Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16020 Recovery: Resilience and Redemption In Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 3:00 PM
Penn Quarter B (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Kim Anderson, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO
Background and Purpose: This qualitative study aimed to elicit women's (N=37) perceptions of what helped them to recover from intimate partner violence. Prior research on domestic violence has thoroughly addressed its negative consequences; however, this line of inquiry may have obscured how one manages such challenges and consequently a more complete picture of recovery is missed. Information is lacking regarding recovery, in general, and personal transformation and transcendence in particular, for women who have survived IPV. Methods: This study set out to gather women's stories of recovery and used a narrative approach for collecting data as an element of the grounded theory method. The research questions included: 1) What do participants' narratives reveal about the process of recovery from IPV? 2) What common patterns or themes exist regarding how participants have “storied” their lives in regard to recovery from IPV? Participants were recruited through newspaper advertisements in a Midwestern rural community. Of the 61 respondents, 52 met the purposive sampling criteria and 37 agreed to participate in an in-depth interview. Participants (N=37) ranged in age from 22 to 64 years old (M=42.62) and the majority were European American (n=22). Participants reported abuse by either their husbands (n=33) or boyfriends (n=4). Characteristics of the battering experience revealed that 29 (78.38%) women had experienced violence in the relationship for five or more years (M=11.05). The range of years from the time the relationship had ended was 1 to 28 years (M=8.0). Qualitative data analysis was conducted using a constant comparative method based on transcriptions of semi-structured, in-depth interviews. A categorical-content approach was used as part of the grounded theory method as a means of attending to separate parts of the story within and between participants' narratives. Final categories represented theoretical saturation of key psychosocial patterns related to recovery. Results: The results include the following three-stage model of recovery from IPV: 1. Self-care: This initial stage addresses the after-effects upon leaving an abusive intimate partner. It involves the tasks of disclosing the abuse and establishing physical/psychological safety. 2. Self-transformation: The next stage is characterized by growth and transformation of self. The primary task at this stage is achieving self-acceptance including acknowledging one's limitations while recognizing one's power to create a positive identity. 3. Self-transcendence: The final stage addresses the individual's transcendence of her own suffering and using one's experiences and wisdom to give back to others who are facing adversity. This involves the task of establishing a renewed purpose and meaning in life including the belief that an individual's struggles have made one a better person than she might otherwise have been. Conclusions and Implications: This study's findings provide a conceptual model of recovery to better understand the stages and tasks women progress through to heal from IPV. Such knowledge encourages researchers and clinicians to get back in touch with the resourcefulness of survivors of violence and provides a background for studying additional aspects of individual recovery and redemption.