Help-Seeking and Barriers to Care in Intimate Partner Sexual Violence: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Intimate partner sexual violence (IPSV) is a prevalent phenomenon, yet an under-researched topic. Due to the complex nature of balancing love and fear, individuals who experience IPSV have unique needs and face unique barriers to seeking care. The purpose of this systematic review was to examine the literature on help-seeking and barriers to care in IPSV. Articles were identified through PubMed, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and Web of Science. Search terms included terms related to IPSV, intimate partner violence (IPV), domestic violence, sexual assault, and rape. The review was limited to the United States, and articles that were included needed to specifically measure or identify sexual violence in an intimate relationship and analyze or discuss IPSV in relation to help-seeking behaviors or barriers to care. Of the 17 articles included in this review, 13 were quantitative studies and four were qualitative studies. Various definitions and measurements of IPSV across studies included in this review make drawing broad conclusions challenging. Findings suggest that experiencing IPSV compared to experiencing nonsexual IPV (i.e., physical or psychological IPV) may increase help-seeking for medical, legal, and social services while decreasing help-seeking for informal support. Help-seeking can also reduce risk of future IPSV and decrease poor mental health outcomes. Barriers to seeking care in IPSV included social stigma, fear, and difficulty for individuals in identifying IPSV behaviors in their relationships as abuse. More inclusive research is needed among different populations including men, non-White individuals, nonheterosexual, and transgender individuals. Suggestions for research, practice, and policies are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTrauma, Violence, and Abuse
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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