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Older Women’s Experiences of Intimate Partner Violence: A Phenomenological Study

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a global public health problem, linked to long-term health, social, and economic consequences. Despite the growing number of women over age 60 in Puerto Rico, knowledge is lacking about culturally specific IPV in women of this age group. This lack of knowledge is problematic because women experiencing abuse often do not report it, health professionals are not educated to identify cases of abuse in older women, and researchers often includes IPV with other types of abuse, such as negligence by families. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore and describe the experiences and perceptions related to the phenomenon of IPV in Puerto Rican women over 60 years of age. An interpretative phenomenological approach was used to understand the experiences of older Puerto Rican women exposed to IPV. Data was collected using in-depth interviews and then carefully read and analyzed to identify codes and themes according to Colaizzi’s strategy (1978). A total of six women participated in this research study. Five emerging themes were used in the analysis and interpretation. These were adverse childhood experiences, IPV influences, IPV implications, support structure for coping with IPV, and coping strategies. The findings revealed that participants begun to experience adverse events in childhood. These events influenced the IPV experience in the relationship. Exposure to IPV initiated at the beginning of the relationship and lasted until after the age of 60. The patriarchal culture factors also influenced the experience of IPV. These experiences are related to harmful effects on mental and physiological health. The health management and early identification of IPV, along with referrals to centers dealing with trauma or violence, help the victim receive the appropriate interventions to break the cycle of violence.