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Factors influencing rural women's disclosure of intimate partner violence: a qualitative study

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Abstract

Many women who experience intimate partner violence (IPV) choose not to disclose their abuse to health care professionals (HCPs), yet less is known about the reasoning behind this decision. This paper presents a sub-analysis of a larger study and describes the personal meaning attributed to disclosure of IPV by women living in rural Ontario, Canada. A qualitative case study approach grounded in a feminist framework was used. Women were recruited using a snowball sampling strategy. Data collected via one-on-one semi-structured interviews and an interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) using a reflexive-relational approach were used to analyse the data. Seven women who met inclusion criteria and responded to interview questions regarding disclosure were included in the sub-analysis. The majority of the women were born in Canada, divorced/separated, and mothers of dependent children. Thematic analysis revealed four key themes: (1) privacy and trust concerns; (2) discomfort acknowledging IPV; (3) exerting control over information; and (4) violence as unimportant to health concerns. The rural environment poses unique barriers for women who have experienced IPV, making it challenging for women to disclose abuse. While women’s decisions to disclose are personal and context dependent, efforts should be made to create a non-judgemental, comfortable environment for women to disclose at their own discretion.

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Data availability

The datasets generated during and/or analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to the fact that the authors never asked the participants if their data could be entered into a public repository.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the participants who took the time to share their lived experiences with us.

Funding

An Internal Research Award at The University of Western Ontario.

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Correspondence to Tara Mantler.

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Mantler, T., Jackson, K.T., Shillington, K. et al. Factors influencing rural women's disclosure of intimate partner violence: a qualitative study. SN Soc Sci 1, 19 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s43545-020-00027-z

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