Johns Hopkins Study Found When Domestic Violence Victims Become Chronically Ill, Violence Declines


A Johns Hopkins University-led study found low-income, chronically ill women, who thought they were close to death saw a decrease in domestic violence after receiving life-saving treatment.

The study published in the journal National Bureau of Economic Research shows improving the health of women can decrease domestic violence abuse cases by an estimated 10 percent.A Johns Hopkins economist and lead author Nicholas Papageorge said, “When these women who thought they were going to die realized this new treatment gave them many years to life, they faced strong incentives to avoid abuse partners.”

According to previous research, there are roughly 4.5 million abuse cases reported every year in the United States, the victims are of poor health. Researchers say until now no one has bothered to examine the link between improving women’s health and the potential change in domestic violence.

Papageorge and his team stepped back in healthcare history to the year 1996, when HAART was launched. HAART is a highly active antiretroviral therapy that transformed the virtual death sentence of HIV into a chronic, but manageable condition.

The Women’s Interagency HIV Study was launched in 1994, which provided researchers an opportunity to determine exactly how women, who had been diagnosed with HIV and high-risk women who receive a negative HIV test result, conducted themselves before and after treatment was available. The female participates where mostly in the low-income bracket, below national averages for employment and education and non-white.

The results showed healthier HIV-positive women saw no changes in domestic violence, while HIV-positive women who were exhibiting symptoms saw a 10 percent drop in domestic violence. Heroin and Crack cocaine use also dropped by 15 percent in the same pool of women. When looking only at black women, the drops in both drug use and domestic violence were even greater.

“We think the reduction happened because the women experienced a change to their expected health and longevity. They also experienced better prospects on the labor market,” Papageorge said. “We started seeing changes immediately after the introduction of the treatment, though it is different to say with our data, there is some evidence that women not only left violent partners, but were also less likely to get into violent partnerships in the first place.”

The findings suggest providing women with more access to better healthcare can have widespread implications, even for addiction and abuse, which are two of the nation’s never-ending social struggles. Good healthcare offered a better life and hope to women living in poverty, lacking education and underemployed, changing the outcome altogether.

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