226379 When words can't help: Women's literacy in domestic violence shelters

Monday, November 8, 2010

Erin Teeter, BSW , Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO
Marlys Peck, MSW, PhD , Department of Sociology and Social Work, University of Central Missouri, Warrensburg, MO
This exploratory study examined the literacy levels of women living in domestic violence shelters in the rural Midwest. Twelve women from three shelters were interviewed with the majority identifying as Caucasian (66%) and an average age of 29.5 years. Relationship status was reported as single, in a relationship, or married but not together. High school or its equivalency had not been obtained by 70% of the women. The Slosson Oral Reading Test (SORT), a 3-5 minute reading level assessment instrument, was administered following a brief interview. The SORT results indicated a range of literacy levels from the 3rd grade to the 12th grade with a mean literacy level of 6.2. This translates to the beginning of 6th grade or the approximate age equivalency of an eleven year old. Three primary themes emerged from the interview data collected: 1) schema thinking (relating previous experiences to current expectations), 2) lower level skills participants used to read the SORT (following words with finger/sounding out letters), and 3) expression of shame and hopelessness by a majority of participants, as a result of not having strong literacy skills. The results of this study may influence curriculum as social work students prepare to enter the field. Shelter administrators may also benefit by becoming aware of additional basic needs of the residents. Policy changes for adjusting domestic violence resources from the current 8th grade and above level to a 6th grade reading level are indicated. Further research is needed to substantiate the findings of this project.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the implications of literacy in working with women in domestic violence shelters. Analyze the association between literacy and domestic violence. Demonstrate how to utilize a brief literacy tool to assess reading grade level.

Keywords: Literacy, Domestic Violence

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the originator of this research and have worked in the literacy field for 18 years.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.