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Internet-based Intervention to Improve Mental Health Outcomes for Abused Women

Meet the Investigators

Project Description

The study proposes to prevent women’s exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) and reduce the negative mental health outcomes strongly associated with IPV, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse and suicidality. Using an experimental design, the interdisciplinary team will test the effectiveness of an interactive internet based safety decision aid on reducing abused women’s decisional conflict and increasing safety-seeking behaviors, thus preventing exposure to repeat violence and improving mental health. To our knowledge, there have been no experimental studies that have evaluated safety planning effectiveness or use of a safety decision aid to address this significant health priority for women. Addressing this paucity of research is important because the stakes are high for women faced with safety decisions and planning for themselves and families. Relatively few women have the opportunity to assess their own danger level or systematically examine how they weigh the competing safety preferences under consideration (e.g., having adequate resources, such as housing, employment and childcare as well as keeping her children safe). Women who decide to end an abusive relationship are at increased risk of lethal violence by the abusive ex-partner following the estrangement. Because of the danger of leaving or staying in an abusive relationship, it is critical that women gain understanding of their own danger level and fully explore the complex safety preferences that influence their decision before taking action. This interactive internet-based safety decision aid will give women a much-needed opportunity to prioritize and plan for safety for themselves and their families. In the future, this internet-based safety decision aid should provide a cost-effective, evidence-based safety- planning tool to be translated into practice by multiple disciplines, including mental health care professionals and advocates who work with victims of IPV.

Public Health Relevance

This study aims to build the evidence necessary to advance violence prevention and mental health service programs and policies to support victims of domestic violence and their families.