Researchers Study Risks For Repeat Violence In Abusive Female, Same-Sex Intimate Relationships

03/30/05    Portland, Ore.


A new study at Oregon Health & Science University will look at the needs and risk factors for women in same-sex relationships. It is one of a few studies to investigate same-sex violence and one of the first to include Spanish-speaking women.

"We know a lot about physical and sexual abuse of women in heterosexual relationships, but not about female same-sex abuse in intimate relationships. This study will contribute to our understanding of the needs of women from this diverse and underserved community. This is important so that we can reduce and prevent intimate partner violence for women in same-sex relationships," said Nancy Glass, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.N., principal investigator, co-director of the OHSU Center for Health Disparities Research and an assistant professor of nursing in the OHSU School of Nursing.

Glass plans to interview 248 adult, English and Spanish-speaking women, both victims and perpetrators of violence, mostly in focus groups. She is using contacts from the Bradley Angle House and the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center.

The goal is to evaluate for the first time the effectiveness of a previously validated male-to-female violence questionnaire, the Danger Assessment-2. It will be revised to ask such questions as, Does she own gun? Do you have a child that is not hers? Does she ever try to choke you?"

"Because this assessment is primarily geared toward women in heterosexual relationships, we need to find out if this assessment should be changed and how best to find out if these women are at increased risk of abuse. Repeat victimization increases a woman's risk for injuries, disabilities and death. Identifying women who are at risk is important because it allows for preventive action with both victims and their abusers," Glass said.

The prevalence of abuse in heterosexual relationships and those in lesbian relationships is about the same, according to research by P. Brand and A. Kidd published in Psychological Reports. There are, however, risk factors unique to female same-sex abusive relationships. For example, a woman in an abusive same-sex relationship may feel that the violence against her was caused by her sexual orientation. This may prevent her from contacting the police or seeking other help, which can put the victim at increased risk for repeat violence. Also, some female victims fear disclosure of their sexual orientation to their employer, friends, family and community members, which may also keep them from getting help.

There are also societal factors for repeat violence, which include homophobia - the irrational fear, hatred or intolerance of homosexuality - so that the abuse in a same-sex relationship is ignored or not taken seriously by the health care and criminal justice systems.

From their findings the researchers will identify risk factors for repeat violence specific to female same-sex partners and then develop and scientifically evaluate a risk assessment instrument to help prevent, intervene and treat victims and their perpetrators in this population. Findings will be shared with local organizations, including health care professionals, the Oregon Batterer Intervention Provider Association, the Oregon Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence, the Multnomah County Domestic Violence Steering Committee and statewide organizations.

"Our long-range goal is to reduce the risk of negative health outcomes, including fatal and near-fatal injuries among women in same-sex intimate relationships through the development and utilization of effective, culturally competent, community-partnered interventions and policies," Glass said.

The study is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's New Investigator Training Awards for Violence Related Research, which provides $99,942 for one year. However, the researchers are requesting an additional year for the study. Co-investigator for the study is Nancy Perrin, Ph.D., professor and director of statistics core, OHSU School of Nursing.

Women wishing to participate may call toll-free at 877 897-7741.


Nancy Glass has provided clinical services and conducted research in the area of public health, health disparities and intimate partner violence (IPV) for the past decade. She has participated as the principal investigator, co-investigator, study coordinator or research associate for six federally funded research studies on screening, clinical and workplace interventions, risk factors for intimate partner homicide in diverse communities, and improving health care providers response to survivors of IPV. Glass is a Women's Health Research Scholar funded through the Center for Women's Health at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Glass serves as an adviser to several national, state and local projects focused on increasing the safety of women in abusive relationships and ending violence against women.