This exploratory qualitative study investigates battered women's help-seeking on the continuum of their victimization and readiness. This study starts with a conceptualization of battered women's help-seeking strategies and identifies positive and negative help based on twelve women's perceptions of those services. Finally, this study suggests a conceptual model for battered women's help-seeking from formal social services.
In-depth interviews with twelve survivors of domestic violence revealed that these battered women sought help from formal social services toward the end of their abusive relationships, and utilized diverse help-seeking strategies from various help sources including but not limited to seeking protection from the criminal justice system. They especially perceived formal social service agencies and personnel as positive if the personnel valued self-determination, validated that the abuse was not the women's fault, and provided resources to (re)build their self-sufficiency. In addition, formal social services were often able to protect them from the abuse. In this regard, positive help from formal social services influenced the women's readiness to change by affecting the construction of a turning point. Negative help from formal social services kept battered women in the status quo only before they approached their turning point.
Not wanting to minimize the importance of the criminal justice system's response in fostering the batterer's accountability, this research found that it is also essential to focus on battered women's varied and self-identified needs and to increase their accessibility to these resources. This study suggests that formal social services help women end the abuse by respecting women's self-determination and promoting women's readiness to reach a turning point.