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Experience of Violence in the Lives of Homeless Women: A Research Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2005
102 pages
This study examined the experiences of violence among 737 homeless women living in one of 4 cities in Florida, compared to a sample of 91 homeless men in 1 of the cities.
Face-to-face interviews, which were conducted in the spring of 2003, used standardized instruments. The Conflict Tactics Scale measured the occurrence of "major violence" episodes; the Personal History Form recorded family characteristics as well as lifetime and recent homeless experiences; and the Addiction Severity Index focused on drug and alcohol use. The analysis concluded that approximately 25 percent of the women were homeless primarily because of experiences of violence; this sample of homeless women was far more likely to experience violence of all sorts than American women in general; the same was true of the sample of homeless men in relation to the general population of men. Homeless women, however, were far more likely than the men to be victims of intimate partner violence. The most significant risk factor for violent victimization as an adult was a pattern of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as a child. Childhood victimizations apparently contributed to a distorted sense of normalcy in the women's relationships with men. Apparent consequences of the women's experiences of violence were increased substance abuse, emotional distress, and low self-esteem. These findings suggest that more attention should be given to the treatment of childhood victimization and its prevention. For homeless women victimized as children, their multiple emotional and behavioral problems cannot be addressed by the standard services of homeless shelters. Absent interventions that will address these needs, homeless women are at risk of repeating cycles of behavior that place themselves and their children in dangerous situations. Extensive tables and 63 references

Date Published: September 1, 2005