Patterns of Help-Seeking Among Battered Women From Two Inner City Communities

Ida Dupont, Pace University

This paper analyzes the help-seeking behaviors of battered women who are marginalized because of their low socio-economic status as well as their participation in the illegal drug market. It is based on interviews conducted among poor and working class women -- all with a history of domestic violence -- from two ethnically and racially diverse inner city communities in New York. The analysis of the collected data not only presents women's perception of themselves and their ways of coping with the violence, but also reveals how race, ethnicity and gender shape the nature of domestic violence. The involvement of these women in the drug trade, either as users, low-level drug dealers and/or girlfriends of drug dealers, places them in a dilemma with the police: many women fear that the police will target their drug behavior instead of protecting them against their abusers. Others regard the police with mistrust due to law enforcement practices in their communities which result in the mass incarceration of young minority males and sometimes excessive force and brutality. Without police protection and with little social service support or economic resources, women rely on their own means to protect themselves and their children, often in very extreme ways. The perception--by some of these women--of the police as perpetrators of violence, rather than protectors of the community carries serious implications for policy makers. If the police are not trusted by the communities that are hardest hit by violence, criminal justice efforts to reduce domestic violence are bound to fail.

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Updated 05/20/2006