Supporting Rural Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence

Developing a new model for improving the health and safety of survivors of intimate partner violence in rural Wisconsin

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 Beyer, PhD, 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 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, for an estimate of over 42 million female victims of IPV currently living in the U.S., including 714,000 Wisconsin victims.

Rural and farm women suffering from IPV often face unique challenges associated with the characteristics of rural environments, including geographic and social isolation, limited resource access, and economic dependence.

The goal of this project is to improve health and safety among Wisconsin rural women who are IPV survivors by building upon an existing social network of Wisconsin rural women to develop and pilot targeted programming and social support, strengthen the existing social network of Wisconsin rural women to support IPV survivors, and deepen or expand partnerships to increase the potential for long-term sustainability and expansion.

Community partners:
Harbor House Domestic Abuse Programs; Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection; Farm & Rural Services

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

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Developed a new project model based on a combination of academic literature and community experience, developing a program called Gathering Circle

• Identified and trained new individuals and organizations to support the project, reaching over 1,200 individuals with IPV-related messages and resources, and conducting a facilitator training in an underserved area to expand the network

• Conducted baseline interviews and post-intervention surveys with survivors of IPV engaged in the Gathering Circle programming, documenting improved levels of empowerment and social support and reduced self-silencing (a measure of women's depression) following participation

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