Intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization is often associated with negative mental health outcomes; yet, little is known about the psychological well-being of women who experience IPV and receive civil legal services. Civil legal services are not specifically designed to focus on women’s mental health needs but Sullivan’s Social and Emotional Well-Being Framework helps to explain why women receiving this type of formal assistance may demonstrate positive changes in psychological well-being. Using a panel study design and data from 85 women who experienced IPV and sought civil legal services, we examined women’s psychological well-being over a one-year period of time. Approximately two thirds of the women received assistance from Iowa Legal Aid (ILA) for a civil protective order (n = 56) and the rest were represented in a family law matter. We used measures of mental health (depression, posttraumatic stress disorder [PTSD]) and well-being (social support, resilience, goal directed thinking, empowerment). Our hypotheses that women would experience a decrease in mental health symptoms and an increase in well-being were partially supported. Women reported a decrease in depressive and PTSD symptoms over one year but there were no changes in their goal-oriented thinking or resilience. Implications for practice and future research are included.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We would like to thank Shellie Mackel, Dennis Groenenboom and the AmeriCorps workers at Iowa Legal Aid for their support and contributions to the project. We also thank the research assistants and interviewers who devoted so much time and effort to the project. Finally, we thank the women who participated in the project and shared their experiences. Their strength and courage are truly remarkable and we hope this, and all publications from this project, honors their voices. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This project was supported by Award No. 2010-WG-BX-0009, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.
© The Author(s) 2018.
- civil legal services
- domestic violence
- intimate partner violence
- mental health