Why abused women do not seek professional help: a qualitative study

Scand J Caring Sci. 2014 Mar;28(1):3-11. doi: 10.1111/scs.12025. Epub 2013 Jan 28.


Objective: We aimed to gain insight into the process of help seeking of abused women visiting their family physician (FP).

Setting: Family practice in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Method: We used a qualitative method with interviews in a sample of 14 abused women, identified in an earlier cross-sectional survey with the Composite Abuse Scale (CAS) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). This qualitative method with semi-structured interviews was used to obtain information on the process of seeking help.

Results: Unawareness of the impact of abuse on themselves and their children, unfamiliarity and negative experiences with professionals and fear for their partner hampers abused women to seek professional help. Our study reveals that abused women need informal support by family and friends to ask for professional support. Current health care does not fit into the needs of abused women during the abuse they want more practical support, after the abuse they need also psychological help. In our study, FPs and mothers pay less attention to the impact of witnessing violence on children.

Conclusion: When women are unaware of the negative consequences of IPV, the physical and mental well-being of themselves and their children they do not ask for professional support. Abused women view informal support is important in the changing process. FPs should be trained to pay more attention to informal support and be alert to children's well-being.

Keywords: children; family practice; help seeking; intimate partner violence; qualitative method; woman.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Domestic Violence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Netherlands
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Young Adult