Disclosure of Intimate Partner Violence to Informal Social Support Network Members A Review of the Literature


This article presents a review of the published literature to date on rates, experiences, and correlates of victims’ disclosure of or help seeking for intimate partner violence to informal social support network members (e.g., friends, family, classmates, and coworkers). Research indicates that the majority of individuals disclose to at least one informal support and that victims’ disclosure is associated with a number of demographic (e.g., victims’ sex, age, race), intrapersonal (e.g., victims’ feelings of shame/embarrassment, perception of control over abuse), and situational (e.g., violence frequency and severity, if abuse is witnessed) factors. Following disclosure, victims experience a wide range of positive (e.g., believing the victim’s reports, validating the victim’s experiences) and negative (e.g. disbelieving, blaming the victim) social reactions, with positive reactions rated as the most common and most helpful forms of support by victims. Finally, a review of psychological correlates associated with reactions to disclosure indicates that positive social reactions are associated with more psychological health benefits and fewer negative health symptoms, whereas negative social reactions were associated with increased negative psychological health symptoms. Future research methodologies and implications for violence prevention, intervention, and policy are discussed.


Psychology, Prevention Innovations Research Center Pubs

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Trauma, Violence, and Abuse


Sage Publications

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