The Personal Empowerment Program© (PEP) is a 10-session weekly psycho-educational group designed to empower victims of domestic violence by increasing participants' knowledge about healthy relationships in order to recognize warning signs of abuse, access resources to improve safety, and engage in non-abusive relationships in the long run. Lack of evidence compels providers, consumers, and local funding sources to support PEP based on the authority of sponsoring agencies (Gambrill, 1999). This study contributes to practice-based evidence and promotes a critical best practice approach by partnering with both service providers and consumers to explore the development of psychological empowerment with a heterogeneous population of women united by their lived experience of PEP. As a grounded theory study, this research is a collaborative project with Laura's House, a local domestic violence shelter and outreach organization headquartered in south Orange County, California.
Using a modified constant comparative method to analyze data from participant observation and verbatim interview and focus group transcripts, the study found that psychological empowerment develops along a continuum of phases built upon a foundation of knowledge about domestic violence, its consequences, and available resources. These cyclical phases are awareness, engagement, practice, and praxis. While awareness involves application of relevant knowledge to individual circumstances, engagement represents women's development and preliminary exercise of skills to achieve safety. Lastly, practice refers to behaviors that diminish the likelihood of abuse reoccurrence and subsequent violent relationships. Women build on existing levels of psychological empowerment by participating in praxis or ongoing cycles of action and reflection.
PEP's curriculum, group experience, and facilitators' styles and strategies shape the development of psychological empowerment among participants. Differences between pre-participants and graduates suggest that the latter's PEP participation positively influence their levels of psychological empowerment. Finally, women's experiences of witnessing domestic violence as children, abuse by their parents, sexual assault, and abuse by past intimate partners impacted their development of psychological development. Ironically, the study's limitations related to intersectionality correspond to its findings related to the absence of critical consciousness in PEP's content and delivery. The findings yield recommendations for empowerment-oriented social work practice with women who have experienced intimate partner violence.
|Commitee:||Kaplan, Elaine B., Palinkas, Lawrence A.|
|School:||University of Southern California|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 70/08, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Social work, Womens studies, Clinical psychology|
|Keywords:||Domestic violence, Empowerment, Empowerment practice, Intimate partner violence, Personal Empowerment Program, Practice-based evidence, Psychological empowerment, Survivors|
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