The Road to Resilience: Strength and Coping Among Pregnant Women Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence


Pregnancy is a period of heightened risk for exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV), which is characterized by actual or threatened emotional, physical, or sexual violence committed by a past or current intimate partner. Pregnancy also represents a unique period in which women may be highly motivated to address IPV, to improve not only her health and well-being but also that of her child. Accordingly, the prenatal period affords an important opportunity for intervention among women experiencing IPV. Focus groups were conducted to evaluate coping strategies utilized by women exposed to IPV during pregnancy in addition to the strengths these women exhibit. Via thematic analysis, focus group data were evaluated from 10 women exposed to IPV proximal to their pregnancy and 46 service providers (e.g., medical personnel, family resource coordinators and case managers) who work directly with pregnant women experiencing IPV. When participants were queried about the personal strengths of IPV-exposed women, two domains emerged: (a) understanding and ending the cycle of IPV and (b) strengths achieved as a result of leaving the violent relationship (i.e., personal growth, enhanced self-esteem, improved attentiveness as a parent and resilience). With respect to coping, three central domains emerged: (a) the necessity of ensuring physical safety as a precondition for coping, (b) maladaptive coping strategies (e.g., substance use, avoidance), and (c) adaptive coping strategies (e.g., seeking support from others via both formal and informal relationships). These findings reinforce the importance of engaging with women before, during, and after they leave a violent relationship to provide support, affirmation and hope.

Publication Title

Journal of Interpersonal Violence