relative costs and benefits of these a larger social pattern, and thereby let go of and other shelter rules and have developed rec- feelings of stigma, self-blame, or marginaliza- ommendations for ensuring that these rules ac- tion Herman, Although these are critical tually create short-term and longer term safety functions, peer support groups rarely go on to see, e.
Still, help survivors develop enduring peer support there remains a need for more systematic exam- networks or networks that are not focused solely ination of how shelter rules explicitly and im- on DV. Community-Based Services A Network-Oriented Approach to Over time, many DV shelters have added an DV Practice array of services to their offerings and extended their availability to survivors living in the com- Despite the extensive literature on the contri- munity.
By contrast, Network to End Domestic Violence, Most of these efforts have been This requires that the practitioner be seen as initiated outside the bounds of mainstream do- trustworthy, and that she views network mem- mestic services in large part because social ser- bers as partners.
Practitioners must learn deeply vices systems do not provide avenues through about community norms and values and how which to engage community members Kim, the survivor understands her relationships This We suggest, however, that if DV service may necessitate intensive diversity training, and models themselves aligned with and leveraged it will also require an investment of time and a the potential of social networks directly, they willingness of organizations to support staff in could dramatically enhance their ability to sup- examining assumptions and beliefs about cul- port survivors in securing sustainable safety.
To fulfill this role successfully, whether professional training, experiential ex- the practitioner needs to collaborate with pro- pertise, or both, to the task of supporting survi- fessionals within the broad range of institutions vors. Specifically, it would enable survivors to with which the survivor comes into contact. Such a shift in the way we support survivors This kind of collaboration would require ongo- would, in turn, require a reconceptualization of ing communication between the practitioner two dimensions of mainstream DV services: the and the local public housing office and the role of the practitioner and the scope and nature building of a shared understanding of the im- of services.
Tying together these roles, the network- oriented practitioner works to help the survivor access effective support—through both formal The Role of the DV Services Practitioner systems and informal social networks—to ad- dress a variety of needs that are directly or Recognition that safety is inseparable from indirectly related to the violence. Network members are seen not just as temporary supports until a space opens up in a The Scope and Nature of DV Services shelter or community program, but as critical partners who can fill some short- and long-term A network-oriented practice does three needs as well as, if not better than, professional things: It assists survivors in engaging their own services.
It is important to note that this does not networks, it helps network members support the mean simply asking network members to do for survivors in their lives, and it enables survivors free what DV and other social services have to develop new ties to supplement their existing done in the past. Although these three goals are tightly new sources of support.
Fully implementing a network- with potentially misguided network members, oriented approach in the context of a concealed or identify the relevant skills and resources that shelter location holds particular complexities different network members possess. Of course, that are for the most part beyond the scope of network practitioners might and often should this article see Glenn, , and Haaken, , stand in for informal network members when for good discussions of this topic.
However, members of the latter group are unable or un- elements of the discussion below can be applied willing to respond. Helping network members support survi- Helping survivors engage their networks. As described above, research shows A starting point for network-oriented practice is that some network members who want to help working with survivors to identify the full range may fail to do so because they are unsure what of informal network members who might be to do, their attempts to help are uninformed and helpful.
Although the conversation may begin clumsy and potentially harmful , or they need with a brainstorming session vs. These network members the right questions in the context of a supportive represent untapped resources in building sus- inquiry e. Indeed, as why the survivor wants to leave him. A process the research discussed above makes clear, sur- of network exploration cannot build on the as- vivors are more likely to engage effectively sumption that more difficult relationships can or with services if network members support their should automatically be ignored or jettisoned.
Second, as already occurs Third, people in a social network both give in some settings, a hotline worker could take and receive, although not in equal currency or calls directly from network members who them- amounts, and not consistently over time. Survi- selves need support and information as they vors may well find mastery and purpose in attempt to support the survivors in their lives, being able to give support even as they are with options discussed including, but not lim- receiving it. Moving beyond the social services brings together survivors and their friends and system, a network-oriented practitioner could family members in settings such as house party offer to host an informal discussion about DV potlucks, picnics, or craft nights to develop during a lunch break at a small business or strategies that discourage violence, break down facilitate a group for women at a local nail isolation, and help survivors access gay-friendly salon, a gym, a YWCA, or a class for English- services Family Violence Prevention Fund, language learners Kim, Indeed, creating DV services.
Such an approach begins to blur For example, neighbors gathering for a bar- the lines between intervention and prevention, beque may realize in the course of conversation usefully extending the reach of DV services to that they have all witnessed or heard someone in new communities. Network-oriented practi- ships with each other if they are helped to form tioners would be available to these barbequing relationships around a broader range of issues neighbors, both to help them develop a plan of than simply DV.
People generally connect action and to help them stay engaged when a around neutral topics before deeper ones—a survivor behaves in ways that puzzle or frustrate love of ice hockey or spy novels, a shared them. These groups could then become a nat- bers of a network are themselves survivors of ural scaffolding for more sustained relation- violence, are victimizing others, or know survi- ships.
