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An Intervention to Increase Safety Behaviors of Abused Women: Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial

McFarlane, Judith; Malecha, Ann; Gist, Julia; Watson, Kathy; Batten, Elizabeth; Hall, Iva; Smith, Sheila


Background Although intimate partner violence is recognized as a major threat to women’s health, few interventions have been developed or tested.

Objective To test an intervention administered to abused women in order to increase safety-seeking behaviors.

Method A two-group clinical trial randomized 75 abused women to receive six telephone intervention sessions on safety behaviors. A control group of 75 women received standard care. Women in both groups were re-interviewed at 3 months and 6 months post-initial measurement.

Results Using repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA), we found significantly [F (2,146) 5.11, p = .007] more adopted safety behaviors reported by women in the intervention group than by women in the control group at both the 3-month [F (91,74) = 19.70, p < .001] and 6-month [F (1,74) = 15.90, p < .001] interviews. The effect size (ES) of the intervention was large at 3 months (ES = 1.5) and remained substantial at 6 months (ES = 0.56).

Discussion These findings demonstrate that an intervention to increase safety behaviors of abused women is highly effective when offered following an abusive incident and remains effective for 6 months.

Judith McFarlane, RN, DrPH, FAAN, is Parry Chair in Health Promotion & Disease Prevention, Texas Woman’s University, College of Nursing, Houston.

Ann Malecha, RN, PhD, is Assistant Professor, Texas Woman’s University, College of Nursing, Houston.

Julia Gist, RN, PhD, is Research Associate, Texas Woman’s University, College of Nursing, Houston.

Kathy Watson, MS, is Statistician, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas.

Elizabeth Batten, BA, is Case Worker, Harris County District Attorney’s Office, Houston, Texas.

Iva Hall, RN, MS, is PhD Candidate, Texas Woman’s University, College of Nursing, Houston.

Sheila Smith, RN,C, MS, is PhD Candidate, Texas Woman’s University, College of Nursing, Houston.

Accepted for publication June 12, 2002.

The authors thank the Family Criminal Law Division of the Harris County District Attorney Office for unflagging support and assistance toward the collection of data for this study.

This project was supported by Grant No. 200-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.

Corresponding author: Judith McFarlane, RN, DrPH, FAAN, Texas Woman’s University, 1130 John Freeman Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030 (e-mail:

© 2002 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.