Exploring Women's Histories of Survival of Violence and Victimization in a Midwestern State, 2004-2005 (ICPSR 4579)
This study explored the histories of physical and sexual victimization reported by incarcerated and non-incarcerated women. It sought to identify the survival strategies women activated at various points in their life span. In Phase One, 424 women were interviewed from March 2004 to March 2005 on a variety of topics covering victimization and disclosure experiences and risk and protective factors. Information from those interviews is contained in Part 1, Phase One, Interview Data. In Phase Two, 17 women from the prison and/or the community who had participated in the Phase One interviews were again interviewed in an effort to provide more depth about their experiences of victimization and of the resources, social services, and supports they may have received or not, subsequent to the victimization(s). Information from these qualitative follow-up interviews is contained in Parts 2-18. Variables cover topics such as personal attitudes, health and well-being, relationships with family and friends, coping with stress, emotional health, alcohol and drug use, childhood maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual experiences, services and resources received, traumatic experiences, suicide, resource generating strategies, legal issues, and demographics.
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Postmus, Judy, and Margaret Severson. EXPLORING WOMEN'S HISTORIES OF SURVIVAL OF VIOLENCE AND VICTIMIZATION IN A MIDWESTERN STATE, 2004-2005. ICPSR04579-v1. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas [producer], 2005. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2008-03-26. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04579.v1
Persistent URL: http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR04579.v1
This study was funded by:
- United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (2003-IJ-CX-1037)
Scope of Study
Subject Terms: abuse, alcohol consumption, battered women, child abuse, coping, demographic characteristics, domestic violence, drug use, emotional abuse, family relations, health, income, intimate partner violence, legal history, mental health, sexual abuse, sexual assault, sexual behavior, social services, suicide, violence against women
Geographic Coverage: United States
The focus of the study was to explore certain similarities and differences in life experiences as they occurred between and within several groups of women. Those groups included women who reported having been victims of personal violence and who were incarcerated at the time of the study, women living in the community and who received services for their victimization experiences sometime in the 12 months prior to the initiation of data collection, and women who may or may not have been victimized and who had not received services in the 12 months prior to the initiation of the interview. The two primary areas of inquiry explored in this research were (1) women's access and opportunities for various types of social services and (2) their current personal status on various measures of health, mental health, substance use, incarceration, and suicidality.
The study was conducted in two phases. In Phase One, 424 women were interviewed on a variety of topics covering victimization and disclosure experiences and risk and protective factors.
The overall goal of this research was to compare the life experiences of female victims of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and youth maltreatment who are living in disparate settings: the state's Women's Correctional Facility (WCF) and in urban and rural communities within the state. The specific objectives of the research were: (1) To determine whether victimized women residing the in the community (a) were offered and (b) participated in, one or more social service and social support interventions that may have had an impact on their health, mental health, alcohol or illegal substance use, and incarceration status. Specific attention was directed toward exploring the type and range of involvement of those systems that may have been available to provide assistance to abused and injured women at earlier points in their lives. These systems include schools, sexual assault/domestic violence programs, law enforcement, medical providers, mental health providers, agencies responsible for ensuring the protection and safety of children, religious and faith-based groups, and family or friends. (2) To determine the rate of co-occurrence of sexual assault with intimate partner violence and other forms of familial abuse and youth maltreatment among and between incarcerated and non-incarcerated women. (3) To suggest implications for improving policy and practice strategies within the criminal justice system, for both incarcerated and never-incarcerated victims of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and youth maltreatment.
The essential goal of the study was to examine the consequences, (defined as the health, mental health, substance use, incarceration, and suicidality) of intimate partner violence, sexual violence, and youth maltreatment and victimization, in order to identify at-risk populations, modifiable risk and essential mediating factors, and optimal times for intervention.