For example, two survivors who discover vors other than the person they are focused on at a shared love of movies perhaps squelched by the moment. Two Helping survivors develop new forms of survivors with children close in age could barter informal support. Social networks are dy- babysitting with each other to enable each to get namic for everyone; we continually build new to necessary appointments without kids in tow. Survivors may Given both the stigma of DV and the deeply need support in this, particularly those survivors individual way each of us—survivors includ- whose networks are atrophied.
A network- ed—prioritizes needs, a flexible discussion se- oriented approach actively supports survivors in ries focused on the issues most salient to the developing and navigating these new relation- people in the group could open the doors for ships, perhaps based on a shared experience of attendance by survivors for whom DV may be a violence, but also based on the range of other problem but who would need to get to that topic things about which people connect.
A simple start- nent, enabling survivors to work together to ing place builds on the reality that whether or make changes in their own community. Such not they seek DV services, many survivors seek efforts can be enormously powerful both for the services from employment programs, health purpose of creating social change and for the clinics, housing agencies, or substance abuse purpose of connection and healing among sur- treatment programs.
DV service providers could vivors themselves Herman, ; Kim, A network- Finally, Sheila is enormously heartened when oriented approach recognizes the import of such Wanda offers to support the network members connections and the social settings in which who support Sheila. The two women initiate a they occur. Together, they create a system such gentle encouragement to participate in commu- that if Sheila cannot call her neighbors, her nity activities may be needed. The neighbors, in turn, develop a rough schedule so that Sheila knows who will A Network-Oriented Approach in Action be at home when.
Working with a network member. Miguel Working with a survivor. Because the couple is them. The who might be sources of support—the guy who network-oriented practitioner he reaches when repairs her car and lets her stretch out payments he calls the hotline discusses his concerns about or the VA nurse who comes to see her parents law enforcement and validates his sense of vul- every week and with whom she went to high nerability. The hotline worker helps Miguel school years ago. Wanda is curious about think about others in the community who might whether there is a neighbor Sheila could walk or also be concerned, perhaps others in the same exercise with in the mornings or someone to building who are probably also hearing the vi- help out with her parents while she takes a class.
New options emerge when they come Wanda is interested in how these people could up with the idea of a phone tree: Miguel could support Sheila not just in terms of immediate call the acquaintance who lives in the apartment physical safety but also in terms of increasing building across the street who, in turn, could her sense of choice, control, and stability in the call the police. The hotline worker suggests the broadest sense.
So next, Wanda helps Shelia develop some scripts for engaging A wide range of research questions emerge a few potential supporters. Sheila begins to from and would contribute to further consider- practice, for example, how she might talk to the ation of a network-oriented approach.
What forms of support e. As such, out- survivors, at what stage in their relationships comes are highly individualized. Moreover, in with abusive partners? Are outcomes different some cases, the intervention could have a greater for survivors who are supported by multiple impact on a loose group of network members than individuals versus by a group of people who on any one survivor.
To answer the array of ques- support each other? To what extent and under tions necessary for a meaningful determination of what circumstances do network members feel a impact requires a mixed methods approach that is sense of shared responsibility to intervene with in all likelihood participatory in nature; that com- survivors?
Are there ripple effects positive or bines quantitative investigation with qualitative, negative on the safety and well-being of net- participatory, and case study methods; and that work members who support a survivor? The Characteristics and Impact of Finally, we need to understand how the devel- Network-Oriented DV Services opment of network-oriented practices changes systems and practitioners themselves. This will Although few, if any, formal service systems require engaging questions such as the following: have made a network-oriented approach central How do network-oriented practices change IPV to their work, many DV programs have insti- services in terms of who is being served, in what tuted elements of such an approach.
In New ways, and with what resources? What services are Hampshire, for example, a third of the hotline less needed i. Over the past three decades, in response to pressure from feminist movements and organized civil society, governments from developing countries have increasingly implemented policies and actions to tackle violence against women. Yet as calls for action against violence continue to grow, and advocates and pro-active nations promote legislation and support services to assist violence survivors, it remains unclear how well these services suit the protection and support needs of the women experiencing violence.
Moreover, in some countries, political turnover and widespread underfunding of services make it challenging to assess the effectiveness of these services. In doing so, we explore how well formal rights and mandated services translate into protection for women experiencing violence. In , Brazil adopted the Maria da Penha Law, which specifically addressed domestic violence and met the commitments made when the country had initially ratified CEDAW.
As a result of this law, penalties for perpetrators have tripled in cases of detention. Inadequate training and awareness-raising among health providers may have meant that professionals working in these areas did not identify cases in their daily work, and had important misunderstandings about the magnitude, risk factors and health consequences of VAW. Despite the social invisibility of intimate partner violence, and with most cases remaining unreported, women themselves often take action to mitigate the violence or deal with its consequences.
Thirty households were then selected in each census tract, and one female household resident was randomly selected. In each village, eight census tracts were selected, and in each of them 18 households were sampled. One woman per household was then selected and invited to participate in the research. In both sites, eligible women were 15 to 49 years old. Forty percent oversampling was used to guarantee a representative population sample even with low participation rates. Response rates were high In this paper, data from the women who reported physical violence by an intimate partner in SP and in PE was analyzed.
