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      Prevalence, pattern, and predictors of formal help-seeking for intimate partner violence against women: findings from India’s cross-sectional National Family Health Surveys-3 (2005–2006) and 4 (2015–2016)


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          Help-seeking for intimate partner violence (IPV) requires women to disclose their experiences. For policymakers, low help-seeking threatens the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of gender equality, good health, and wellbeing. In India, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Against Women Act (PWDVA 2005) was implemented in 2006. Using two rounds of the India National Family Health Survey (NFHS), one before and one after implementation, we examined the prevalence, pattern, and sociodemographic and socioeconomic factors associated with formal help-seeking for IPV.


          We used univariable and multivariable logistic regression models to assess the prevalence of help-seeking for IPV in the past 12 months and examined associations with different forms of IPV and sociodemographic factors.


          The proportion of ever-married women aged 15–49 years who reported physical, sexual, or emotional IPV in the last 12 months increased from 23% in NFHS-3 (2005–2006) to 25% in NFHS-4 (2015–2016). In both surveys, few women sought help. Informal sources of help were preferred over formal sources, which declined from NFHS-3 to NFHS-4 (any help: 24.5 to 13.8%; informal help: 24.1 to 13.4%; and formal help: 1.2 to 1.1%). Women from lower castes and women with children were less likely to seek formal help. Over the two surveys, the odds of formal help-seeking for sexual IPV in the past 12 months remained similar (NFHS-3 aOR 1.9, 95% CI 1.4, 2.5. NFHS-4 aOR 1.9, 95% CI 1.4, 2.6). The odds were slightly higher for emotional IPV (NFHS-3 aOR 2.5, 95% CI 1.8, 3.3. NFHS-4 aOR 2.7, 95% CI 2.0, 3.7) and spousal control (NFHS-3 aOR 2.0, 95% CI 1.4, 3.0. NFHS-4 aOR 2.3, 95% CI: 1.4, 3.7).


          Low disclosure and help-seeking impact a country’s social, cultural, economic, and political progress. The PWDVA did not appear to result in increases in help-seeking among women in India who experienced IPV. Further work is needed to understand barriers to help-seeking in the presence of public policy efforts to support women affected by IPV. These may include poor implementation and enforcement of Policy, as well as normalization and justification of gender-based violence. We recommend a deeper understanding of help-seeking across all systems to establish a barometer of help-seeking. An increase in formal or informal help-seeking is an indicator of reduced tolerance of IPV and the enabling environment of the PWDVA 2005 for tracking progress toward the SDGs of gender equality and the eradication of all forms of gender-based violence and discrimination.

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              Violence against women: an integrated, ecological framework.

              This article encourages the widespread adoption of an integrated, ecological framework for understanding the origins of gender-based violence. An ecological approach to abuse conceptualizes violence as a multifaceted phenomenon grounded in an interplay among personal, situational, and sociocultural factors. Although drawing on the conceptual advances of earlier theorists, this article goes beyond their work in three significant ways. First, it uses the ecological framework as a heuristic tool to organize the existing research base into an intelligible whole. Whereas other theorists present the framework as a way to think about violence, few have attempted to establish what factors emerge as predictive of abuse at each level of the social ecology. Second, this article integrates results from international and cross-cultural research together with findings from North American social science. And finally, the framework draws from findings related to all types of physical and sexual abuse of women to encourage a more integrated approach to theory building regarding gender-based abuse.

                Author and article information

                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BMC Public Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                20 December 2022
                20 December 2022
                : 22
                : 2386
                [1 ]GRID grid.419871.2, ISNI 0000 0004 1937 0757, School of Health Systems Studies (SHSS), , Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), ; Mumbai, India
                [2 ]GRID grid.465054.6, Program on Prevention of Violence Against Women and Children, SNEHA, ; Mumbai, Maharashtra 400017 India
                [3 ]GRID grid.83440.3b, ISNI 0000000121901201, Institute for Global Health, , University College London, ; London, WC1N IEH UK
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                © The Author(s) 2022

                Open AccessThis article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated in a credit line to the data.

                : 22 March 2022
                : 16 November 2022
                Custom metadata
                © The Author(s) 2022

                Public health
                help-seeking,intimate partner violence,national family and health surveys,india
                Public health
                help-seeking, intimate partner violence, national family and health surveys, india


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