Status compatibility and help-seeking behaviors among female intimate partner violence victims

Catherine Elizabeth Kaukinen, Silke Meyer, Caroline Akers
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2013, 28 (3): 577-601
Given the far-reaching social, personal, and economic costs of crime and violence, as well as the lasting health effects, understanding how women respond to domestic violence and the types of help sought are critical in addressing intimate partner violence. We use a nationally representative dataset (Canadian General Social Survey, Personal Risk, 1999) to examine the help-seeking behaviors of female intimate partner violence victims (N = 250). Although victims of violent crime often do not call the police, many victims, particularly women who have been battered by their partner rely on family, friends, social service, and mental health interventions in dealing with the consequences of violent crime. We examine the role of income, education, and employment status in shaping women's decisions to seek help, and we treat these economic variables as symbolic and relative statuses as compared to male partners. Although family violence researchers have conceptualized the association between economic variables and the dynamics of intimate partner violence with respect to the structural dimensions of sociodemographic factors, feminist researchers connect economic power to family dynamics. Drawing on these literatures, we tap the power in marital and cohabiting relationships, rather than treating these variables as simply socioeconomic resources. Controlling for other relevant variables we estimate a series of multivariate models to examine the relationship between status compatibilities and help-seeking from both formal and informal sources. We find that status incompatibilities between partners that favor women increase the likelihood of seeking support in dealing with the impact of violence.

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