Community Outreach Helps Decrease Fear and Depression in Abused Women

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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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • hildy p

    hildy p

    April 19th, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    These are women who more than likely have been used and abused for much of their lives. They have no concept of what safety is or even in many cases what friendship is so this is something that can really give them help and support when they are the most vulnerable and the most in need.

    These women need to know that someone cares about them, that same basic need that many of us have. They already feel alone, and the abuse makes them feel even worse about who they are and what they are capable of.

    Community outreach can go a long way toward helping them realize that they are so much more than the partner that they are with and are capable of so much more in life than they have been led to believe.

  • Tomas


    April 20th, 2012 at 4:11 AM

    I see too many people who look away from this abuse.
    They bury their heads in the sand because they are afraid of getting involved and getting their hands dirty.
    But if we want any real change this is not when we can look aawy.
    We have to stand up to this violence against women and show the abusers that this is no longer to be tolerated by the community or by the partners.

  • Alice B

    Alice B

    April 20th, 2012 at 11:22 AM

    As a one time victim (but no more!) of spousal abuse, I would like to say that if I had felt more support and outreach in my community for a woman like me, I would have been far more likely to elave the abusive situation a lot sooner than I did.

    But at the time I did not feel like there was anywhere to turn that could help me. I had never worked or done anything really, had not even completed high school, so the thought of leaving was scary.

    Ultimately though it was not as scary as the thought of him harming me or my children so I was able to call up my courage and run away. And I have never looked back. But on behalf of all the women out there facing this today, it is not an easy thing to walk away from the security that you still feel in that relationship, that is why we have to give them more to live for and to know that there is a place where they can get the help that they need to survive.

  • Ash


    April 20th, 2012 at 9:44 PM

    The better and more effective the support system is,the better the chances are that victims come out and tell the world and also better the chances that they are able to get over it and move on in their lives.Strengthening the support systems for women who have suffered from IPV is an extremely important step in fighting this domestic demon.

  • Samuel


    April 21st, 2012 at 11:06 AM

    This is a population that has some need for help. But how many of us have ever looked away and pretended not to see because we just didn’t want to get involved? We thought that it was none of our business? I know that I have. And that is a big challenge that this particular issue has to stare down because I have a feeling that a lot of people have looked away and not wanted to get involved.

  • randee l

    randee l

    April 22nd, 2012 at 6:30 AM

    How horrible it must be to on one hand fear for your life and desperately want to live, but to be equally afraid to leave because of the perceived danger that this could bring to you and your children and the anxiety of making it on your own because financially you have never done that for yourself before. It is easy to be on the outside looking in wondering why these women don’t just leave but in most of their cases it is far more complicated than that. they have been abused and made to feel like they are less than nothing; could you make it on your own if you had had your self esteem beaten down like that? I know that there are some programs which can help, but it almost feels like there needs to be more to get these women to safety.

  • Olivia


    April 23rd, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Frankly, I think that the criminal justice system does more to deflate many of these women than it does to offer them that shred of hope that they need and want. They see their abusers slapped on the wrist time and again while in the mean time they are getting their faces bashed on a daily basis. I can kind of see how they think that the law is not on their side. A little unfair, huh?

  • Naomi burts

    Naomi burts

    April 24th, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    The services that generally help these women are fraught with financial difficulty. They are left struggling and begging for money, while there always seems to be money for a new tank to send to Afghanistan. How about taking aim at the war going on right here right now against the females of this country?

  • Rebecca S

    Rebecca S

    April 28th, 2012 at 4:38 PM

    Hello I am requesting a support group that I can attend, I was married to an alcoholic/addict and have been torn down by his manipulative ways. He was verbally and physically abusive to me. I didn’t recognize the red flags when I met him. I felt sorry for him and wanted to help him out of trouble with his DUI’s only knowing he said he would change and it was a lie. I put my son through a lot by staying in that relationship way to long and recognizing now how awful I feel putting him through that. My ex-husband told my son lies to believe and told him things like do not tell your mother what I am doing, I will buy u things if u won’t tell. I have 2 young girls with him and was pretty much focusing on them and didn’t recognize what he was doing to me and my children’s life. My son was distant from me wouldn’t talk to me much, showed more respect to my ex-husband. I think day by day he realizes but still shuts down on me. I wish I could get him help, but he refuses. It has been so hard to prove to people what type of person my ex-husband is because he hides it very well and they don’t believe anything I say, so I don’t say anything anymore. I have been fighting for supervised visits for my daughters for about 6mos now and have been taking every dime I have and will continue to fight. They have to go to his house every other weekend and they are in fear of the things that he does to them. My daughters tell me he hits them in the mouth with a belt no marks though. They r scared of him of what he may do. He says he promises to them he won’t do it anymore, he also rides them on a scooter on the main highway bc he has no drivers license and when his girlfriend is gone he shows this behavior. So he tells the girls he is going to break up w his girlfriend bc he loves mommy so much. I believe there is physical and mental abuse going on and it is so hard to prove. My daughters counsellor reported to Cps and they refused to investigate bc no marks reported on the children. Also court recommended my ex-husband and I get referred to a psychologist bc they can’t determine bc they say he said she said. I am hoping this new psychologist will see right through him, he is very good at hiding it and manipulating the situation so no one believes he is doing anything wrong. I pray that God will handle this.. I am so concerned for their safety when they go to their father’s. I have so much stress and anxiety over this that isolates me from people. I am asking for some guidance of what to do.

    Thank u

  • Rebecca S

    Rebecca S

    May 30th, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    Hope to hear back from someone,

  • Arlene B

    Arlene B

    July 10th, 2012 at 8:07 AM

    Those that are seeking help can turn to your local hospital and ask for a group or individual counseling. Most city hospitals can point you to a free and safe program, if they don’t have one of their own. I wish you all the best.

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