Behavioral Health, Mental Health, Substance Abuse
Couples’ Shared Risk Factors of Intimate Partner Violence and Sexual Health Outcomes: Abused Women’s Perspectives
(School of Public Health (UMD) Family Science Doctoral Student)
Objective: The objective of this study was to extend our understanding of couple-based risk factors and the relational and social contexts that contribute to increasing women’s risk for intimate partner violence (IPV) and STI/HIV infection in steady partnerships. Approach: We conducted in-depth interviews with 11 women seeking services at a domestic violence agency in upstate New York. Participants reported a mean age of 35 and 75% identified as an ethnic minority. Women provided their perspectives on the shared risk factors that increase their vulnerabilities for IPV & STI/HIV infection which were coded and analyzed using a qualitative approach. Findings: We adapted Bartholomew & Cobb’s dyadic model of IPV to present data on relationship dynamics and shared risk factors of IPV and STIs/HIV infection among couples. The model highlights that the interactions between partners’ backgrounds/dispositions, the relationship context, the situational context, and societal contexts enhance women’s vulnerability for IPV and HIV infection. This model assumes a liner relationship where background characteristics of each partner inform relationship dynamics, which then interact with situational contexts to establish a pattern of IPV that is framed by the societal context women live in. Conclusions: This study adds to the literature by exploring the relational and situational contexts of IPV and HIV risk behavior among couples with the goal of informing the development of an integrated IPV-HIV couple-based risk reduction intervention. Using a couple-based approach is advantageous because it acknowledges relationship and situational contexts such as trust, power imbalances, and sexual coercion can enhance the risk for STI and HIV acquisition. Public Health Significance: Women account for 19% of new HIV infections in the United States (US) and 87% of these infections have been attributed to heterosexual contact. HIV infections affect Black women 4 times more when compared to Latina women or White women in the US Although the relationship between IPV and STI/HIV has been well established, our understanding of relationship dynamics and shared risk factors of IPV and STI/HIV infection is still evolving. Knowledge of dyadic factors and their impact on women is critical to reducing HIV-related gender and racial disparities in the US.