Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a public health concern, which one in four women will experience over their lifetime. Women disproportionately experience poverty as well as IPV victimization. Women are at higher risk for poor health outcomes when experiencing the combination of IPV and poverty. Transportation is commonly overlooked in the literature though it has been identified as a barrier to accessing mental health services for this environmental justice population. Due to the disadvantages faced by survivors of IPV, empowerment is essential to creating lasting successful outcomes for those seeking Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) services. As such, this study utilized empowerment theory to qualitatively evaluate the experiences of transportation for IPV survivors using the TANF program.
Participants (N= 525) in this study were sent a mail-survey to evaluate one southern state’s TANF program. The mail survey contained approximately 60 questions regarding demographics, experiences with TANF, physical and mental health, childcare needs, and experience with IPV. Additionally, open ended questions were asked and related to self-sufficiency, gaining and maintaining employment, and views of the TANF program. The sample for this analysis was extracted from the full sample by identifying respondents that had included any type of IPV, which included thirty-six percent (n=189).
Directed content analysis was used to assess the open-ended survey questions. The open-ended survey questions examined were: In your opinion, what are the greatest barriers to self-sufficiency for you and your family? What makes it difficult to find or keep employment? Following the directed content analysis method, key concepts were identified prior to coding and were informed by previous research and empowerment theory.
Thirty-six percent of the sample reported ever experiencing violence from an intimate partner. Further, 27.9% reported being injured by a romantic partner and 16% identified IPV as a barrier to working. Twenty-nine percent reported experiencing IPV within the past year.
The age of participants ranged from 18-48, with a mean of 28 (SD=6.5). Sixty-two percent were African American, Hispanic, American Indian, or other races.
Viewed through empowerment theory, three themes were identified which describe the potential of transportation to empower IPV survivors on the TANF program. Themes included: 1) Transportation would increase control: quality, safe transportation access would increase self-sufficiency as it would reduce barriers to employment, TANF requirements, and childcare. 2) Transportation and upward mobility: education and job training could be increased by transportation equity. 3) Transportation and health: physical and mental health burdens, often prompted by IPV experiences, could be reduced with equitable transportation access.
This study identified the need for practitioners, transportation advocates, and policy makers to challenge systemic transportation inequity, which disproportionately affect low-income women of color. Practice implications include increased awareness for service providers to specifically address transportation barriers for clientele; potentially using therapeutic groups or ridesharing programs, both of which are empowerment tools. Research implications include studying areas wherein low-income women of color reside and work to promote more comprehensive policy addressing transportation inequity for this environmental justice population.