Help-seeking by male victims of domestic violence and abuse (DVA): a systematic review and qualitative evidence synthesis

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OBJECTIVES: To understand help-seeking by male victims of domestic violence and abuse (DVA) and their experiences of support services by systematically identifying qualitative and mixed-method studies and thematically synthesising their findings.

DESIGN: Systematic review and qualitative evidence synthesis. Searches were conducted in 12 databases and the grey literature with no language or date restrictions. Quality appraisal of the studies was carried out using the Critical Appraisal Skills Programme tool. Reviewers extracted first and second order constructs related to help-seeking, identified themes and combined them by interpretative thematic synthesis.

SETTING: DVA experienced by male victims and defined as any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse among people aged 18 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members, regardless of gender or sexuality.

PARTICIPANTS: Male victims of DVA.

INTERVENTIONS: Any intervention which provides practical and/or psychological support to male victims of DVA including but not limited to DVA-specific services, primary healthcare and sexual health clinics.

PRIMARY AND SECONDARY OUTCOME MEASURES: Qualitative data describing help-seeking experiences and interactions with support services of male victims of domestic violence RESULTS: We included twelve studies which were published between 2006 and 2017. We grouped nine themes described over two phases (a) barriers to help-seeking: fear of disclosure, challenge to masculinity, commitment to relationship, diminished confidence/despondency and invisibility/perception of services; and (b) experiences of interventions and support: initial contact, confidentiality, appropriate professional approaches and inappropriate professional approaches.

CONCLUSION: The recent publication of the primary studies suggests a new interest in the needs of male DVA victims. We have confirmed previously identified barriers to help-seeking by male victims of DVA and provide new insight into barriers and facilitators to service provision.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere021960
Number of pages56
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2019. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.


  • systematic review
  • qualitative evidence synthesis
  • help-seeking
  • domestic violence and abuse
  • thematic synthesis
  • male/men


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