Date of Graduation


Document Type



Although domestic violence is a topic that has been the focus of a great deal of research, little attention has been paid to the help-seeking behavior of battered women. No evaluation to date has examined variables that facilitate and inhibit help-seeking behavior in battered women, using relevant comparison groups. The purpose of the present study was to investigate factors that discriminate battered women who seek help from those who do not. Variables that were hypothesized to impact the help-seeking behaviors of battered women were examined, including depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, social support, social isolation, coping styles, and general distress. A total of 90 adult women, between the ages of 18 and 65, formed three groups: Help-Seeking battered women, Non-Help-Seeking battered women, and a non-battered Comparison Group. Participants completed a battery of self-report measures assessing symptoms of depression, posttraumatic stress, general psychopathology, social support, social isolation, history of trauma, frequency and severity of physical assault, and patterns of service utilization. Analyses revealed that the two domestic violence groups evidenced significantly higher rates of depression and general distress than the Comparison Group. Significantly more help-seeking participants met the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder than did the non-help-seeking or comparison groups. Further, the two domestic violence groups reported significantly less social support and a greater tendency to engage in maladaptive coping strategies (i.e., coping styles of avoidance and wishful thinking). Non-help-seeking participants were significantly more socially isolated, even after controlling for contact with social service agencies, and they significantly more often reported substance abuse problems. Participants also reported information regarding patterns of service use. Help-seeking battered women reported significantly more service utilization in multiple service delivery areas (e.g., outpatient mental health services, community mental health center, etc.). The majority of non-help-seeking battered women stated that they did not access services for domestic violence because they still loved their partner, their partner apologized and they believed their partner would change, and not because they lacked knowledge of the available services. The overall results suggest a need for improved methods of identifying battered women in medical settings (e.g., general screening procedures) and modifications in the availability and the types of services offered to victims.