Is Firearm Threat in Intimate Relationships Associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Among Women?

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Is Firearm Threat in Intimate Relationships Associated with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms Among Women?

Category: Domestic Violence, Women|Journal: Violence and Gender (full text)|Author: N Weiss, T Sullivan|Year: 2017

In the context of intimate partner violence (IPV), firearms may be used to threaten, coerce, and intimidate. Yet, what little research exists on firearms among IPV victims has focused almost exclusively on homicide or near homicide. Thus, the deleterious health consequences of firearms more broadly remain unknown. The goals of the current study were (1) to document the prevalence of firearm threat in a community sample of female IPV victims, and (2) to identify the extent to which threat with a firearm, independent of other forms of IPV, is related to women’s posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity. Participants were 298 women who had been a victim in a criminal domestic violence case with a male intimate partner (Mage = 36.39 years; 50.0% African American; 51.3% unemployed). Retrospective data on firearm threat, fear of firearm violence, other IPV victimization (i.e., physical, psychological, and sexual), and PTSD symptoms were collected during in-person individual interviews. Approximately one-quarter of the sample (24.2%) experienced threat with a firearm during the course of their relationship, and 12.5% were afraid that their partners would use a firearm against them in the 30 days prior to the study interview. Firearm threat and fear of firearm violence emerged as significant and unique predictors of PTSD symptom severity, controlling for age and physical, psychological, and sexual IPV victimization severity. The findings underscore firearm threat as a key factor for identifying and intervening with criminal justice involved women who experience IPV.

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