A description of employees' experiences working with rural programs for intimate partner violence
Larkin, Julie Guthrie
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Intimate partner violence (IPV), also known as domestic violence, is a problem that will affect over 25-35% of all women in their lifetime. People exposed to IPV are likely to sustain injury or develop serious long lasting mental or physical health problems. Rural women face specific issues including limited access to resources and a rural culture that may create difficulty for either leaving the abusive relationship or reducing the violence they face. Improved understanding of rural women's experiences will help health care providers increase the likelihood that these women will obtain the help and services they need. The purpose of this study was to explore: a) the experience of employees who work in rural programs supporting survivors of IPV and b) the employees' perspectives of rural women's experience of IPV. In this qualitative pilot study Giorgi's phenomenological research approach was used to conduct and analyze four face to face interviews. Major themes that emerged from the analysis included: a) the characteristics of the work; b) addressing IPV; c) the advocate's experience; and d) suggestions for change. Each of these themes contained sub-themes that more fully described the employees' experiences and perspectives of rural women's experience of IPV. Prominent sub-themes included the effects of: a) limited resources on the ability to address IPV survivors' needs; b) close-knit, geographically isolated rural communities on confidentiality and beliefs about IPV; c) the legal system on a survivor's ability to leave her partner; and d) working with this population on the employees' professional and personal lives. These results add to the body of knowledge about IPV. Previously unidentified areas of concern related to IPV in rural settings were revealed. Implications for nursing research, policy, practice, and education are discussed.