Perceived Changes in Health and Safety Following Participation in a Health Care–Based Domestic Violence Program

Authors

  • Jeanne E. Hathaway MD, MPH,

    Corresponding author
      Jeanne E. Hathaway, MD, MPH, Harvard School of Public Health, Division of Public Health Practice, 677 Huntington Ave., Landmark Center, 3-East, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: jhathawa@hsph.harvard.edu
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    • Jeanne E. Hathaway, MD, MPH, is a Research Scientist in the Division of Public Health Practice at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.

  • Bonnie Zimmer LICSW,

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    • Bonnie Zimmer, LICSW, is the Director of the Hospitals Helping Abuse and Violence End Now (HAVEN) Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA.

  • Georgianna Willis PhD,

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    • Georgianna Willis, PhD, was a Senior Scientist at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Policy and Instructor of Health Policy at Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, when this study was conducted. She is currently a consultant in health services and evaluation research.

  • Jay G. Silverman PhD

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    • Jay G. Silverman, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Society, Human Development and Health and Director of Violence Prevention Programs in the Division of Public Health Practice at the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA.


Jeanne E. Hathaway, MD, MPH, Harvard School of Public Health, Division of Public Health Practice, 677 Huntington Ave., Landmark Center, 3-East, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: jhathawa@hsph.harvard.edu

Abstract

This descriptive study explores perceived changes in health and safety and the potential process by which these changes occur. Forty-nine women experiencing intimate partner abuse participated in a health care–based domestic violence (DV) advocacy program for 6 months or more. An analysis of structured interviews in English and Spanish found that the majority of participants perceived positive changes in their personal safety and emotional health because of their involvement in the program. Some participants also perceived improvements in their physical health, unhealthy coping behaviors (e.g., overeating and smoking), and health care following program involvement. Participants' responses suggest a process of change whereby DV advocacy services first contribute to improved safety and emotional health, which then facilitates behavioral changes. Behavioral changes may subsequently contribute to improvements in physical health, which may also benefit emotional health. Longitudinal evaluations are needed to evaluate the impact of DV advocacy and other interventions for partner abuse on women's health and safety over time.

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