Victimization, psychological distress, and help-seeking: Disentangling the relationship for Latina victims

Carlos A. Cuevas, Kristin A. Bell, Chiara Sabina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this analysis was to evaluate the role of help-seeking on the victimization-psychological distress link. Specifically, we aim to determine whether help-seeking is associated with various forms of psychological distress among victims of interpersonal violence. Method: This study used data from the Sexual Assault Among Latinas (SALAS) Study, which surveyed 2,000 Latino women using random digit dial methodology, and queried participants about lifetime victimization, help-seeking behaviors associated with victimization, and psychological distress. Using linear regression with a subsample of the women who experienced victimization in adulthood (N = 242), we evaluated the association of victimization, cultural variables, formal help-seeking, and informal help-seeking on psychological distress. Subsequently, we also evaluated the relationship of each specific form of help-seeking on current psychological distress. Results: Results suggest that formal help-seeking but not informal help-seeking was associated with lower psychological distress among Latino women. Specifically, formal help-seeking was associated with decreased levels of current depression, anger, dissociation, and anxiety. When looking at specific forms of formal help-seeking, reporting to police was the main form of help-seeking associated with decreased levels of current psychological distress. Interaction effects also showed the victimization - anger relationship was stronger for those with higher Latino orientation that were neither of Mexican nor Cuban descent. Conclusion: The results support the importance of promoting formal help-seeking behaviors, particularly police reporting, as a way of decreasing the negative psychological impact of victimization. Among Latinas, cultural factors and ethnicity need to be taken into consideration to better understand help-seeking behaviors and emotional functioning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)196-209
Number of pages14
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


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