January 14, 2002
Nia project helps women fight partner violence
By Alicia Sands Lurry
Violent abuse by an intimate partner, combined with psychological distress, hopelessness and substance abuse, all greatly increase African American womens risk of attempting suicide, which is about six times that of Caucasian women.
Yet with proper intervention and group therapy, women can be given hope
and purpose, making them more capable of obtaining the resources they
need, according to recent findings of a School of Medicine study for abused,
suicidal African American women at Grady Hospital.
The study, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
focused on the assessment and treatment of abused, suicidal women, and
is one of the few of its kind to link intimate partner violence (IPV)
and suicidal behavior in African American women.
As part of the study, which was presented in November at the SafeUSA
Conference in Atlanta, researchers created the Nia Project: Circle of
Hope, an intervention program based at Grady. Nia provides education about
IPV and suicide, tips for finding resources, how to enhance social support
networks, effective communication strategies and problem-solving skills.
In addition to the weekly group program, Niaa Kwanzaa term meaning
purposealso includes a buddy system and access to a
comprehensive resource room. African American women ages 18 to 64 who
have made suicide attempts and/or have been in abusive relationships in
the past 12 months are eligible for the project.
Our goal is to help women problem-solve and extricate themselves
from problematic relationships, said principal investigator Nadine
Kaslow, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and chief psychologist
at Grady. This project is all about giving women a sense of purpose
The Nia Project is based on a series of studies conducted at Grady since
In the most recent study, which soon will be published in the Journal
of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, researchers sought to determine
what factors differentiated those African American women with a history
of IPV who attempted suicide from those abused women with no history of
suicidal behavior. The sample consisted of 200 African American battered
women; 100 presented to Grady following a non-fatal suicide attempt, and
100 presented for non-emergency medical problems.
Those who had attempted suicide experienced numerous and/or severe negative
life events, a history of child abuse or neglect, high levels of psychological
distress and depression, hopelessness about the future, and alcohol and
drug problems. The women who did not attempt suicide felt hopeful about
their future, believed they were effective in their lives, had adaptive
coping skills and strong social support networks, and felt capable of
obtaining necessary resources.
Overall, the study concluded that because battered women often feel powerless,
helpless, socially isolated and economically dependent, many turn to suicide
to feel powerful, express their helplessness and hopelessness, receive
attention for their pain, and/or rid themselves from an intolerable situation.
Now that the Nia Project is in place, women from all over Grady meet
for 10 sessions of group intervention. The program is led by two trained
counselors and seeks to empower women with information on suicide and
abuse education and prevention. Each woman also has access to a resource
room with reading materials and other information about domestic violence,
suicide, housing, jobs and education.
To report abuse or a suicide attempt, or for more information on the Nia Project, call 404-616-2897.
Emory University, Copyright 2002