Intimate Partner Violence| Volume 29, ISSUE 5, P440-446, September 2019

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Women's Participation in Research on Intimate Partner Violence: Findings on Recruitment, Retention, and Participants' Experiences



      Research on intimate partner violence (IPV) faces unique challenges to recruitment and retention. Little is known about successful strategies for recruiting and retaining in research women who have experienced IPV, and their experiences of research participation.


      This article presents findings on recruitment, retention, and research participation experiences from a longitudinal observational study of IPV among women receiving care through the Veterans Health Administration.


      Administrative tracking data were analyzed to identify strengths, challenges, and outcomes of multiple recruitment strategies for an observational study of women patients who had experienced past-year IPV. Qualitative interviews with a purposively selected subset of the larger sample were used to identify motivations for and experiences of study participation.


      Of the total sample (N = 169), 92.3% were recruited via direct outreach by the research team (63.3% via letter, 29.0% in person), compared with provider or patient self-referral (3.6% and 4.1%, respectively); 88% returned for a follow-up assessment. In qualitative interviews (n = 50), participants expressed a desire to help others as a primary motivation for study participation. Although some participants experienced emotional strain during or after study visits, they also expressed perceiving value in sharing their experiences, and several participants found the experience personally beneficial. Participants expressed that disclosure was facilitated by interviewers’ empathic and neutral stance, as well as the relative anonymity and time-limited nature of the research relationship.


      Direct outreach to women Veterans Health Administration patients to participate in research interviews about IPV experience was feasible and effective, and proved more fruitful for recruitment than reliance on provider or patient self-referral. Women who have experienced IPV may welcome opportunities to contribute to improvements in care through participation in interviews.
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      Melissa E. Dichter, PhD, MSW, is a Core Investigator, VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Assistant Professor in Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Pennsylvania. Her expertise is in intimate partner violence.


      Anneliese Sorrentino, MSS, MFT, is a Program Specialist at the VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) and a Staff Therapist at Council for Relationships in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her research and clinical interests include trauma, adaptation, and healing relationships.


      Terri N. Haywood, MS, MPH, is a Health Science Specialist and Project Manager at Atlanta VA Health Care System in Decatur, Georgia. Her research interests include women veterans, adverse childhood experiences, and perceived discrimination and health outcomes.


      Anaïs Tuepker, PhD, MPH, is a sociologist with the Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC) in Portland, Oregon. Her work examines interprofessional team dynamics in health care, social determinants of health, and improving care for marginalized veterans.


      Summer Newell, PhD, MPH, is a Research Associate at the Center to Improve Veteran Involvement in Care (CIVIC) in Portland, Oregon. Her research focuses on women recently released from the criminal justice system.


      Meagan Cusack, MSc, is a Program Specialist at the VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her research interests include homelessness, housing instability, and social determinants of health.


      Gala True, PhD, is an investigator with the South Central Mental Illness Research and Education Center at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System and Associate Professor of Community and Population Medicine at Louisiana State University School of Medicine.