Conducting Clinically Based Intimate Partner Violence Research: Safety Protocol Recommendations

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Abstract

Background

Maintaining safety is of utmost importance during research involving participants who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV). Limited guidance on safety protocols to protect participants is available, particularly information related to technology-based approaches to informed consent, data collection, and contacting participants during the course of a study.

Purpose

The purpose of the article is to provide details on the safety protocol developed and utilized with women receiving care at an urban HIV clinic and who were taking part in an observational study of IPV, mental health symptoms, and substance abuse and their relationship to HIV treatment adherence. The protocol presents the technological strategies to promote safety and allow autonomy in participant decision-making throughout the research process, including Voice over Internet Protocol telephone numbers, and tablet-based eligibility screening and data collection. Protocols for management of participants at risk for suicide and/or intimate partner homicide that included automated high-risk messaging to participants and research staff and facilitated disclosure of risk to clinical staff based on participant preferences are discussed.

Discussion

Use of technology and partnership with clinic staff helped to provide an environment where research regarding IPV could be conducted without undue burden or risk to participants. Utilizing tablet-based survey administration provided multiple practical and safety benefits for participants. Most women who screened into high-risk categories for suicide or intimate partner homicide did not choose to have their results shared with their healthcare providers, indicating the importance of allowing participants control over information sharing whenever possible.

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