School of Behavioral Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology (PhD)


Bethany Mims-Beliles


Domestic violence, abuse, support systems, Ephesians 5


Nursing | Psychology


In the last five years, domestic violence has escalated in the number of episodes reported and in the severity of violence. Researchers attribute this increased frequency and severity to the COVID-19 pandemic. During the lockdown time of the pandemic, victims and their abusers could not escape from arguments, which resulted in tensions rising. This study brings attention to the fact that domestic violence is still a pervasive problem. It gives information to help the abused stay out of violent relationships and/or escape. There was conflicting research on whether support systems help victims of these violent relationships escape or stay in abuse. The focus of this study was to clarify the experiences of participants who have been abused and how those who escaped did so, focusing on what effect support systems had on them compared to those still in abuse. Data was gathered through surveys filled out by 17 females who were in abusive relationships and survivors over 18 years of age. The data collected found that most participants had generalized support, meaning it was inconsistent or they had no support at all from growing up and entering abuse. One theme revealed that most sought social support after leaving the abusive relationship, with a few noting having positive support after leaving. Another theme revealed that social support was not a significant factor in leaving, but rather, an individual epiphany moment was the most cited reason for leaving. Lastly, support systems did appear to be a factor in entering abuse, but leaving abuse appeared to be an individual experience. A limitation of the current study was that participants were dichotomously separated (abused who left and abused who stayed); future research can research support systems of never abused in comparison.