Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 0(0), 1 – 20.
Significant research has explored barriers African Americans face when they attempt to seek help from the legal system. This study found that hopelessness may partially explain low rates in help-seeking for this population.
While intimate partner violence (IPV) is a problem for individuals from all sociodemographic backgrounds, research suggests that some groups are disproportionately affected. The most comprehensive national prevalence study conducted to date found that four in ten Black women in the United States experience IPV throughout their lifetime (Black et al., 2011). Additionally, due to the intersections of racism and IPV, African American IPV survivors often face poverty and associated difficulties (e.g., homelessness, unemployment), which compound the negative physical and mental health effects IPV (Gillum, 2019; Mugoya et al., 2020).
Significant research has explored barriers African American face when they attempt to seek help from the legal system. This study found that hopelessness may partially explain low rates in help-seeking for this population and how it may serve as a significant barrier to care for African American IPV survivors particularly those who have had prior legal system involvement.
In a sample of 185 African American women, this study examined whether hopelessness mediated the relationship between IPV and barriers to services (“mediated” means it explains how or why there is a relationship between two variables). If such a mediation effect was found, we then would explore whether legal system involvement moderated (i.e., influenced) the mediated effect of hopelessness on the relation between IPV and barriers to services.
As anticipated, hopelessness partially served to explain (i.e., mediated) the relation between IPV and barriers to services. Further, this mediated effect was moderated by legal system involvement such that when legal system involvement was included as a moderator, hopelessness mediated the association between IPV and barriers to services only for those survivors who had been involved with the legal system.
Findings of this study underscore the critical role of hopelessness as a barrier to African American woman reach out for help. The findings offer compelling support for the key role that hopelessness plays in the process through which IPV is associated with increased barriers to services among this population. They also highlight the effect of a history of legal system involvement on the association between IPV and barriers to services.