According to the World Health Organization, among women who have ever had an intimate partner, 30% have been violently victimized by their partners, underscoring critical human rights violations and social justice needs for countless women and their children. Globally, social workers are tasked with responding to intimate partner violence (IPV) and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of survivors and their children. Despite a growing body of research regarding how best to address IPV, many social workers lack evidence-based guidance to inform practice. Therefore, our team conducted a scoping-review of systematic reviews and meta-analyses of IPV interventions. We aimed to answer these research questions: (1) what is the evidence regarding the effectiveness of interventions for IPV, and (2) how can such evidence inform social work practice?
With guidance from university librarians, established protocols (e.g., Cochrane), and pre-specified inclusion criteria, we searched 11 electronic databases using 22 search terms for systematic reviews and meta-analyzes focused on interventions for IPV survivors. Database searches yielded 6,412 potential articles. Following systematic review of titles, abstracts, and full-texts, 31 articles met inclusion criteria. We then systematically extracted information from each article. Two team members independently completed each step to ensure robust findings.
The 31 meta-analysis and review articles showed three areas in which the evidence indicates that IPV interventions may have strong promise with survivors: (a) advocacy and safety services, (b) cognitive-behavioral therapy for trauma, and (c), services for IPV-exposed children and IPV survivors’ parenting. Three interventions, though not fully researched, may be potentially promising for IPV survivors: (a) civil legal aid, (b) economic empowerment, and (c), housing services. One intervention strategy, IPV risk assessment, may hold promise for IPV perpetration and recidivism. Results also determined that batterers’ intervention programs (BIP’s) show little change in IPV perpetration and recidivism. Overall, findings showed that this body of research is comprised of relatively few rigorous studies, studies that are heterogeneous in both their foci and intervention strategies, and little study replication by new teams of researchers. Therefore, conclusions about promising areas of IPV intervention should be interpreted with caution.
Conclusions & Implications
This scoping-review determined that there are a number of IPV intervention areas with strong potential to help IPV survivors with their safety, emotional health, parenting, and their children’s needs. Accordingly, this presentation will offer specific and practical recommendations, grounded in evidence and research, to inform social work practice with IPV survivors and their children. Nonetheless, results showed that social work practitioners and researchers may be challenged by the diverse, limited, and uneven evidence. Likewise, the review showed that while one intervention approach (i.e., risk assessment) may hold promise for IPV perpetration and recidivism, the predominant intervention response to IPV perpetration (i.e., BIP’s) tends to show disappointing results. Thus, this presentation will also offer recommendations to strengthen IPV intervention research, particularly regarding perpetration interventions These findings are likely to be of high interest to all SSWR attendees, and particularly well suited for the “Violence Against Women and Children”conference cluster.