A Social Network Approach to Rural Intimate Partner Violence

Improving health and safety among survivors of intimate partner violence in rural Wisconsin communities

Full Project Name:A Social Network Approach for Health and Safety Among Rural Intimate Partner Violence SurvivorsPrimary Community Organization:Wisconsin Rural Women's Initiative, Inc.Primary Academic Partner:Kirsten M. Beyer, PhD, MPH, Institute for Health and EquityAward Amount:199,999
Award Date
January2013
Project Duration:24 months

Project Description Narrative:


Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant public health problem affecting women across the lifespan and increasing the risk for a number of adverse health outcomes, including depression and adverse birth outcomes. Nearly one-third of American and Wisconsin women have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. This means that nearly 714,000 women in Wisconsin have been victims of IPV.

Women in rural or farm settings face unique challenges when suffering from IPV, including geographic and social isolation, lack of privacy, limited resource access, and economic dependence. Recent research has indicated that social networks are a key point of intervention for IPV survivors, and a mechanism by which their health and safety can be improved. Social support is known to have significant benefits for women who are abused, including assisting them in safely separating from violent relationships and reducing the health impacts of violence.

Through this award, project partners will build upon an existing social network of rural Wisconsin women and target programming designed to support women's wellness and self-care.

Additional community partners:
Harbor House Domestic Abuse Program; Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection - Farm & Rural Services

Additional MCW academic partner:
Amy Kistner, MS, LPC, Family and Community Medicine; Marie Wolff, PhD, Family and Community Medicine

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Identified new partners to create a collaborative network of engaged individuals and organizations to expand and develop the project

• Identified and trained individuals and organizations to share IPV-related messages and resources through the Wisconsin Rural Women's Initiative newsletters

• Developed a Gathering Circle program to engage women who are survivors of IPV, recruiting 18 participants for an initial event and training facilitators to work in underserved areas of the state

• Evaluated the impact of participation in the programming through baseline interviews and post-intervention surveys. Results indicated improved levels of empowerment and social support and reduced self-silencing following participation

• Created resources for training and hosting Gathering Circles programming and made them available via Wisconsin Rural Women's Initiative events

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