Abstract: I Thought It Was Normal: Perspectives of Black Nursing Students from High-Risk IPV Communities on Causes and Solutions to IPV in the Black Community (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

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I Thought It Was Normal: Perspectives of Black Nursing Students from High-Risk IPV Communities on Causes and Solutions to IPV in the Black Community

Sunday, January 15, 2023
Hospitality 2 - Room 444, 4th Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Noelle St. Vil, Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Mickey Sperlich, PhD, Assistant Professor, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Erin W. Bascug, MSW, MS, PhD Candidate, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY
Jessica Fitzpatick, PhD, Associate Professor, SUNY Buffalo State, Buffalo
Jennifer Elliott, BA, DV Advocate and Social Work Student, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY

Background and Purpose:

Black Americans are at high risk for intimate partner violence (IPV) but are less likely to utilize existing IPV services and supports. Research suggests systematic racialized oppression and socioeconomic factors as explanatory variables for the disproportionately high rates of IPV among Black Americans, and points to a need for culturally specific services to address IPV in Black communities. Despite research recommendations, many IPV services are not culturally specific.

In an effort toward developing more culturally responsive IPV solutions for the Black community, researchers set out to understand how residents of high-risk IPV communities explained the high rates of IPV in their communities, and what they thought possible solutions would entail.


Using semi-structured interviews, four focus groups ranging in size from 2–7 participants (n=22), were conducted with Black students enrolled in a Licensed Practitioner Nursing (LPN) program at a local community organization, located in a predominantly Black community, in Western New York. All participants resided in high-risk IPV zip codes. Three focus groups included women only, and one included only men. The decision to sample Black LPN students was based on convenience, as we aimed to include Black residents from high-risk IPV communities. Semi-structured interviews lasted between 90 and 120 minutes. Participants also completed a brief IPV survey and demographics questionnaire. Participants received $25 gift cards for their participation. Their verbatim responses were analyzed using qualitative inductive thematic analysis.


Most participants were women (n=20; 91%,) and heterosexual (n=20; 91%). Nineteen (86%) participants had either a high school diploma, GED, or some college at the time of the focus groups. Many participants (82%) reported an annual income of less than $20,000 per year (n=10; 45%) or $20,000–$29,000 (n=8; 36%). Eighteen participants (82%) reported they had children (ranging from one to four children). The average age of participants was 40 (SD=13.45). More than half of the participants (n=13; 59%) reported experiencing abuse and ten (45%) reported perpetrating abuse (some who indicated they perpetrated abuse also indicated that it was done in self-defense).

Participants identified five major causes of IPV in Black communities: (a) weakened family structure, (b) IPV is normalized (c) community lacks IPV knowledge, (d) mistrust of formal resources, and (e) mental health. They also identified 10 solutions to IPV in Black communities: (a) counseling, (b) peer support groups, (c) use of technology, (d) resources to create self-sufficiency, (e) education, (f) culturally specific resources, (g) reduce stigma, (h) public service announcements, (i) substance abuse treatment, and (j) IPV screenings.

Conclusions and Implications:

Participants in this study detail the mechanism and pathways by which they believe IPV is maintained and perpetuated in their communities. Their words demonstrate that our current system of response to IPV is largely failing to identify and support Black individuals who experience IPV. Their words also show us a path forward toward culturally responsive solutions.