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Violence against women and their children affects everybody. It impacts on the health, wellbeing and safety of a significant proportion of Australians throughout all states and territories and places an enormous burden on the nation’s economy across family and community services, health and hospitals, income-support and criminal justice systems.

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ANROWS was established by the Commonwealth and all state and territory governments of Australia to produce, disseminate and assist in applying evidence for policy and practice addressing violence against women and their children.

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To support the take-up of evidence, ANROWS offers a range of resources developed from research to support practitioners and policy-makers in delivering evidence-based interventions.


EXTERNALLY FUNDED RESEARCH PROJECTS

The earliest warning signs of intimate partner abuse

Background

Women’s exposure to intimate partner abuse (IPA) has not been reduced in the last decade even with increased funding and national awareness programs. Due to the nature of IPA and its effects on a woman’s internal and external resources over time, the longer she is living within an abusive relationship, the harder it becomes for her to escape. However, differentiating between relationships with abusive behaviours and those with non-abusive behaviours is a complex process.

Identifying the earliest warning signs (EWS) is critical to reducing women’s exposure to IPA. These EWS are a constellation of often subtle controlling actions that, observed together, may be able to help women recognise abuse in their relationships.

Aim

The aim of this research project is to identify EWS of IPA in heterosexual relationships, and to develop, implement and evaluate education materials based on the findings.

Methods

This study involves a qualitative phenomenological exploration and the evaluation of a primary prevention program.
In phase one of the project, in-depth interviews will be conducted with between 10 and 15 women with lived experience of IPA. The results of the interviews will inform the development, implementation and evaluation of education materials in phase two of the project.

Listening to the voices of survivors will empower the participants and ensure the language connects with, and gives meaning to, other women.

Significance

Rather than exploring the risk factors, what happens inside these relationships or the impact of exposure, this research will investigate the time before abusive behaviours become entrenched – the earliest warning signs that indicate that a relationship is becoming abusive. Despite decades of research evidence, it would appear that women whose relationships exhibit early controlling behaviours often don’t recognise them as signals of abuse. The expectation of this program of research is that clarifying and sharing the subtle abuse behaviours that constitute the earliest warning signs of IPA will help to prevent future development of IPA in relationships.

Funding Body

Self-funded

Funding Budget

$5,000

Project start date

July 2019

Expected completion date

March 2023
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