Understanding formal help-seeking among women whose partners are in abuser intervention programs.

Objective: Many abuser intervention programs (AIPs) conduct routine outreach with partners of abusive clients, providing a vital opportunity to support violence survivors during a precarious time in their relationships. However, very little is known about help-seeking and engagement with formal support services for this population of survivors. This study examines help-seeking behaviors reported by partners of clients receiving AIP services in the United States and explores demographic, emotional, and relationship factors that may influence formal help-seeking. Method: Women (N = 228) whose partners were receiving services at an AIP completed structured interviews assessing formal help-seeking behaviors, PTSD symptoms, and experiences of physical and emotional abuse. Results: A majority of survivors were active help-seekers, relying primarily on the police and courts for help. Yet, 28% of survivors had never sought formal support. There was a strong interrelationship among different types of formal help, including use of legal system, counseling, and shelter services. Black women were more likely than were other participants to seek help from police and clergy. Greater help seeking was also reported by women with higher levels of education, more PTSD symptoms, and greater exposure to emotional and physical abuse. Conclusions: Partner outreach is an overlooked opportunity to provide vital intervention support to survivors. New strategies are needed to provide community support for survivors who have not accessed formal help and to increase access for those with less education and resources. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)