Media contacts:
Alicia Sands Lurry, 404/616-6389,
March 6, 2003


Emory Psychologist Heads SAFETY Project for Abused Women and Their Children

In order to better understand the relationship between an African-American mother and her child as it relates to intimate partner violence (IPV), Nadine J. Kaslow, PhD, Emory University School of Medicine professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and chief psychologist at Grady Memorial Hospital, and her colleagues have developed the SAFETY project, an acronym for Supporting African-American Families, Empowering Their Youth. The project is designed to determine the impact of domestic violence on children within the African-American community and to provide support groups for children from IPV homes who have been abused. The project also provides parenting groups to teach effective parenting skills, support groups for abused women, and helps to ensure the safety of abused women and their children. In addition, women and their children are given resources to help them live violence-free lives with the assistance of shelter, childcare and job placement.

According to Dr. Kaslow, "domestic violence is a major public health problem" in the African-American community. "We’re hearing that a lot in the news lately," she said. "Not only are women hurt psychologically, but also physically and sexually and sometimes it gets so bad that women are killed."

Dr. Kaslow said the problem is just as dangerous for children. She notes that approximately 40 percent of children from IPV homes are abused themselves, and that child maltreatment (abuse, neglect) represents a gross violation of the rights of a vulnerable and dependent child.

"Growing up in an abusive home, where you observe and witness domestic violence, is very stressful for children," Dr. Kaslow said. "It’s scary for them, they don’t feel safe, they worry about their moms, they worry about whether they’re going to get hurt, and unfortunately, often in families where the mom is being beaten up, the child is also being abused, either physically, or sexually or psychologically, or some combination. We know that there is an association between domestic violence and child abuse, and we know that kids who grow up in abusive homes tend to have psychological problems."

Dr. Kaslow hopes the project, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, will attract even more attention to the prevalence of domestic violence and the impact that witnessing abuse has on the emotional adjustment of children. She said very little research has focused on the link between domestic violence and child abuse and adjustment with the African-American community.

"We’re looking at factors that put kids and these families at risk for difficulties, as well as what each family’s strengths are and how women cope and survive," she said.

Done in a culturally competent manner, two groups are formed. The first group is comprised of mothers who have been in an abusive relationship within the past year and whose children, ages 8 to 12, live with them. The second group consists of mothers who have never been involved in an abusive relationship, have had a partner within the past year, and who live with their children, ages 8 to 12. Before entering their respective groups, each of the women answer a battery of questions that assesses their psychological functioning, strengths, family relationships, spirituality and religion, and coping strategies.

"We want to compare the two groups to see how they’re similar or different," Dr. Kaslow said. "Interestingly, what we’ve found in some instances with a woman in a non-abusive relationship was that her child reported few family problems, the child was doing very well in school, and had no psychological difficulties. The mom seemed happy, she and the child had a good relationship, and the other siblings appeared friendly and active. When we see abused moms and their kids, they seem depressed, there’s a lot more substance abuse, children have more conduct problems in school, and families just have way fewer resources to cope."

As part of the project, women are paid $50, they and their children receive a gift and snacks, and transportation costs are reimbursed. The abused women and children who participate in the project are encouraged to become involved in the weekly support groups and to get help obtaining resources through the Resource Room.

Abused, as well as non-abused women are still needed for the project. Donations of gifts, snacks and school supplies are also needed.

For more information, or to enroll in the project, please call (404) 616-2895.

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