Aarushi H. Shah, Alexander Catalano, Urvita Bhatia, Devika Gupta, Nayreen Daruwalla, David Osrin, Abhijit Nadkarni

Coping Strategies and Help-Seeking Behaviors among Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence: A Qualitative Study of Spouses of Men with Heavy Drinking in India

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)

Background. Despite the high prevalence of intimate partner violence (IPV) against women in India (33%), there are persistently low rates of disclosure and help-seeking amongst survivors. The aim of this study was to explore both coping strategies employed by survivors and the perceived barriers and facilitators to seeking support from informal and formal resource networks. Methods. We conducted semistructured, in-depth qualitative interviews with thirty-five women survivors of IPV in Goa, India, in secure, private locations, utilizing flipcharts and vignettes to elicit deeper insights into efficacies of support resources. The data were transcribed, translated, and analyzed utilizing qualitative content analysis. Results. The most common coping mechanisms cited by survivors involved passive resistance, such as self-distraction, keeping quiet during violent outbursts, and leaving the home temporarily. Generally, survivors sought support from informal support networks (the natal family, in-laws, neighbors/community members, and close friends) before approaching formal support structures (medical/legal professionals, professors, police, and nongovernment organizations). In fact, informal structures were often facilitators of formal help-seeking. Survivors sought help at various stages of their marital relationship. Primary deterrents to help-seeking included the normalization of IPV by survivors and providers alike, resulting in the stigmatization of disclosing experiences of IPV and ostracism of survivors and close relatives; another barrier was a general lack of awareness of existing support resources. Conclusion. Our findings reveal that there are numerous barriers to help-seeking and shortcomings of support resources. Survivors’ evaluations of support resources reveal that robust, community-level, and meso-level structural changes are required to promote help-seeking behaviors, including the destigmatization of IPV amongst providers and broader society and raising awareness of available support resources.

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