Help-seeking for Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse: Experiences of Civilian Partners of UK Military Personnel

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There is evidence that Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPVA) is more prevalent among military populations compared with civilian populations. However, there has been limited research into the help-seeking experiences of civilian victim-survivors who have experienced IPVA within relationships with military personnel. This qualitative study aimed to explore the experiences of, and barriers to, help-seeking for IPVA victimisation among civilian partners of military personnel in order to identify strategies to improve the management of IPVA both within the military and civilian sectors. The study adopted a descriptive cross-sectional study design and used qualitative research methods. One-to-one telephone interviews were conducted with civilian victim-survivors (n = 25) between January and August 2018. Interview transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis. Three superordinate themes were derived: (1) Drivers to help-seeking; (2) Barriers to help-seeking; and (3) Experiences of services. The findings indicate difficulties in help-seeking for IPVA among civilian partners of military personnel due to stigma, fear, dependency, poor understanding of IPVA, lack of appropriate and timely support, and a perceived lack of victim support. Difficulties in help-seeking were perceived by participants to be amplified by military culture, public perceptions of the military, military protection of personnel and the lack of coordination between civilian and military judicial services. This study reinforces the need for a military specific Domestic Abuse strategy, identifies vulnerable groups and highlights a need for both increased awareness and understanding of IPVA within civilian and military services in order to provide adequate victim protection.

Original languageEnglish
Early online date5 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Civilian spouses
  • Help-seeking
  • Intimate Partner Violence and Abuse (IPVA)
  • UK Military


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