The Body in Crisis: A Health Needs Assessment among Female Survivors of Interpersonal Violence

Shlesma Chhetri, Kwynn Gonzalez-Pons, Alita Andrews, Erin Carlson, Jessica Grace, Erika L. Thompson, Emily E. Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: When women who experience violence seek social services, they are looking to meet immediate needs: shelter, safety, and support. Seeking assistance as part of a crisis may inadvertently detract attention away from other critical needs. Literature illustrates the emotional and physical effects of violence on women’s bodies, as well as their long-term health. While health may present as an urgent need in cases of serious injury, it is often overlooked in crisis-oriented service delivery systems. This study explored the experience with violence, health status, and holistic healthcare needs among women accessing interpersonal violence services in Texas. Methods: A tablet-based survey was conducted at a family justice center, rape crisis center, and emergency shelter among women (N = 99) in Fort Worth, Texas. Survey questions assessed the participants’ demographic information, health status, health needs, healthcare utilization, barriers to accessing healthcare, and experience with interpersonal violence among participating women. Results: Two-thirds of the sample reported suffering injuries from victimization experiences. More than half of the sample (62%) reported they went to the emergency room at least one time in the last 6 months, with 11 women reported staying five or more nights in the hospital in the last 6 months. Participants described urgent (e.g., advised by healthcare provider, too serious for a clinic) and non-urgent (e.g., not having another source of care, closest provider) reasons for using the emergency room. Roughly, half of the sample (50%) reported having at least three chronic conditions. Discussion: This study illustrated that women seeking interpersonal violence related (IPV) services have multiple unmet needs and lack adequate access to physical and mental health care. Since the majority of the sample was living in poverty, there are multiple costs and investments in the participants’ health that were forgone for their survival. This study provides data in support of the development of health-related services for IPV survivors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)NP1970-NP1989
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • health needs
  • health services
  • interpersonal violence
  • psychosomatic distress
  • unmet needs


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