Economic Self-Sufficiency among Women Who Experienced Intimate Partner Violence and Received Civil Legal Services

Carolyn Copps Hartley, Lynette M. Renner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Literature supports the impact of intimate partner violence (IPV) on women’s short and long-term material hardship; yet, little research has examined the role of civil legal services in addressing women’s economic self-sufficiency. Using survey data from a sample of low-income women seeking civil legal services related to IPV, we examined changes in women’s economic self-sufficiency over a one-year period of time. The sample consisted of women who were experiencing IPV and receiving assistance with a civil protective order (CPO) or a family law problem. Eighty-five women completed three waves of data collected, baseline and every six months, over a period of one year. Nearly two-thirds of the women received assistance for a CPO (n = 56); the rest were represented in a family law matter. Approximately 45% of women lived in non-metro/rural areas (n = 38). Measures of economic self-sufficiency included income, use of public assistance, adequacy of family resources, and perceptions of the difficulty living off their current income. Women’s monthly income and adequacy of some family resources increased, while difficulty living on their current income and the number of assistance resources used decreased (Wave 1 to 3). There was no relation between the type or amount of legal services received and changes in study outcomes. Study findings suggest that civil legal services are a critical component of a community coordinated response to IPV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-445
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Civil legal services
  • Domestic violence
  • Economic self-sufficiency
  • Intimate partner violence

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