Results of a Johns Hopkins School of Nursing-led study on intimate partner violence show that pregnant victims saw a significant reduction in exposure to such acts after participating in the Domestic Violence Enhanced Home Visitation Program (DOVE). The brochure-based empowerment intervention was developed by Phyllis Sharps, PhD, RN, FAAN, associate dean for community programs and initiatives, with researchers from the University of Virginia.
The study was conducted among 239 pregnant women 14 or older, at less than 32 weeks gestation, and enrolled in a perinatal home visitation program. During the trial, all received the standard protocol—four to six visits with a nurse or community health worker during pregnancy and six to 12 visits up to two years postpartum—and about half also received the DOVE intervention.
In the U.S., about 4 percent of women experience IPV during pregnancy, but that number significantly increases to nearly 30 percent among low-income, single women.
Through DOVE, women work with a nurse or community health worker to discuss the cycle of violence, take the Danger Assessment, which helps weigh their risk of domestic homicide, and review safety planning information. As a result, women in the DOVE intervention group experienced an average of 20 to 40 fewer instances of violence compared with non-participants. Some of the women felt empowered to leave their abusers, and those who stayed in their relationships noted experiencing significantly less violence and better ability to cope.
With funding from the National Institutes of Health, the study was first tested in Missouri, Virginia, and Baltimore City, and has already been adopted in various Missouri health departments. The Maryland Domestic Violence Fatality Review Committee is recommending implementation with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and DOVE has been integrated nationally into the Parents As Teachers curriculum.
“Domestic violence screening among pregnant women is not routine, and yet the adverse effects on mother and baby tell us more needs to be done,” insists Sharps. “Babies of mothers who experience violence are more likely to be born premature, small in gestational size, and suffer cognitively and emotionally as they grow. This is not something we can overlook.”
Publication: Journal of Women’s Health