If they did not seek help or if sought it from other sources including religious and local leaders , they were coded as negative. Help from priests and community leaders was excluded because advocacy and policy does not usually target this type of support. Age was modelled as a continuous variable in the multivariate analysis. Education was divided into two categories: secondary education or less and higher educational level. An indicator variable was also created for financial dependency, with those who earned money as the reference category.
Emotional abuse included belittlement, public humiliation, intimidation, intentional causation of fear, and threats of physical harm directed to the woman or someone she cared about. Sexual violence was considered positive for women who reported forced sex, coerced sex, or were forced to perform sexual activities that they found degrading or humiliating. The complete set of questions can be found in other published articles.
Consequences of violence. Three variables on health consequences were included in the bivariate analysis: 1 A respondent was physically injured at least once resulting from IPV; 2 a respondent felt that IPV had affected her mental or physical health; 3 a respondent had suffered loss of consciousness as a result of violence. For women whose partners had caused them injury, questions about need and use of health care were also asked. A variable was created for having work disrupted and another for children witnessing partner violence.
Women who had left their partner because of violence were coded as positive, regardless of whether this was a temporary or permanent decision. For women who had left home temporarily, reasons for returning home were also investigated. Informal support, barriers, and other responses to IPV. Informal support was considered positive if a respondent reported that her parents, family members, friends, or neighbors tried to help her.
The following items on partner-controlling behavior were included in the analysis, having been hypothesized to discourage or impede women from seeking help: The violent partner: 1 attempted to prevent the respondent from seeing her friends; 2 tried to restrict her contact with her family of birth; 3 insisted on knowing where she was at all times; 4 expected her to ask his permission before seeking health care for herself.
Associations of formal help with other types of responses to IPV were also measured, including whether the respondent left home temporarily or permanently, and if she fought back physically or to defend herself. Respondents were also asked if they hit or physically mistreat their partners when the partners were not hitting or physically mistreating them. These women were hypothesized to be less inclined to seek for help and more likely to blame themselves for the violence. Common mental disorders. The SRQ was used to measure common mental disorders.
The scale was previously validated in Brazil and includes 20 questions: four on physical symptoms and 16 on psycho-emotional symptoms. Items in the SRQ measure symptoms of somatic disorders, depression, and anxiety. The best-fit model was presented for each site. Stata 11 was used in the analysis. The project received ethical approval n. The median age of respondents who had experienced physical violence was 34 in SP and 32 in PE. In SP, Approximately one-third of these women A minority of respondents believed that physical violence by a partner is acceptable Many of them had controlling partners: Almost one in six women in SP The majority of women who experienced physical violence told someone about it Most relied on their close social circle.
Women most often told a family member Five women in SP and three women in PE told their children about the violence. The majority of women who told anyone about their experience of IPV reported that someone tried to help them Regardless of whether they reported disclosing the violence to someone, Conversely, in ZPM women told family members about partner physical violence and reported that family members ever tried to help them. In ZMP, a smaller proportion Table 1. In ZMP, More than half of women In ZMP, the main reasons reported were 1 the woman was badly injured or afraid he would kill her More practical reasons, especially consequences for children, were also important reasons why women went back to the violent partner Table 2 presents the descriptive statistics and results of the bivariate analysis, and Table 3 presents the final logistic regression models for each site.
Table 2. Table 3. Women whose children had seen or overheard a violent episode were nine times more likely to look for formal assistance.
Domestic violence, family, friends and neighbours | Sustaining Community
Women who had suffered injury as a result of violence were at least four times more likely to seek help. Severe violence more than doubled the likelihood of a woman seeking formal services; women who had left the partner temporarily or permanently because of the violence were also twice as likely to seek formal help. Women who initiated the violence were also twice as likely to seek formal help. A woman who had been injured more than three times as a result of violence was more than eight times more likely to seek help; a woman who was injured once or twice was five times more likely to seek help.
Women who had their work disrupted as a result of partner violence were more than seven times more likely to seek formal assistance when compared to women who did not have their work disrupted. Women who did not work were also more likely to seek help than those whose work was not affected by the violence. Talking to family, friends, and neighbors were often the only resource women used to deal with the violence they experienced.
When women went beyond their close social network of family or friends, they tended to seek help through the more familiar non-domestic violence-specific sources, which included the police, health workers, and priests. For a number of reasons, such as fear of the partner, shame, guilt, and attachment to the partner or relationship, women in both locations did not often seek formal support. More importantly, women minimized the importance of their experience and of IPV in general, dismissing potential formal help opportunities.
Violence can remain invisible and accepted in communities where it is regarded as a trivial part of everyday life. Family members, friends, and neighbors may sometimes reinforce acceptance of IPV and potentially increase risk of further violence. However, the family can also sometimes pressure a woman to stay in a violent relationship or blame her for the violence, reinforcing gender norms of female submission and obedience. In some contexts, more symmetric social ties, such as those with friends and neighbors, can be protective and contribute to the prevention of IPV.