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Internal Barriers to Help Seeking for Middle-Aged and Older Women Who Experience Intimate Partner Violence

NCJ Number
Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: 2005 Pages: 53-74
Date Published
22 pages

This study examined internal factors that become barriers to help seeking among middle-aged and older women victims of intimate partner violence.


The findings suggest the need for social service providers to develop options for older women who are abuse victims that are less likely to be disruptive to their familial support systems. Five main factors were identified that inhibited the help seeking behavior of middle-aged and older female victims of intimate partner violence: (1) self-blame; (2) powerlessness; (3) hopelessness; (4) the need to protect family; and (5) the need to keep the abuse a secret. Women in the sample also cited their age as a contributing factor to each of the five main themes that became barriers to help seeking. Older women described a type of inertia that had developed in the course of a long and abusive relationship that worked to reinforce patterns of abuse. The most complex theme to emerge was that of protecting the family. In many cases, older women feared that if the abuse was exposed and the abuser was removed from the home, the abuser’s physical and mental health needs would not be met. Participants were 134 women aged 45 to 85 years who were recruited from Miami-Dade County through newspaper advertisements and flyers. A series of 21 focus groups were conducted with the middle-aged women (aged 45 to 54) and the older women (aged 55 and older) to gain their perspectives on conflict in relationships. Focus groups were recorded and transcribed and a computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (ATLAS.ti) was used to organize and analyze the transcribed data into themes concerning help-seeking barriers and behaviors. Future research should focus on determining the similarities and differences between the experience of elder abuse and domestic violence. Table, references

Date Published: January 1, 2005