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Reaching women

Web program aids women in abusive relationships

Fewer than one in 10 women in abusive relationships seek professional help, and for those who turn to the Web for resources, online advice is typically generic.

Tina Bloom, assistant professor in the Sinclair School of Nursing, is researching a Web-based program designed to help women develop individualized safety plans. Women answer a series of questions, and the program helps assess their danger and priorities. The program suggests strategies based on specifics, such as the ages of their children, whether they plan to remain in the relationship, prior violent incidents and the level of danger.

“We’ve found that women really like the privacy and anonymity,” says Bloom, who worked on the program’s pilot study when she was a doctoral student at the Oregon Health and Sciences University School of Medicine. “Computers don’t judge.”

A National Institute of Mental Health grant has funded a second study in Arizona, Maryland, Oregon and Missouri, where Bloom leads the work. She will measure whether the program helps women reduce their exposure to violence and how the program affects their mental health symptoms. She’s also working on a supplement for rural women, whose closest domestic abuse agency is often more than 70 miles away.

If the research shows that the decision-aid program is effective, Bloom hopes it will become widely available for free on the Web and in kiosks at doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and libraries for women who don’t have safe access to a home computer.

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