Ending violence against women: Help-seeking behaviour of women exposed to intimate partner violence in sub-Saharan Africa

Richard Gyan ABOAGYE*, Abdul-Aziz SEIDU, Abdul CADRI, Tarif SALIHU, Francis ARTHUR-HOLMES, Sarah Tara SAM, Bright Opoku AHINKORAH

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


Introduction Intimate partner violence is a serious public health problem that transcends cultural boundaries in sub-Saharan Africa. Studies have reported that violence characteristics and perception are strong predictors of help-seeking among women. We assessed the prevalence and factors associated with help-seeking among female survivors of intimate partner violence in sub-Saharan Africa. Methods We pooled data from the most recent Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of eighteen sub-Saharan African countries. The data were extracted from the women’s files in countries with datasets from 2014 to 2021. A weighted sample of 33,837 women in sexual relationships: married or cohabiting who had ever experienced intimate partner violence within the five years preceding the survey were included in the analysis. Percentages with 95% confidence interval (CI) were used to present the results of the prevalence of help-seeking for intimate partner violence. We used a multilevel binary logistic regression analysis to examine the factors associated with help-seeking among survivors of intimate partner violence. The results were presented using adjusted odds ratio (AOR) with their respective 95% CI. Statistical significance was set at p<0.05. Results Out of the 33,837 women who had ever experienced intimate partner violence in sub-Saharan Africa, only 38.77% (95% CI = 38.26–39.28) of them sought help. Ethiopia had the lowest prevalence of women who sought help after experiencing intimate partner violence (19.75%; 95% CI = 17.58–21.92) and Tanzania had the highest prevalence (57.56%; 95% CI = 55.86–59.26). Marital status, educational level, current working status, parity, exposure to interparental violence, women’s autonomy in household decision-making, mass media exposure, intimate partner violence justification, wealth index, and place of residence were associated with help-seeking behaviour of intimate partner violence survivors. Conclusion The low prevalence of help seeking among women who have experienced intimate partner violence in sub-Saharan Africa calls for the intensification of formal and informal sources of assistance. Education can play a critical role in empowering girls, which may increase future help-seeking rates. Through media efforts aimed at parental awareness, the long-term benefits of females enrolling in school could be achieved. However, concentrating solely on individual measures to strengthen women’s empowerment may not bring a significant rise in help-seeking as far as patriarchal attitudes that permit violence continue to exist. Consequently, it is critical to address intimate partner violence from the dimensions of both the individual and violence-related norms and attitudes. Based on the findings, there should be public awareness creation on the consequences of intimate partner violence. Respective governments must increase their coverage of formal support services to intimate partner violence survivors especially those in rural communities.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0291913
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
Early online date5 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Aboagye et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License,


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