The World Health Organization developed a questionnaire designed to assess domestic violence and intimate partner violence (IPV) against women. The questionnaire includes items related to exposure to and victimization from physical, psychological, and sexual IPV and is known as the Violence Against Women instrument (VAWI). This instrument has been tested with some evidence of reliability in only a few countries.
Therefore, to further test its reliability and validity at discerning between those exposed to and victims of various types of IPV, Lotta Nybergh of the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden recently led a study involving 573 Swedish women between the ages of 18 and 65.
The women reported on past and present exposure to any types of IPV, and also reported specific factors related to IPV, such as use of force, weapons, and threats related to violence. Nybergh found that the VAWI was successful at identifying women of different classifications, such as good versus poor self-rated health, those who did not or who did witness physical violence in the their childhoods, and those who were exposed t or not exposed to sexual or physical acts of violence.
The results revealed that sexual violence specifically was reported by 3% of the women and 8.1% of the participants reported being victims of physical IPV. These rates are consistent to other studies conducted in Norwegian regions, but childhood exposure or witnessing was lower in Nybergh’s study and current exposure to violence was higher.
There were some inconsistencies relating to overlapping of responses. For instance, women gave positive answers to violence even when only a threat of violence occurred. Because threats are psychological in nature, additional examination is needed to determine why this response crossed over to the physical violence category. Also, sexual IPV appeared in both sexual and physical violence categories, as many women who were victims of sexual IPV reported that it indeed was also a physically violent act.
Despite these discrepancies, this research shows the VAWI is a reliable instrument for assessing IPV. “However,” added Nybergh, “Further studies examining these and other psychometric properties need to be conducted in other countries.”
Nybergh, L., Taft, C., Krantz, G. (2013). Psychometric properties of the WHO violence against women instrument in a female population-based sample in Sweden: A cross-sectional survey. BMJ Open 2013;3:e002053. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002053
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