Method: Participants (N = 283; ages 18-24, 44% White, 33% Black, 10% Latina, 10% biracial, 3% Asian) who had experienced IPV were recruited from a university (n = 90), a two-year college (n = 96) and community sites serving low-income young women (n = 97). We used the life history calendar to assess participants’ experiences with physical and sexual IPV victimization, and related disclosure, across each of their abusive relationships (up to four relationships, beginning with their first; 415 total). We used the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale to assess physical IPV, and six items adapted from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey to assess sexual IPV (rape and attempted rape). We used Chi-square to explore disclosure patterns by setting and relationship number; we used multilevel modeling (MLM) to examine socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, relationship characteristics (e.g., relationship length), setting, IPV severity, fear, and type of IPV (physical vs. sexual vs. both) on the odds of any disclosure during the first abusive relationship and across abusive relationships.
Results: Overall, participants were more likely to disclose to informal supports than formal providers, and they disclosed physical IPV more often than sexual IPV. Community participants reported significantly higher rates of physical IPV disclosure, compared to university and two-year college participants; there were no differences in disclosure by relationship number. MLM results indicated that community setting and fear were predictors of increased odds of disclosure during the first abusive relationship, while fear, sexual IPV severity and IPV type (physical or both vs. sexual) were predictors of increased odds of disclosure across abusive relationships.
Conclusions: In order to reduce IPV among young people, we must commit to prevention and intervention approaches that reach everyone, not just those in high school or four-year universities and colleges. To promote disclosure of IPV and facilitate survivors’ access to the support and resources they need, it is critical that we design programs that both help them label their IPV experiences—especially sexual IPV—as abusive, and reduce the shame and stigma they feel.