Research or Intervention or Both? Women’s Changes After Participation in a Longitudinal Study About Intimate Partner Violence

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Abstract

Introduction: The tensions between risk and benefit in research are particularly evident in studies about intimate partner violence. Recalling and relating traumatic experiences may deepen posttraumatic stress or relieve the burden of terrible events long borne in secret. In this article, we examine the effects of study participation in a longitudinal investigation of intimate partner violence using both qualitative and quantitative data. Method: Researchers enrolled 200 women in moderately violent intimate relationships and asked them to report about their relationships every day for 12 weeks. Daily, participants telephoned an automated survey and responded to 34 survey questions. They also completed baseline and end-of-study surveys and maintained telephone contact with 1 researcher weekly. Forty-2 participants completed qualitative end-of-study interviews to describe their relationships and their experiences in the study. Results: Over 12 weeks, participants showed improvements in coping strategies, hope, and mental health, and increased readiness to leave their partners. In qualitative interviews, women reported gaining insight, feeling better emotionally, making behavioral changes, finding comfort in daily surveys, learning resources for help, and taking action to improve their lives. Fourteen percent left their partners by end-of-study; 35% sought counseling. Discussion: The study’s daily survey invited the participant to become more reflective about her relationship, which changed how she saw herself and her situation. The study methods also included weekly conversations with a compassionate researcher, allowing women to tell their stories. These 2 strategies may be incorporated into brief interventions for intimate partner violence in primary care settings.

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