The study was conducted in two phases. In Phase One, 424 women were interviewed from March 2004 to March 2005 on a variety of topics covering victimization and disclosure experiences and risk and protective factors. All women recruited from the Women's Correctional Facility (WCF) and the community venues were asked to participate in face-to-face interviews. The total sample included 424 women: 158 women incarcerated in the correctional facility, 157 women who had been recipients of services for intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault within the 12 months prior to the research interview, and 109 women from the community at large who had not received services in the prior 12 months.
The face-to-face interviews of the women incarcerated in the correctional facility were conducted on the prison grounds at regular intervals each month over a 12-month period. Every interview took place in a private office or meeting room. Interviewing staff were provided with a tour of the women's correctional facility and training on safety and security issues prior to the data collection.
For women in the community, a similar data collection protocol was implemented. Face-to-face interviews were conducted in a mutually agreed upon location that was determined prior to each actual meeting. The criteria for identifying a safe place to meet included the proximity of the location to the participant, the level of comfort in discussing private concerns, and the safety of the participant and the researcher. Locations included offices within agencies or domestic violence shelters, local restaurants, and local public libraries. Permission from the manager of the selected site was secured prior to interviewing. Interviews were not held in the homes of any of the participants in an effort to protect the safety of the participants as well as the researcher. These community interviews were conducted throughout a 12-month period.
Experienced translators translated the recruitment flyers and the survey instrument into Spanish, ensuring that the language of the survey instrument was culturally appropriate and linguistically accurate. Several of the research interviewers were bilingual, and one of the translators reviewed and field tested the final Spanish version of the survey to double check its conformity to the English version.
In Phase Two, if a person met the qualifying criteria, she was asked if she would be interested in participating in an interview with a researcher, which was intended to go into more depth about her experiences of victimization and about the resources, social services and supports she may have or have not received subsequent to the victimization(s). Ten women from the prison and seven women who resided and/or received services in one of the urban communities agreed to participate in another face-to-face interview. In order to accurately capture the narrative data, after providing information about the nature of this in-depth interview, every respondent gave her informed consent for both her participation and the tape recording of the interview. The taped interviews were later transcribed using the appropriate privacy safeguards and the data were entered into a computer database.
Participants were interviewed in-depth on several topics related to the quantitative portion of this research (Phase One), in interviews consisting of open-ended questions and probes. Additionally, the respondents were asked about their disclosure experiences, including to whom, when, and how they disclosed their victimization experiences. The face-to-face interviews of women residing in the WCF took place in a private room provided by the facility. For women in the community, face-to-face interviews were conducted in a mutually agreed upon location determined prior to the actual meeting.
One of the goals of this research endeavor was to obtain an ethnically/culturally diverse sample. Special efforts were made to achieve this goal. Two of the communities from which sampling occurred had significant ethnic minority populations, including persons of the African American and Hispanic heritage.
For Phase One (Part 1), the research sample was drawn from five different communities in one Midwestern state. Three urban communities, one rural community, and the only correctional facility for women in the state were selected in an attempt to secure a racially, ethnically, and geographically diverse sample of women aged 18 and older. Community referrals were generated through recruitment of women seeking assistance from sexual assault and domestic violence programs and from the community at large. The goal was to recruit at least 200 women from the Women's Correctional Facility (WCF), at least 200 women from domestic violence and sexual assault service providers in the four communities, and at least 100 women from the general population of all four communities. In the end, the final sample fell slightly short of this goal, though achieved the proportionality desired with 158 women recruited from the prison, 157 from domestic violence and sexual assault programs, and 109 from the four communities at large.
For Phase Two (Parts 2-18), time constraints and an assessment by the principal investigators that a certain data saturation level had been reached, once the 17 participants were identified and interviewed, resulted in the ceasing of recruitment for additional Phase Two interviews.
In Part 1, Phase One, Interview Data, respondents were read a series of statements regarding their personal attitudes and traits and asked to rate how strongly they agreed with each statement. For example, respondents were asked how strongly they agreed with such statements as, "It is difficult for me to make new friends," "I like to cook," or "Failure just makes me try harder."
