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Barriers to accessing Intimate Partner Violence-Related Services and Experiences Receiving Them among Lesbian and Bisexual Women

Chandra Ford, PhD, MPH, MLIS
UCLA Fielding School of Public Health
Award Year: 2013

Initial Abstract


Rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) are similar for lesbians and heterosexual and may be higher for bisexual women than for all others. Yet, lesbian/bisexual women may not receive needed IPV services or the services they receive may be unhelpful. Some subpopulations of lesbian/bisexual women, including racial/ethnic minorities and masculineidentified women, may be particularly unlikely to access needed services. To improve access to and satisfaction with IPV services for diverse lesbian/bisexual women, the field must first understand their unique concerns and experiences.


This study seeks to document and elucidate diverse lesbian/bisexual women’s experiences receiving publicly available IPV-related services and identify factors barriers to accessing services.


We will conduct a two-phase qualitative study. In Phase One, we will conduct focus groups with lesbian/bisexual women to identify key factors influencing their prior access to and use of IPV prevention and/or intervention services (e.g., shelters). In Phase Two, we will conduct in-depth, individual interviews with one to two women randomly selected from key subpopulations (i.e., racial/ethnic minorities, bisexual women, masculine identified women, etc.) to discuss the issues raised in the focus groups in greater detail. This two-step approach is strategic. Focus groups help identify major themes and issues while individual interviews
explore the most salient topics in much greater detail. Data collection will occur in two phases.

In Phase 1, we will conduct the Focus Groups. In Phase 2, we will conduct the Individual Interviews. Content analysis, a systematic, iterative process used to analyze narrative data, will involve simple retrieval and coding of all of the focus group and individual interview data to identify and categorize key concepts and themes. To improve reliability, we will employ double coding, which compares results obtained when two people independently enter and code the data, and conduct quality checks on 20% the data.


To participate in the study, women must: (1) be lesbian or bisexual; (2) age 18 or older; (3) have prior or current histories of IPV; and, (4) live in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. We will use a comprehensive list of agencies involved in the Los Angeles City Council’s Domestic Violence Taskforce and LA County Domestic Violence Council to recruit participants from existing IPV prevention/intervention programs. We designate five sub-populations of particular concern: (1) lesbian survivors; (2) bisexual survivors; (3) masculine-identified survivors; (4) Latina survivors; and, (5) African American survivors. To examine barriers to seeking services among women who may not have actually obtained them, we will also recruit participants from non-IPV venues that cater to lesbian/bisexual women (e.g., clubs) and conduct an additional set of three focus groups with them. Thus, we will conduct 18 focus groups total, 15 (i.e., three groups per sub-population) on experiences receiving care and one on access to care. Next, we will use a random number generator to select two women from each sub-population for in-depth, individual interviews (12 individual interviews total: 12 in each sub-population and two from non- IPV venues).


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