The Process of Reporting and Receiving Support Following Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence During Childhood


While a significant body of research suggests that exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) during childhood has severe and long-lasting consequences, little is known about how children cope with witnessing IPV, including who they tell about the violence, whether they receive support after disclosing, and the association between childhood disclosure and adulthood mental health. The current study examines these issues in 703 Swedish young adults who endorsed witnessing IPV during childhood. In this sample, 57% reported that they had ever confided in someone about the witnessed violence. The primary reason given for not disclosing was the belief that no one could do anything about it, which was endorsed by 41% of the young adults who kept the violence concealed. Individuals who disclosed the violence were most likely to tell a friend and least likely to use an anonymous hotline. Young adults with higher levels of depression were less likely to have disclosed IPV during their childhood. Individuals’ use of formal reporting outlets was endorsed infrequently, with only 5.2% recalling that they had personally reported the violence or someone else had reported it on their behalf. If such reports were filed, it was most likely to the police. These formal reports typically resulted in participants feeling that the problem continued anyway or that they were believed, but no changes were made. Given the infrequent use of formal reporting services, results suggest that for this sample, reporting outlets for IPV exposure may be underutilized and may not be perceived as beneficial.

Publication Title

Journal of Interpersonal Violence