• Understanding Lived Experiences, Help-seeking and Coping with Domestic Violence, and Leaving among women in Kyrgyzstan: A Grounded Theory Study

      Childress, Saltanat; Gioia, Deborah; 0000-0002-2864-2780 (2016)
      Reports from several international organizations have emphasized the scope of domestic violence in Kyrgyzstan, yet no studies in social work have attempted to examine the meaning of domestic violence from the perspective of survivors. To address this gap, in-depth, qualitative interviews were conducted with survivors of violence to explore their experiences, help-seeking behaviors, and coping mechanisms, as well as the role of criminal justice, healthcare, and social services in responding to violence. The constant comparative method of data collection and analysis was utilized. Concepts and themes were identified, linked, and developed into grounded theory. The results indicate that a culture of gender inequality and the acceptance of gender violence in Kyrgyzstan are primary barriers to help-seeking. Specifically, cultural biases, norms, and myths that support or encourage abuse by a husband and his family members work to normalize violence and devalue wives, and thus prevent victims from seeking help. Two of the most prominent cultural factors in the data were the social construction of marriage and divorce and the roles of daughters-in-law and mothers-in-law. Additional barriers include the shame and stigma of divorce; loyalty toward the husband and his family; concern for the children; lack of knowledge regarding abuse, services, and legal rights; and structural factors such as finances, housing, and childcare. In addition, women reported that the legal system and police interventions did not effectively address domestic violence complaints. Survivors indicated that while they received psychological support and temporary housing from the shelter or friends, police or public health professionals were not helpful. Nearly all participants identified alcohol, economic hardship, and unemployment as the main reasons for domestic violence. Results suggest that violence against women can be better understood as a social problem resulting from powerful cultural factors and social norms that sanction violence and legitimize abuse. More emphasis must be placed on both dispelling myths, misconceptions, and traditional norms and beliefs and providing mechanisms for enforcing existing laws. Providing professional help and establishing specific protocols and data systems for the documentation of violence at all levels is essential.