Twenty-one focus groups with 134 women who composed 3 age cohorts (45-59, 60-74, 75 and over) discussed definitions of domestic violence; its causes, reporting, and interventions; and factors that prevent help-seeking from the justice system and community agencies.
The groups, which consisted of both victims and nonvictims of domestic violence (DA), agreed that DA consists of physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. They further agreed that emotional abuse is as damaging, if not more damaging, to the well-being of the victim as physical abuse. One of the most important findings was the connection drawn between the features of DA that contribute both to the perpetuation of the abuse and act as barriers to help-seeking (BHS). Characteristics of the abuser that contribute to both DA and BHS are the abuser's manipulation to isolate the victim from social interaction, jealousy regarding victim contacts with others, and intimidation designed to prevent victim help-seeking. Victim behaviors and mindsets that tend to perpetuate abuse and act as BHS are the desire to protect the family; self-blame that leads to secrecy; powerlessness that leads to hopelessness; and spirituality that believes faith, patience, and concern for the abuser will change him for the better. The focus groups included Hispanic, Black non-Hispanic, and White non-Hispanic women whose income levels were above or below $14,856. Trained facilitators conducted sessions that used a protocol designed to elicit discussion regarding research questions with minimal facilitator participation. Themes were identified and coded from group transcripts, and links were noted between variables in the construction of a model that shows connections among variables that contribute to DA and BHS. 3 tables, 1 figure, 102 references, and appended study materials