The role of intimate partner violence, race, and ethnicity in help-seeking behaviors

Sherry Lipsky, Raul Caetano, Craig A. Field, Gregory L. Larkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

152 Scopus citations


Objective. Women experiencing intimate partner violence (IPV) have multiple health and social service needs but many, especially Hispanic, women may not access these resources. This research sought to examine the relationship between IPV and health and social services utilization (help-seeking behaviors), with a focus on racial and ethnic disparities. Design. Case-control study from an urban US emergency department population in which cases (women with IPV) and controls (women without IPV) were frequency matched by age group and race/ethnicity. Logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the relationship between IPV and help-seeking behaviors and between help-seeking behaviors and race/ethnicity among abused women. In addition, a stratified analysis was conducted to examine the relationship between acculturation and help-seeking behaviors among Hispanic women. Results. The sample included 182 cases and 147 controls. Among the health services, alcohol program, emergency department, and hospital utilization were significantly increased among IPV victims compared to non-victims after taking demographic and substance use factors into account. Similarly, IPV victims were more likely to access social/case worker services and housing assistance compared to non-victims. Specific help-seeking behaviors were significantly associated with race and ethnicity among IPV victims, with non-Hispanic white and black women more likely to use housing assistance and emergency department services and black women more likely to use police assistance compared to Hispanic women. Among all Hispanic women, low acculturation was associated with decreased utilization of social services overall and with any healthcare utilization, particularly among abused women. Conclusions. Social service and healthcare workers should be alerted to and screen for IPV among all clients. The need for increased outreach and accessibility of services for abused women in Hispanic communities in the USA should be addressed, with cultural and language relevance a key component of these efforts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)81-100
Number of pages20
JournalEthnicity and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Domestic Violence
  • Health Services
  • Mental Health
  • Social Services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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