Responses to and resources for intimate partner violence: qualitative findings from women, men, and service providers in rural Kenya

J Interpers Violence. 2014 Mar;29(5):783-805. doi: 10.1177/0886260513505706. Epub 2013 Nov 18.


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is reported by one in three women globally, but the prevalence is much higher in East Africa. Though some formal and informal resources do exist for women experiencing IPV, data suggest that disclosure, help seeking, and subsequent utilization of these resources are often hindered by sociocultural, economic, and institutional factors. This article explores actions taken by victims, available support services, and barriers to the utilization of available IPV resources by pregnant women in rural Nyanza, Kenya. Qualitative data were collected through nine focus group discussions and 20 in-depth interviews with pregnant women, partners or male relatives of pregnant women, and service providers. Data were managed in NVivo 8 using a descriptive analytical approach that harnessed thematic content coding and in-depth grounded analysis. We found that while formal resources for IPV were scarce, women utilized many informal resources (family, pastors, local leaders) as well as the health facility. In rare occasions, women escalated their response to formal services (police, judiciary). The community was sometimes responsive to women experiencing IPV but often viewed it as a "normal" part of local culture. Further barriers to women accessing services included logistical challenges and providers who were undertrained or uncommitted to responding to IPV appropriately. Moreover, the very sanctions meant to address violence (such as fines or jail) were often inhibiting for women who depended on their partners for financial resources. The results suggest that future IPV interventions should address community views around IPV and build upon locally available resources-including the health clinic-to address violence among women of childbearing age.

Keywords: Kenya; disclosure of domestic violence; domestic violence in cultural contexts; support seeking.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Battered Women / psychology*
  • Community Health Services
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Kenya
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Rural Population
  • Violence / prevention & control*
  • Young Adult