Abused women can get assistance through individualized safety plans and be able to evaluate their situation through a Web-based program developed at the University of Missouri.
Unlike current Internet resources, the decision-aid program provides women with personalized assessments of the danger of their situations.
The program generates a series of initial questions and follow-up questions for each woman, and then creates individualized safety plans based on their responses.
A safety plan may include talking with children about what to do if violence suddenly occurs, establishing a safe place to go at a moment's notice, or hiding money and a change of clothes somewhere in or outside the home. Women also receive information about legal processes and community resources.
"The decision-aid provides anonymity and guidance to women who aren't comfortable talking about their situations," said Tina Bloom of Sinclair School of Nursing.
"It helps women think through their decisions, make more informed decisions and decrease decisional conflict - that sort of feeling like they don't know what to do, what their options are or where to look for help," she said.
In the pilot study of the program, the researchers found that women's decisional conflicts were reduced after one use of the decision-aid.
The program is designed to help women who don't have access to traditional resources, including shelters and doctors. The decision-aid will be available to women anywhere they have safe access to the Internet.
Additionally, kiosks with the program will be located in hospitals, doctor's offices, libraries and mental health care facilities.
"In intimate partner violence situations, there are ongoing patterns of violence - the more exposure that women have to violence, the greater their risk for injuries and negative health consequences, both mental and physical," Bloom said.
"The goal of the decision-aid program is to give women more personalized and confidential aid options and prevent extended exposure to violence by changing their safety behaviors. By making help easily accessible, we can improve women's health outcomes," she added.