Online Program

Nobody to turn to: The isolating impact of gender-based violence on mental and sexual health in African American women

Monday, November 2, 2015

Megan Early, BS, BA, School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Laura Salazar, PhD, School of Public Health, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA
Delia Lang, PhD, MPH, Behavioral Sciences & Health Education, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
Minority women experience gender-based violence (GBV) more than their white counterparts, and approximately 40% of women in the United States have encountered coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetimes1. GBV has significant mental and sexual health implications: women exposed to GBV are more likely to develop mood/anxiety disorders, substance use disorders2, and their risk of contracting HIV is significantly increased3. The current study is a qualitative analysis of 48 in-depth interviews examining the mental and sexual health effects experienced by African American victims of GBV. Several themes emerged that indicate the types of psychological abuse the men exhibited toward the women: isolating them from friends and family, controlling appearances, key decision making (including condom use), and enforcing traditional gender roles. These isolating effects resulted in strained relationships with family and friends, potentially impacting future relationships. Additionally, the GBV experienced by the women impacted their mental and sexual well-being, as the narratives revealed experiences of low self- esteem and self-worth, increased self-blame, substance use as a coping mechanism, embarrassment, shame, and engaging in risky sexual behavior.

1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey: 2010 Summary Report.

2 Walsh, K., Keyes, K.M., Koenen, K.C., & Hasin, D. (2015). Lifetime prevalence of gender-based violence in US women: Associations with mood/anxiety and substance use disorders. Journal of Psychiatric Research (62), 7-13.

3 Gielen, A.C., McDonnell, K.A., & O’Campo, P.J. (2002). Intimate partner violence, HIV status, and sexual risk reduction. AIDS and Behavior (6)2, 107-116.

Learning Areas:

Diversity and culture
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related research
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Explain psychological aggression and coercive control Describe how gender-based violence can potentially impact mental and sexual health outcomes Discuss how qualitative research provides meaningful insight into the experiences of women who are exposed to gender-based violence

Keyword(s): Violence & Injury Prevention, Minority Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: As an MPH student, my primary research interests are in health disparities and violence prevention. I have taken several classes and attended multiple seminars on both subjects. My educational background is in psychology and sociology, where I assisted in a study on anti-gay aggression and presented qualitative data on anti-gay aggression at research conferences . For the current project, I developed the coding mechanism and identified emerging themes from the transcripts.
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.

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