UH study: 'Talk-story' sessions may prevent intimate partner violence

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Theresa Kreif, (808) 956-6120
Assistant to the Dean, School of Social Work
Posted: Jun 24, 2019

Participating in "talk-story" sessions over the course of several months may be an effective way to raise awareness about intimate partner violence, new research from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa shows.

Researchers including Lois Magnussen and Jan Shoultz, emeritus professors with the School of Nursing and Dental Hygiene (SONDH), and Kathryn L. Braun, professor of Public Health, found that Leeward Coast residents who participated in talk-story sessions held over a 6-month period showed increases in their awareness, knowledge and confidence to address intimate partner violence, and decreases in how "acceptable" they found intimate partner violence to be.

"Many people in Hawaiʻi may not use conventional resources to prevent intimate partner violence because they face language or cultural barriers," Magnussen says.

"In our study, we took the public health approach of starting by asking community members what they thought would be a good way to approach this problem in our communities, and they suggested these talk-story sessions," Shoultz says.

The researchers designed the sessions to promote informal, laid-back conversations. They wanted to create a space for participants to share their thoughts and listen to other people in ways that were comfortable and in line with their cultural values.

Nearly 100 people participated in the study. Over the course of five sessions, trained faciliators led small-group discussions on topics such as people's perceptions of what actions may be defined as intimate partner violence, what steps individuals or communities can take to prevent intimate partner violence or stop it once it has begun, and what resources are available in the community for people who need help.

"The goal of these sessions was to increase the ownership that community members felt for solving this problem and create safe spaces for people to discuss their views on intimate partner violence," Shoultz says.

The talk-story sessions included both men and women, because the participants said they believed that including both genders would help to more fully engage the community. Moreover, research has shown that mixed gender groups are more likely to promote non-violent social norms, according to the study.

During the 6-month period over which the sessions were held, at least five women sought help or left unsafe situations.

"There are laws in place that make intimate partner violence a crime, but laws alone may not be enough," Magnussen says. "Our hope is that by changing the social acceptance of this type of abuse, we can promote a culture that has no tolerance for intimate partner violence."