Among the negative effects of living in a violent relationship include increased depression, anxiety and posttraumatic stress (Bogat, et. al, 2004). There is some evidence that suggests that social support may influence a woman's reactions to domestic violence, and may in fact influence whether or not a woman decides to stay or leave a relationship (Bogat, et. al, 2004). When support exists it is related to a positive outcome more often than not for women (Bogat, et. al, 2004). There are some studies that find that women who are in violent relationships often lack positive support role models and even when they do they are reluctant to ask for help (Bogat, et. al, 2004).
There is adequate empirical evidence which suggests that most battered women tend to be socially isolated and thus do not have a readily available network of people they can rely on for support and encouragement when faced with a violent situation (Bogat, et. al, 2004). This may perhaps be the single most telling factor related to woman's victimization. Numerous studies have supported the notion that women who are victimized rarely have access to adequate social support systems that can help them overcome a violent home life (Thompson, 2000).
There are many different theories that exist as to why women in violence situations may lack adequate social support system. Reasons for this may be varied, but may include the fact that their partner may isolate them in order to control them, or that women are afraid to reach out for support for fear of embarrassment and shame (Bogat, et. al, 2004). Some women may also not believe that they would receive help even if they wanted or needed it, perhaps as a result of the abuse received time and time again from their partner (Bogat, et. al, 2004).
Summary of the Literature
There is ample evidence which suggests that a number of factors contribute to a woman's susceptibility for domestic violence. Among the key factors related to domestic violence include a woman's social support structure, socio-economic status and perceived sense of self-esteem and self-worth (Bogat, et. al, 2004; Thompson, 2000). The exact relationship between all of these variables needs to be examined in greater detail so that researchers can identify specifically what factors are implicated in a woman's inability to leave a harmful situation.
The study will consist of a base survey of 100 women who are aged 18 and older who have been victims of domestic violence. Selection criteria will include women who experienced a domestic violence incident within the previous 2 years prior to the study. An incident of domestic violence will be defined as any form of sexual or physical assault or threat of assault that occurs from an intimate partner, family or friend that cohabitates with the partner (Gjelsvik, et. al, 2003). Factors that will be recorded for demographic purposes for this study include: race and age.
The rates of women that are victims of violence that stay in a relationship will be compared with several variables which include poverty, education, unemployment and cultural heritage (Gjelsvik, et. al, 2003). There are numerous published studies which support the use of survey methodology and which analyze domestic violence in relation to demographic variables such as those described (Gjelsvik, et. al, 2003; Miles-Doan & Kelly, 1997). From the information provided a theory will be developed that draws from the information gathered in the data, providing information related to "individual, situational, environmental and ideological levels of explanation" (Gjelsvik, et. al, 2003; Bachman & Coker, 1995).
Data on women who are affected from violence will come from surveys that collect information from victims anonymously.
The Severity of Violence Against Women Scales also referred to as SVAWS may be used to assess the amount of violence a woman is experiencing (Marshall, 1992; Bogat, et. al, 2004). This scale consists of a 46 item questionnaire that examines the severity of abuse that women are receiving, and may be beneficial for determining whether severity of abuse impacts whether or not a woman is likely to stay in a relationship when abuse is occurring (Bogat, et. al, 2004). The questionnaire requires that respondents measure events on a 4-point scale that extends over varying time frames. Though this scale may be more useful in studies examining the severity of domestic violence against women, it may provide some insight as to whether women who are victims are more likely to stay in a relationship depending on the severity of the violence they are subjected to.
In addition to this the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Bogat, et. al, 2004) will be utilized to measure self-esteem and feelings of self-worth in victims. The scale incorporates a 10 item questionnaire that requires that participants rate statements on a 4 point scale (1=strongly agree, 4= strongly disagree) with negative items reverse coded (Bogat et al., 2004). This scale has been associated with a "high level of reliability and validity" in the past (Bogat, et. al, 2004).
In addition to these surveys, the researcher will craft a 10 question open ended interview questionnaire that will examine women's attitudes and beliefs toward domestic violence. Specifically participants will be asked whether or not they intend on staying in a domestically violent situation, and what factors if any have contributed to their decision to do so. The information from all three of these measures will be combined and compared to information gathered from the literature review studies. Upon close examination for any relationships or disparities, the researcher will form a theory based upon evidence presented in the research.
Data Collection Measures
Data will be collected anonymously from participants through use of either an online or paper surveys. Paper surveys will be distributed among health care organizations and shelters that specifically cater to the needs of abused populations.
Participants will be recruited from 10 sites that have programs designed to assist women who are battered. Women will be asked to participate in a research study via use of a flyer. Women will be screened for eligibility. Interviews will be conducted on site or via email. Each participant will be mailed a consent form that describes the survey, the importance of the research and their role in the research. They will be asked to consent to providing information for purposes of the study, and informed of their option to remain anonymous for the duration of the study.
Access to Site
The researcher will need to contact the 10 sites designated for purposes of this research 1 month in advance of field research surveys in order to determine whether or not research can safely and conveniently be carried out in the environment presented.
The researchers primary role for purposes of this study is observatory. The researcher will attempt to observe the patterns that exist among domestic violence women over time in order to develop an explanatory theory that centers on women's reasons for staying in a potentially life threatening situation. The researcher intends to face many challenges while conducting the research, including the participants lack of willingness to provide adequate information regarding their abuse history to the researcher.
The researcher will not offer clinical advice or information to participants other than to provide them with detailed information regarding the studies purpose and intended audience.
Reflexivity of Approach
It is important for purposes of this research that the researcher remain as objective as possible. There are a number of feminist approaches that are directed toward violence studies that may result in greater subjectivity than desired for purposes of this study.
The researcher intends to carry out the research required for this proposal within and eight-month time frame. The first couple of months will be dedicated to comprehensively examining the research available on domestic violence with particular emphasis on examining any studies that measure or examine the mental state of women who are victims of domestic violence.
The timeline for completion of each aspect of this reseach is as follows:
Prepare more comprehensive literature review and examination of all similar studies that examine the relationship between domestic violence and female self body image, self-esteem and well being.
Obtain permissions to use any copyrighted material for questionnaires.
Begin collecting information on women's personal experiences through use of survey questionnaires. Completion of field research portion of the research proposal.
Construct theoretical framework.
Write Review of the literature chapter.
Prepare Oral Defense of material.
Deliver final proposal to committee.
Domestic violence is a problem that has existed since the dawn of time. The implications of any research that focuses on aiding victims of domestic violence is tremendous. If the factors that contribute to a woman's inability to leave a violent situation are identified, social support workers can start working on methods that will encourage women to get the support they need to remove themselves from a potentially life threatening environment.