Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion
Women Veterans and Intimate Partner Violence
Women Veterans’ Experiences with Intimate Partner Violence
Melissa Dichter, PhD, MSW
Core Investigator and Associate Director,
VA Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP)
Associate Professor, School of Social Work
College of Public Health, Temple University
Link to PubMed
Dr. Melissa Dichter’s research focuses on identifying and responding to the psychosocial needs of women military veterans, particularly as related to the experience of intimate partner violence (IPV) and associated social health concerns, including reproductive health, parenting, housing, social support, and economic stability.
IPV occurs when a current or former intimate partner (e.g., boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse) harms, threatens to harm, or stalks their partner, and may be emotional, physical, social, or sexual in nature. Dr. Dichter’s work has demonstrated that women veterans have higher rates of lifetime IPV victimization compared with non-veteran women (Dichter et al 2011) and that IPV victimization is associated with increased likelihood of PTSD and depression among women veterans as well as both alcohol and drug abuse (Dichter et al 2017), suicidal ideation and behavior (Brignone et al 2018), and increased healthcare utilization (Dichter et al 2018). In addition to shedding light on the prevalence of IPV and its sequalae among women veterans, Dr. Dichter’s work has addressed the ways in which experiences of intimate and sexual violence intersect with and impact women’s military service (Dichter et al 2018).
Dr. Dichter has expertise in primary data collection with women veterans, specifically around sensitive topics like IPV. In May 2019, VA HSR&D’s monthly publication Veterans’ Perspectives highlighted Dr. Dichter’s work on women veterans’ participation in research on IPV.
Women Veterans who have experienced past-year IPV
have increased odds of experiencing other mental health issues:
Informed by the work of Dr. Dichter and her colleagues, including Dr. Katherine Iverson at the VA National Center on PTSD, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) launched the IPV Assistance Program in January 2014. In June 2018, VHA committed $17 million to expand the program to VA facilities nationwide, including funding full-time IPV Assistance Coordinators and implementing routine screening for IPV nationwide. Dr. Dichter served on the VA Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence Task Force, which created recommendations for the IPV Assistance Program, and serves as a Subject Matter Expert on the IPV Assistance Program Leadership Council.
Following her completion of a VA Postdoctoral Fellowship in Health Services Research, Dr. Dichter was a VA Career Development Awardee. In 2015, she was awarded an HSR&D merit review project (IIR 15-142) to explore VHA patient characteristics, service use, and experiences related to IPV, including understanding the role of IPV Assistance Program Coordinators in connecting veterans with needed services. Using a mixed methods approach, the study incorporated national electronic health record data with longitudinal survey data and qualitative interview data from women veterans with recent experiences of IPV at two VA facilities. Data from nearly 9,000 women veterans who had been screened for past-year IPV revealed demographic and clinical characteristics associated with positive screens. Survey data from 169 women Veterans captured experiences of IPV, service use, and safety-related behavior over time, and qualitative interviews with a subsample of 50 women veterans elicited details on experiences of IPV screening, disclosure, and responses in both VHA and community settings. Findings provide critical information for the further development of IPV screening and services at VHA, and advance knowledge useful for healthcare response to IPV generally.
For more information on VHA’s IPV Assistance Program or to access assistance, contact your local IPV Assistance Coordinator or Women Veterans Program Manager. Find help in your community by calling the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233 (SAFE) or visiting www.thehoteline.org.
Melissa E. Dichter, Ph.D., M.S.W., is Core Investigator and Associate Director of the VA Center of Innovation for Health Equity Research and Promotion (CHERP) at the Crescenz (Philadelphia) VA Medical Center. She is also Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, College of Public Health, at Temple University.
Brignone E, Sorrentino AE, Roberts CB, & Dichter ME. (2018). Suicidal ideation and behaviors among women veterans with recent exposure to intimate partner violence. General Hospital Psychiatry, 55, 60-64.
Dichter ME, Butler A, Bellamy S, Medvedeva E, Roberts CB, & Iverson KM. (2017). Disproportionate mental health burden associated with past-year intimate partner violence among women receiving care in the Veterans Health Administration. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 30, 555-563.
Dichter ME, Cerulli C, & Bossarte RM. (2011). Intimate partner violence victimization among women veterans and associated heart health risks. Women’s Health Issues, 21, S190-194.
Dichter ME, Haywood TN, Butler AE, Bellamy SL, & Iverson KM. (2017). Intimate partner violence screening in the Veterans Health Administration: Demographic and military service characteristics. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 52, 761-768.
Dichter ME, Sorrentino AE, Haywood TN, Bellamy SL, Medvedeva E, Roberts CB, & Iverson KM. (2018). Women’s healthcare utilization following routine screening for past-year intimate partner violence in the Veterans Health Administration. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 33, 936-941.
Dichter ME, Wagner C, & True G. (2018). Women veterans’ experiences of intimate partner violence and sexual assault in the context of military service: Implications for supporting women’s health and well-being. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 33, 843-864.
Disproportionate Mental Health Burden Associated with Past-Year Intimate Partner Violence Among Women Receiving Care in the Veterans Health Administration < https://doi.org/10.1002/jts.22241>
Women Veterans’ Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence and Non-Partner Sexual Assault in the Context of Military Service: Implications for Supporting Women’s Health and Well-Being
Intimate Partner Violence Victimization Among Women Veterans and Associated Heart Health Risks
PubMed Reference List < https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Dichter%2C+Melissa>
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