Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Control and Support Models of Help-Seeking Behavior in Women Experiencing Domestic Violence in India

Academic journal article Violence and Victims

Control and Support Models of Help-Seeking Behavior in Women Experiencing Domestic Violence in India

Article excerpt

In India, there is limited prioritization of domestic violence, which is seen as a private and family matter, and handled as a social responsibility rather than a complaint or crime. Despite the Domestic Violence Act, implemented in 2006, the widespread phenomenon of domestic violence across Indian states goes unreported. Using control and support models, this article aims to examine women's behavior in seeking help while dealing with partner violence. It is a population-based analytical cross-sectional study covering 14,507 married women from 18 states of India, selected through a systematic multistage sampling strategy. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to generate data.

It was observed that legal complexities combined with social realities make the life of an average Indian woman insecure and miserable. Most women surveyed preferred the social-support model and opined that if they face domestic violence, they would seek help from their parents as the first option in the order of preference. The responses of women while dealing with domestic violence are often spontaneous and determined by the pressing need to resolve matters within the home/community, rather than addressing them in the public domain of state institutions where procedures are cumbersome and lengthy. A new integrated development model proposed by several communities aims to prevent domestic violence through the intervention of health care systems.

Keywords: domestic violence; help-seeking; coping; control model; support model

Domestic violence (DV) against women is defined as "threatened or actual physical, sexual, or psychological abuse by a current or former partner" (Jeyaseelan et al., 2007). The prevalence of DV within India ranges widely from 18% to 70% with considerable variation across the states (International Institute for Population Sciences [IIPS], 2007; Krishnan, 2005). The problem of DV has been highlighted very recently, and there is limited prioritization of DV, whether physical or otherwise, as a reportable "crime." It is seen as a private and family matter (International Center for Research on Women, 1999). Despite the Domestic Violence Act (Kaur & Garg, 2008) to protect women against violence, in the Indian scenario, cases of women facing DV still go unreported. These cases are handled as a social responsibility rather than lodging them as complaints (Bhatla & Rajan, 2003; Hoyle, 1998). In India, a crime against a woman is committed every 3 min (National Crime Records Bureau, 2007). This figure is disturbing because it highlights the wide acceptance and the normalcy accorded to DV being an integral part of marriage. This notion forms one of the primary barriers that prevent women from seeking any kind of help in their situation (Bhatla & Rajan, 2003).

Gender, caste, class, and religious biases determine the categorization of a "complaint" as genuine or not, which in turn determines the appropriate action/inaction (Poonacha & Pandey, 2000) to be taken against it. Despite the constitutional guarantee of justice (socio- economic and political), equality, and dignity (Sulik, 2007; Duvvury, Nayak, & Allendorf, 2002), Indian women's responses to partner abuse are shaped by their particular sociocul- tural contexts and they, by and large, prefer to remain voiceless (Bhatla & Rajan, 2003; Hirschel & Buzawa, 2002). As a result, only a fraction of abused women seek help, and a significant proportion of them do not receive the required care (Fugate, Landis, Riordan, Naureckas, & Engel, 2005; Mahoney, 1999). Although numerous studies have acknowl- edged and reported the prevalence, correlation, and consequences of intimate partner vio- lence (IPV), most of this research has used a criminal-justice framework based on acts of physical violence. Studies have reported that the different types of abusive and controlling relationships not only have different etiologies, health consequences (Stephenson, Koenig, & Ahmed, 2006), and help-seeking characteristics but also have different relationships by gender (Ansara & Hindin, 2010). …

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