On our last outreach trip to the Dominican Republic, Saving Mothers learned that domestic violence is the 4th cause of death for women in the DR. For the annual community health leader (cooperadora) meeting held the first week of August, we decided to understand from our health workers the extent of the issue in the communities they serve.
Saving Mothers invited an IPV specialist, Sonia Rodriguez, LMSW, who works for Sexual Assault and Violence Intervention Program (SAVI) to join us for candid group discussions with our health workers.
We conducted 5 focus groups with a sampling of the 110 cooperadoras to learn more about Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the communities they serve. The focus groups provided further insight into the knowledge, attitudes and beliefs surrounding IPV. We learned that IPV is fairly prevalent, with cooperadoras citing a range of 20-70% of women affected. Unfortunately, many cooperadoras know of women who have been killed as a result of IPV and many knew firsthand recent victims of IPV. Common beliefs that emerged from these candid discussions with the health workers were the belief that the woman was at fault in IPV and that improved communication between couples would improve the issue. Many cooperadoras did not believe that IPV was a medical issue, but rather a social one to be dealt with by the church or legal venues. Many were also not certain of referral mechanisms in their communities for victims of IPV. Also, death was a frequently mentioned outcome of IPV in many of the communities. The health workers expressed a desire to learn more about how best to serve the women in their communities.
Saving Mothers will continue to understand the issue of IPV is the Dominican Republic and empower our cooperadoras to feel comfortable referring women to resources that will improve their lives and prevent death.