Awarded New Investigator Grant


Intimate partner violence is a serious public health concern for which effective interventions are urgently needed. One approach for prevention efforts is to focus on safety behaviors that women in abusive relationships can adopt, such as going into shelter and obtaining protective orders, to help keep them safer and facilitate ending abuse. The findings from the proposed qualitative study will provide insight into the barriers and facilitators that women experience to practicing safety behaviors, and help victim services providers tailor safety planning recommendations to accommodate women’s particular needs and circumstances. Objectives: This research will address four main questions: (1) what safety behaviors do women in abusive relationships know about and practice, and how effective do they believe them to be? (2) What are the issues and circumstances that influence women’s decisions to practice particular safety strategies? (3) What did women think about a risk assessment and safety planning intervention they received? (4) What are the critical elements of a customizable safety planning tool designed for use by professionals who serve IPV victims? Study Design: The proposed study will employ two different qualitative methodologies: interviews and focus groups. 40 African American victims of intimate partner violence who received the Danger Assessment intervention will be purposively selected and interviewed once using an in depth semistructured interview format. The 2 focus groups, comprising purposively selected local and regional victim services providers will each be convened once. Both the interviews and focus groups will be recorded, and the resulting transcripts will be coded and analyzed using the grounded theory approach to identify salient themes. The qualitative interview findings will be combined with quantitative data collected from the same participants through the Danger Assessment project, to identify and analyze patterns. Setting: Baltimore, MD, a Northeastern coastal U.S. city. Participants: Interview participants: 40 African American victims of intimate partner violence, aged 18 54, who received the Danger Assessment intervention and participated in previous quantitative data collection. Focus group participants: 2 groups of 8 12 participants each. One group comprises local victim services providers who implemented the intervention; the other is drawn from a regional coalition of domestic violence victim services providers, whose members include health care providers, law enforcement, and community based advocates. Interventions: The proposed qualitative study will build on quantitative data from a currently funded CDC/NCIPC intervention, “Evaluation of a Danger Assessment and Safety Education Intervention for Victims of Intimate Partner Violence” (the DA project). The DA project is a collaboration between Johns Hopkins and the House of Ruth, a community based shelter and service provider for victims of domestic violence. It is evaluating an intervention that assesses and communicates the level of danger faced by a woman in an abusive relationship, and recommends adopting appropriate safety behaviors. The intervention is administered by the House of Ruth’s legal clinic to a population of predominantly lower income urban African American women seeking temporary protective orders against their abusive partners. The DA project’s overall goal is to ascertain whether women who receive the intervention perceive their risk more accurately, adopt more safety behaviors, and are safer at follow-up than those in the comparison group. Outcome Measures: This qualitative study will use a grounded theory approach. The goal of this approach is to elicit information from participants to help build theory about issues and circumstances that influence the practice of safety behaviors by IPV victims, and create a customizable safety planning tool that can be used by victims services providers. Thus, the outcomes are not determined a priori, but will reflect analysis of the responses to the main research questions outlined in the Objectives: safety behaviors practiced by women in abusive relationships and women’s beliefs about their effectiveness; the issues and circumstances that influence women’s decisions to practice particular safety strategies; women’s thoughts about the intervention they received; and a customizable safety planning tool designed for use by professionals who serve IPV victims.