OBJECTIVE:Despite its burden on a person's life, Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is known to be poorly recognised and managed in most countries and communities. This study aimed to explore health care professionals' experiences of the health care seeking processes of women exposed to intimate partner violence in Rwanda. METHODS:Six focus group discussions were conducted in three district hospitals and three mental health units in Rwanda. A sample of 43 health care professionals with various professions and length of work experience, who regularly took care of patients subjected to IPV, was selected for focus group discussions. The analysis was performed using qualitative content analysis. RESULTS:The theme "Gendered norms and values defeat the violence legislation in women's health care seeking when women are abused" expressed the health care professionals' experiences of the double-faced situation which women exposed to IPV met in their help seeking process. Positive initiatives to protect women were identified, but the potential for abused women to seek help and support was reduced because of poverty, gender inequality with prevailing strong norms of male superiority, and the tendency to keep abuse as a private family matter. CONCLUSION:Legislative measures have been instituted to protect women from abuse. Still many Rwandan women do not benefit from these efforts. The role of the health care services needs to be reinforced as an important and available resource for help and support for abused women but further legislative changes are also needed. Initiatives to further improve gender equality, and institutionalised collaboration between different sectors in society would contribute to protecting women from IPV.