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
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
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
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
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.
All female residents of a Midwestern state from March
2004 to March 2005.
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
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
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
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.
Several Likert-type scales were used.