The aim of a five-year study about domestic violence is not only to identify more victims but also to determine whether pregnant women are more likely to admit to a computer that they’re victims of domestic violence.

The study is being funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health. According to researchers Linda Bullock and Phyllis W. Sharps, the hope is to “to identify pregnant abused women and help them move toward a better, sounder, safer future.” Previous research has shown that women who suffer abuse prior to pregnancy are more likely to be abused during pregnancy, and those abused during pregnancy have a higher risk of abuse in the early weeks after the baby is born.

“If you don’t address the violence, you’re not going to have positive pregnancy outcomes for babies and their moms,” Bullock says.

And, in terms of addressing the violence, Bullock and Sharps’ earlier research has also revealed that nurses who visit the women at home  “feel uncomfortable about asking about the abuse, and that fact may be the barrier between a woman getting help and considering leaving their abuser — or not.”

According to Bullock, “What we find is that when we’re using real, live home visitors, they’re very uncomfortable asking about abuse. There is a huge variety of educational levels among these folks. And many have been abused themselves.”

Oftentimes, the researchers say, the abuser is present during these home visits and monitoring what is being said.

The current study consists of 4,000 women from Baltimore as well as rural areas of Virginia and Missouri:

“[H]alf will be screened for abuse by the current method — being asked orally by a visiting nurse. The other half will be handed a mobile tablet (akin to an iPad or an Android hand-held computer) and earbuds by the visiting nurse, and then guided through a series of on-screen questions and prompts about intimate partner violence. Should the abuser enter the room, a ‘safety button’ prompts a cloaking video. Though it remains to be proven, Sharps and Bullock hypothesize that using mobile tablets will increase the number of women who identify themselves as victims of domestic abuse by as much as a third. And once they’re identified, women who are victims can be given appropriate interventions that range from the straightforward — having extra sets of house and car keys, a packed bag with several days’ supplies of clothes and toiletries, having a ‘safety plan’ to exit the residence quickly — to the more complex: protective order information, shelter locations and creating a repository for important paperwork, like Social Security cards and marriage and birth certificates.”

“What makes this new grant exciting is introducing mobile health technology into traditional prenatal home visits,” Sharps says. “Our ultimate aim is to improve maternal and infant health outcomes.”

Source: University of Virginia

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

Follow Counseling Today on Twitter.

Comments are closed.