Respondents were also asked questions regarding their general health and whether their health limited them in doing vigorous activities, climbing one flight of stairs, or walking several blocks. Additionally, respondents were asked if their physical or emotional health affected daily activities. The women were also asked how often, during the past week, they felt such things as, "full of pep," "calm and peaceful," or "tired." Respondents were also asked if they had any chronic medical conditions, and if so, what these conditions were.
Furthermore, the women were asked how strongly they agreed with a series of statements regarding family and friends. Statements included such items as, "My friends respect me," "I am really admired by my family," and "I feel valued by other people."
Next, respondents were asked about ways they coped with stress. They were read a series of statements and asked how often they performed each statement. Statements included such things as, "I've been turning to work or other activities to take my mind off things," "I've been criticizing myself," and "I've been expressing my negative feelings."
Respondents were read statements regarding their emotional health and asked how often the statement applied to them during the past week. Statements included such items as, "I was bothered by things that usually don't bother me," "I felt fearful," and "I felt that people disliked me."
The women were also asked questions regarding their use of alcohol and other drugs.
Respondents were asked if they had experienced any abuse or maltreatment as a child such as being hit by a parent, being touched sexually without giving consent, or engaging in intercourse without giving consent. For each experience, respondents were asked who did the act, how often it happened, how old they were the first time it happened, whether they told anyone, and if so, who they told, and what happened after they told someone.
The women were also read a series of behaviors that women have reported have been used by their intimate partners and asked to estimate how often each happened to them. Statements included such items as the intimate partner "called you a name and/or criticized you," "Put down your family or friends," "Slapped, hit, or punched you," and "Choked or strangled you." Respondents were asked how often they experienced such things as "physical pain lasting more than an hour" or "a fractured or broken bone" as a result of the physical or emotional behavior of their intimate partner. They were also asked if they told anyone, and if so, who they told and what happened after they were told.
The women were also asked a series of questions regarding whether they had sexual experiences. Questions included, "Had sexual intercourse when you both wanted to?", "Found out that someone had obtained sexual intercourse with you by saying things the person didn't really mean?", or "Have you ever been raped?". This was followed by how often the women experienced such things as "physical pain lasting more than an hour" or "a fractured or broken bone" as a result of their sexual experiences. They were also asked if they told anyone and, if so, who they told and what happened after they were told.
Respondents were also read a list of services or resources they may have received in the past for abuse experiences they had as an adult or child. They were asked whether they had received such a service, and if so, how helpful the service was. Included were such services as "emotional support from friends or family," "visit to a medical provider," "educational support," or "Child Protective Services." They were also read a series of statements related to possible barriers or challenges that prevented them from getting help for their abuse experiences. They were asked whether each statement was true. Examples included "My health insurance would not cover services," "I was concerned about how much money it would cost," and "I thought it would take too much time or be inconvenient."
The women were also asked about other traumatic experiences they may have had such as a life-threatening illness, being present when another person was killed, seriously injured, or sexually or physically abused, or being involved in a natural disaster.
Respondents were also asked a series of questions regarding suicide including whether they ever thought about committing suicide, whether they ever made a plan for committing suicide, and whether they had ever attempted suicide.
Respondents were asked how often they engaged in a series of activities in order to generate income. This included such things as working full-time, selling recyclable items, writing bad checks, or pawning personal or family items.
Next, the women were asked whether they had ever been arrested and, if so, for what.
Lastly, respondents were asked a series of demographic questions including year of birth, racial or ethnic group, number of children, education, living arrangements, income, whether they had ever applied for or received welfare, home ownership, community description, who lived in their home for most of their childhood, their family's economic situation while they were growing up, how they found out about the study, and whether they had received domestic violence or sexual assault services in the last 12 months.
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Original ICPSR Release: 2008-03-26
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