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Care, control and connection : health-care experiences of women in abusive intimate relationships Dechief, Lynda

Abstract

Violence against women in intimate relationships has been recognised as a serious public health concern. Formal health-care responses to this issue have been implemented across the industrialised world. Few evaluations of these responses explore their impacts on women's health or lives, and the perspectives of abused women on different health-care responses are rarely reported in the academic literature. The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the health-care experiences of abused women and to generate substantive theory on the essential components of an effective health-care response to violence against women. This study generated an emergent grounded theory based on indepth individual and group interviews with women who experienced abuse in their intimate relationships (n = 16). The findings of this study suggest that women actively strive to recover the health that they have lost through experiencing abuse in their relationships. If abused women's strategies to regain health are supported by health-care providers, this process is facilitated. Specifically, the women in this study identified three significant components of such enabling health-care experiences: caring, sharing control, and connecting. Conversely, if these strategies are not supported, aspects of abusive relationship experiences may inadvertently be reproduced in health-care experiences, leading to a further loss of health. Thus, changes in the structures of the health-care system could either facilitate of impede improvements in the responses of individual health-care providers and institutions to women experiencing violence. Theory emerging from this study can be used to inform the development of models in health care to address violence against women, as well as to evaluate the impact of existing programs.

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