The Effect of Relational Distance on Women's Willingness to Seek Legal Help for Intimate Partner Violence

Watt, Rochelle
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University of Guelph

Female victims of intimate partner violence are not likely to seek legal help for their victimization despite legislative changes that were implemented to recognize this crime as a serious public issue. Various factors, such as persisting patriarchal ideologies and the victim-offender relationship, keep victims silent and reluctant to seek help from police and prosecutors. This is problematic since reporting rates of intimate partner violence remain low and victim cooperation is necessary for successful prosecution. Based on data from a small, Ontario city, bivariate and multivariate analyses revealed that the victim’s relationship to the offender was significantly associated with legal helpseeking. Specifically, women in intact relationships were less likely than women in estranged relationships to seek legal help, illustrating the philosophical idea that a public/private dichotomy still exists. Additionally, victims were not likely to cooperate with the prosecution if someone else reported their victimization. Implications, limitations, and suggestions for future research are discussed.

intimate partner violence, legal help-seeking, formal help-seeking, informal help-seeking, radical feminism, behaviour of law, prosecution, police contact, victim-offender relationship, relationship state, relationship status, relational distance, public/private dichotomy, patriarchy, intact relationships, estranged relationships