Survivors of intimate partner violence find safety, hope and purpose

Nadine Kaslow, PhD

Nadine Kaslow, PhD, Emory psychologist and professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory, has learned a lot about Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) over the last two decades. In the 1990’s, Kaslow began the development of a program that was eventually named the “Nia Project.”

Nia is a counseling program for abused and suicidal African American women, funded by grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute of Mental Health. The name comes from the Kwanzaa term that means “purpose.”

Nia serves countless numbers of abused and suicidal women who come through Atlanta’s Grady Memorial Hospital’s emergency department each year. The women come in with black eyes, broken bones, and broken spirits, often inflicted by the people who are supposed to love them the most: their husbands, boyfriends and partners.

According to the CDC, Intimate Partner violence resulted in more than 1,500 deaths in the United States in 2005.  Statistics from the Commission on Domestic Violence show that African American females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. The number one killer of African American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.

The program Kaslow developed is based on an empowerment group therapy model. The group becomes the women’s support system—a key to success for women attempting to leave abusive relationships, Kaslow says, because a woman’s family and friends often give up on her after repeated attempts to leave have failed.

Nia never terminates a woman from the program. Some programs kick out women if they go back to their abusers or have a drug or alcohol problem. “Doing that can often guarantee a woman will go back to the abuser,” says Kaslow. “The average number of times it takes a woman to leave her abuser is 10. It’s a very slow process, and that’s one of the things I’ve learned to accept more over time.”

The Nia staff is on-call 24/7 and handles a whole host of issues, including how to secure resources from community agencies, and finding help for addiction problems. They pick up women who have been evicted, help them find shelter, and get their utilities turned on. Most importantly, the staff helps women think through a safety plan before they need it: whom they can turn to for support, how they can find safety.

Kaslow says the women who participate in Nia have made some remarkable progress over time. They feel more positive about themselves, more hopeful about their lives, and better able to cope with stress. They feel less depressed, anxious, and suicidal. They feel connected to a strong community of people.

The Nia Project helps women who are trying to break free from intimate partner abuse. If you or someone you know needs help, contact 404-616-2897.

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Kathi Baker

Associate Director, Media Relations Manager, Broadcast Relations kobaker@emory.edu 404-727-9371 Office 404-686-5500 Pager (ID 14455) 404-227-1871 Mobile

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