Harrell Center identifies factors associated with increased likelihood of intimate partner violence in Haiti

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While 32.5 percent of women in Haiti have experienced a form of intimate partner violence (IPV), the determinants are not well understood.

But, researchers from the USF College of Public Health’s Harrell Center for the Study of Family Violence have delved more into the “who.”

Dr. Abraham Salinas-Miranda, director of the Harrell Center, and James Occean, an undergraduate USF chemistry student and Harrell Center research intern, examined the “Prevalence and Factors Associated With Intimate Partner Violence Among Women in Haiti: Understand Household, Individual, Partner, and Relationship Characteristics.” Their work has been published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

“Intimate partner violence is a significant public health problem in developing countries, specifically in my native country, Haiti,” said Occean, who is also a research assistant in Dr. Monica Uddin’s lab at the USF Genomics Program.

James Occean, Harrell Center research intern (left) and Dr. Abraham Salinas-Miranda, Harrell Center director (right). (Photo by Anna Mayor)

Using results from the 2016-2017 Haiti Demographic and Health Survey, they examined the prevalence of IPV and its subtypes (emotional, physical, and sexual abuse) among married or cohabitating women between the ages of 15 to 49 years by their husbands or partners.

“The Haiti Demographic Health Survey is a nationally representative dataset, which is supported by USAID and uses the gold standard methodology of population-based surveys; and this was the latest data available for Haiti,” Salinas-Miranda said.

They found that of the 32.5 percent of women who experienced IPV, 24.7 percent was emotional, 16.8 percent was physical and 10.5 percent was sexual violence.

They also found the odds of reporting IPV were influenced by a range of other factors.

“Women who reported being afraid of their husband also reported experiencing IPV, and we saw that women who reported controlling behaviors—such as their husband not letting them see friends—also experienced IPV,” Occean said.

Having children in the home, exhibiting attitudinal acceptance of “wife-beating,” previously witnessing their own father beating their mother, and having a partner who drank alcohol were all shown to increase the likelihood of a woman experiencing IPV.

“We also saw that women who witnessed parental IPV were also more likely to report IPV victimization and this shows that, not only does it affect the women, but if affects future generations,” Occean said.

Salinas-Miranda, who mentored Occean during his first publication, said that these findings point to the need for a cultural change.

James Occean presenting at USF’s Fall Research Expo. (Photo courtesy of James Occean)

“These findings indicate a need to really work at changing the culture of male-dominance or patterns of toxic masculinity that may be there,” Salinas-Miranda said. “The fact that a sizable portion of women accept wife-beating is very concerning.”

Salinas-Miranda said while this is an initial study, future studies could examine how those factors differ in varying provinces in Haiti and how it compares to other countries.

“It’s reassuring to see a young male trying to do research in this area because it’s a problem that affects us all. Yes, it’s gender-based violence, but it affects us all and we should all care about this. Men play a key role in breaking the cycle of violence,” he said. “While we assisted James initially, he eventually took off on his own, and we are extremely proud of him.”

 Story by Anna Mayor, USF College of Public Health