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Increasing the Safety-Promoting Behaviors of Abused Women

In this study, a telephone intervention for victims of intimate-partner violence showed efficacy for 18 months.

McFarlane, Judith, DrPH, RN, FAAN; Malecha, Ann, PhD, RN; Gist, Julia, PhD, RN; Watson, Kathy, MS; Batten, Elizabeth, BA; Hall, Iva, PhD, RN; Smith, Sheila, PhD, RN, C

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: March 2004 - Volume 104 - Issue 3 - p 40-50

OVERVIEW Despite an epidemic of intimate-partner violence against women, and general agreement that women should be screened for it, few assessment and intervention protocols have been evaluated in controlled studies. To test a telephone intervention intended to increase the “safety-promoting behavior” of abused women, 75 women received six telephone calls over a period of eight weeks in which safety-promoting behaviors were discussed. A control group of 75 women received usual care. Women in both groups received follow-up calls to assess safety-promoting behaviors at three, six, 12, and 18 months after intake. Analysis showed that the women in the intervention group practiced significantly (P < 0.01) more safety-promoting behaviors than women in the control group at each assessment. On average, women in the intervention group practiced almost two more safety-promoting behaviors than they had at time of intake and nearly two more than women in the control group; the additional behaviors were practiced for 18 months. This nursing intervention requires only 54 minutes to complete (six nine-minute telephone calls) and can be integrated into any health care setting. Because less than one hour of professional nursing time is involved, the cost of the intervention is minimal. Future research should determine whether the adoption of safety-promoting behaviors by abused women averts trauma and its subsequent health care costs.

Judith McFarlane holds the Parry Chair in Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at the Texas Woman’s University College of Nursing in Houston, where Ann Malecha and Julia Gist are assistant professors. Iva Hall is undergraduate coordinator and Sheila Smith is an instructor in the Department of Nursing at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. Kathy Watson is a statistician at Baylor College of Medicine and Elizabeth Batten is a bilingual caseworker at the Harris County District Attorney’s Office, both in Houston. Contact author:

This project was supported by Grant No. 2000-WT-VX-0020, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Points of view in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. The authors wish to thank the Family Criminal Law Division of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office for assistance in the collection of data; they also acknowledge the 149 women who maintained contact with the investigators for 18 months. The authors have no significant ties, financial or otherwise, to any company that might have an interest in the publication of this educational activity.

© 2004 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.