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Domestic Violence and Housing Problems: A Contextual Analysis of Women's Help-Seeking, Received Informal Support, and Formal System Response

NCJ Number
Violence Against Women Volume: 9 Issue: 7 Dated: July 2003 Pages: 754-783
Charlene K. Baker; Sarah L. Cook; Fran H. Norris
Date Published
July 2003
30 pages
This article examines the impact of informal and formal support on battered women’s housing problems following a separation from their batterers.
Previous research has identified a link between homelessness and domestic violence. Women who rely on their violent partners for monetary support often find themselves without the resources to secure private housing once they leave the violent relationship. In order to uncover the links between formal support, informal support, and housing problems among battered women, the authors conducted face-to-face interviews with 110 women recruited from welfare agencies, homeless shelters, and the criminal justice system within 2 counties. Women’s help-seeking behavior was examined in terms of their reliance on informal networks (family, friends, and church) and formal support systems (welfare agencies, homeless shelters, police, and the justice system). Results of multivariate analysis revealed that 38 percent of the sample reported problems related to homelessness. Another 38 percent reported problems with housing that included late rent payments, threats of eviction, and skipping meals in order to pay for housing. Results also revealed that the predictors of housing problems included severe violence, contacting fewer formal support systems, having less informal support, and receiving negative response from welfare agencies. On the other hand, problems with homelessness decreased by 30 percent if police officers responded positively to victims of domestic violence. The results underscore the importance of changing the way in which formal support systems, especially police and welfare agencies, respond to victims of domestic violence. Tables, notes, references