Intimate partner violence (IPA) is an issue that is addressed in various ways. Women who report IPA to legal authorities are often referred to services through the criminal justice system. Sometimes, when a woman reports IPA, resources to help her address the physical, mental, and social consequences of IPA can be accessed through community programs. IPA can cause depression, fear, and revictimization. Posttraumatic stress (PTSD) is another common condition that results from IPA. Abused women who try to leave their abusers face many challenges. The psychological damage caused by the IPA can lead to isolation and limit the personal support system needed to help a woman seek refuge. Additionally, economic dependence on a partner can cause a woman to stay with her abuser for fear of losing her residence and financial well-being.
There is a wealth of research that demonstrates the positive effects of programs designed to address the needs of women who have suffered IPA. However, this research has shown that too often, criminal justice programs tend to the needs of the perpetrator over and above those of the victim. Therefore, Anne P. DePrince of the Department of Psychology at the University of Denver conducted a study that compared how community coordinated response (CCR) programs helped meet the psychological and physical needs of abused women compared to criminal justice referral programs. DePrince interviewed 236 women who received help from either CCR or referral programs after they reported IPA. She assessed the levels of PTSD, depression, and fear of the women 3 weeks, 6 months, and 1 year after the abuse was reported. She also measured the reoccurrence of abuse.
DePrince found that the women who participated in the CCR program were three times more likely to see decreases in their symptoms after 1 year, while the women in the referral program actually saw symptoms increase. The results also showed that nearly one-third of the participants experienced aggression from their abusers during the year after the IPA. Approximately one-fourth of all of the participants were revictimized by a new partner and 10% reported sexual abuse. DePrince believes that these results demonstrate that the CCR program is far more effective at helping women manage conditions that they can control after IPA, such as emotional response and social environments. However, she noted that the existing programs were unable to change the pattern of revictimization, suggesting that the women lacked the tools to respond to things beyond their control, such as the behaviors of their partners. DePrince added, “The findings from this study address historical gaps between victim advocates and mental health providers, demonstrating that research and policy attention should be paid to understanding the role that community-based outreach and interdisciplinary CCRs can play in addressing IPA.”
DePrince, A. P., Labus, J., Belknap, J., Buckingham, S., Gover, A. (2012). The impact of community-based outreach on psychological distress and victim safety in women exposed to intimate partner abuse. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80.2, 211-221.
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