SAGE Journals

Labeling Victimization Experiences and Self as Predictors of Service Need Perceptions and Talking to Police

Posted on 2023-09-17 - 12:07

Theoretical frameworks suggest that how victims of violence against women (VAW) label their experiences and selves shapes their help-seeking intentions and behaviors. Quantitative studies assessing this relationship have focused on sexual assault and have neglected self-labels, thus this study adds to the research by including multiple forms of VAW and both experience-labels (e.g., “abuse”) and self-labels (e.g., “victim”). Data came from a community-based sample of 1,284 adult, female victims of physical intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and/or stalking. These women participated in a state-wide phone survey in 2020 to determine victimization prevalence and were selected for the present analyses based on their victimization experiences. Bivariate analyses and multivariate logistic regression models were used to determine whether experience- and self-labels predicted the likelihood of perceiving the need for legal services, victim services, shelter or safe housing, and/or medical care, as well as talking to police. Both applying a label to one’s experiences with VAW and applying a label to oneself in relation to those experiences approximately doubled the odds of perceiving a need for formal services. The significance of self-labels seemed to be driven by the “survivor” label, as using a “victim” label was not related to need perceptions, but a “survivor” label doubled or tripled the odds of perceiving a need for formal services. Applying a label to one’s experiences with VAW almost doubled the odds of talking to the police, and, again, use of the “survivor” self-label significantly increased the odds of talking to the police. These findings confirm the importance of labeling one’s victimization experiences and self, and indicate that greater attention be paid to the labels that victims use and how the use of labels might be improved so that they are more likely to seek and attain meaningful help and services.


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