Barriers to help-seeking for older women who experience intimate partner violence: a descriptive model

J Women Aging. 2008;20(3-4):231-48. doi: 10.1080/08952840801984543.


Purpose: The paper describes a model of barriers to help-seeking (MBHS) for older women who experience domestic violence (DV).

Design and methods: Data were collected from 134 women ages 45 to 85 years in 21 focus groups. Computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software (ATLAS.ti) was used to organize transcript analysis and provided access to the quotations upon which codes, themes, relationship maps, and other elements of the analysis were constructed.

Results: Twelve themes emerged that showed strong relationships with experience of DV and barriers to help-seeking concepts. The resulting model of barriers to help-seeking (MBHS) illustrates how identified internal and external factors interrelate with each other and with an abuser's behaviors to create help-seeking barriers. The model also reflects the determination that, for study participants, there was no discernable point where characteristics of the experience of DV ended and resistance to help-seeking began.

Implications: Development of services specifically suitable to the needs and desires of older women who experience DV is vital. Professionals in all service segments must more fully understand the help-seeking barriers that older DV victims face. To this end, the research community is challenged to replace myths and stereotypes about the nature and prevalence of DV among older people with empirically derived knowledge.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Psychological
  • Needs Assessment / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Methodology Research
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Self Disclosure
  • Social Perception
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Spouse Abuse / psychology
  • Spouses / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States