The Impact on Informal Supporters of Domestic Violence Survivors: A Systematic Literature Review
Alison Clare Gregory, Emma Williamson, Gene Feder
Domestic violence (DV) is experienced by 1 in 4 women in the United Kingdom during their lifetime, and most survivors will seek informal support from the people around them, even if they choose not to access help from professionals. Support from these relatives, friends, neighbors, and colleagues can provide a buffer against effects on the survivor’s physical health, mental health, and quality of life, and has been shown to be protective against future abuse. There has been an absence of research studying members of survivors’ networks and, in particular, investigating how the impact of DV might diffuse to affect them. A systematic literature review of reported research (either in peer-reviewed journals or in gray literature) was undertaken to explore the impacts of DV on survivor networks. Of the articles found, 24 had data relating to the topic area, though no study addressed the question directly. Framework analysis and meta-ethnography generated the following themes: physical health impacts, negative impacts on psychological well-being, direct impacts from the perpetrator, and beneficial impacts on psychological well-being. The studies in this review indicated that informal supporters may be experiencing substantial impact, including vicarious trauma and the risk of physical harm. Currently, there is little support available which is directly aimed at informal supporters of DV survivors, thus these findings have practical and policy implications, in order to acknowledge and meet their needs.