Study Reveals Women Veterans' Experience with Research on Intimate Partner Violence
Intimate partner violence (IPV) – including psychological, physical, and/or sexual violence and abuse by a current or former intimate partner – is a sensitive topic associated with wide-ranging adverse impacts on health and well-being. Women Veterans face disproportionately high rates of lifetime IPV, making this an important population to include in IPV research. However, little is known about successful strategies for recruiting and retaining women who have experienced IPV in research, and their experiences of research participation. This study used data collected as part of a longitudinal non-intervention study on health, safety, empowerment, and engagement with IPV-related services among women VA patients with self-reported IPV in the 12 months prior to enrollment. A total of 169 women VA patients were enrolled and completed baseline assessments; 149 (88%) were retained for follow-up assessments at 6-9 months post-baseline. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with 50 of the participants and included inquiry into their experience of participating in the study, including what motivated them to participate and what it was like sharing their IPV experiences in the research context.
- Direct outreach to women VA patients to participate in research interviews about IPV experience was feasible and effective, and proved more fruitful than reliance on provider or patient self-referral. Of the total cohort (N=169), 92% were recruited via direct outreach by the research team (63% via letter, 29% in-person), compared to provider or patient self-referral (3.6% and 4.1%, respectively).
- While some women experienced emotional strain during or after study visits, they also expressed value in sharing their experiences, and several found the experience personally beneficial. Participants expressed that disclosure was facilitated by interviewers' empathic and neutral stance, as well as the relative anonymity and time-limited nature of the research relationship.
- Women Veterans expressed a desire to help others as a primary motivation for study participation.
- Interviewers and research staff working with individuals who have experienced in IPV must be well-trained and skilled in conducting this work in an empathetic, supportive, confidential, and non-judgmental manner. Given that discussing IPV experiences can prompt motivation for further help-seeking and may bring up difficult emotions, it also is important to provide research participants with information about accessing services and support.
- All participants had experienced IPV within the year prior to study enrollment; however, women experiencing severe levels of IPV may not have been able to participate in the study due to limitations imposed by the experience of abuse.
This study was funded by HSR&D (IIR 15-142). Dr. Dichter, and Mss. Sorrentino and Haywood are part of HSR&D's Center for Health Equity Research & Promotion (CHERP).
Dichter M, Sorrentino A, Haywood T, et al. Women’s Participation in Research on Intimate Partner Violence: Findings on Recruitment, Retention, and Participants’ Experiences. Women’s Health Issues. May 6, 2019; Epub ahead of print.