ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Access to Facilities for Women Experiencing Domestic Violence

Impact on Well-being and Experience of Further Violence

In India, 29% of women aged 15–49 have experienced marital violence. Although crisis centres, known as helplines, exist to support those who experience violence, little is known about the experiences of women who use these services. Two rounds of surveys of 200 women who approached the government-sponsored helplines, conducted about four months apart, reveal that physical and sexual violence perpetrated by husbands and/or family members fell significantly in the inter-survey period. Women were also less likely to report suicidal thoughts and many reported a sense of economic security, happiness, self-confidence, and peace of mind. These findings underscore the importance of facilities offering women a haven in which they may learn about their options, have access to empathetic advocates, and secure support for addressing the violence they face at home.

The authors gratefully acknowledge the support and funding of the United Kingdom Department for International Aid, the Bihar state government, and helpline authorities for their support in conducting the assessment. They are grateful to Ann Blanc, Thoai Ngo, Mamta Kohli, Nel Druce, and Madhuri Das for insightful comments on the analyses; to Santosh Kumar Singh for managing the fieldwork; to Komal Saxena for her support and assistance in preparing the article; and to Arsee Fatima and Preeti Verma for their dedication and hard work in collecting high-quality data on such a sensitive topic.

Marital violence remains widespread in India, with 29% of women aged 1549 having experienced physical or sexual violence (IIPS 2016a). Help-seeking for domestic violence is also limited, with only 24% of women who had experienced violence having sought help to end the violence (IIPS and Macro International 2007), a situation that, in turn, reduces womens ability to prevent further violence. Furthermore, when help is sought, it is rarely sought from institutional sources. Fear of being beaten again, perceptions about the importance of maintaining the integrity of the family, and the low level of awareness about formal support services are common factors that inhibit women from seeking help from institutional sources (Jejeebhoy et al 2013; Shrivastava and Shrivastava 2013; Decker et al 2013).

The literature about help-seeking, in general, has affirmed that it is only when a problem is seen as undesirable and unresolvable without help from others that women will consider seeking help. Likewise, there is a close association between the severity of violence and help-seeking (Liang et al 2005). Help-seeking progresses from seeking informal support from family and friends to more public help-seeking as violence worsens. Indeed, in patriarchal settings such as India, women report incidents of violence and seek help only when violence reaches severe levels. For example, in a study of South Asian women living in the United States (US) who had experienced domestic violence, more than half had sought no help and only 5% had contacted a domestic violence programme, and that too only when violence was extremely severe (Raj and Silverman 2007). Also serving as obstacles to formal help-seeking are perceptions of poor quality of help, trivialisation of womens problems, and limited efforts made by service providers to reach the perpetrator (Liang et al 2005).

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Published On : 20th Jan, 2024

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