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A DISSERTATION Presented to the Faculty of The Graduate College at the University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of Requirements For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Major: Psychological Studies in Education (Counseling Psychology). Under the Supervision of Professor Roger Bruning.
Lincoln, Nebraska: July 2009
Copyright (c) 2009 Megan Watson.


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the experience of intimate partner violence and help-seeking in college women. This study used a phenomenological approach and qualitative interviews to elicit descriptions from a sample of five college women who had been in abusive relationships and had subsequently sought counseling. These were undergraduate women who had experienced abuse while in college and had recently been or were currently in counseling. Themes from the analysis of the participant interviews highlight the individual experiences of intimate partner violence as well as bring to light the experience of intimate partner violence in the context of college life. Textural themes include (a) shame and embarrassment; (b) isolation; (c) being controlled; (d) distress; (e) help-seeking; and (f) helpful counseling. Structural themes include (a) impact on academic performance; (b) impact on overall college experience; (c) impact on functioning in college setting; and (d) suggestions for administrators. These themes provide valuable information to the field of psychology in terms of the implications of intimate partner violence in a college woman’s life as well as how to facilitate and provide services to this population. Further implications for mental health professionals and those on college campuses include prevention strategies and beneficial responses to these situations from the women themselves. Limitations of the study, recommendations for clinical practice, future directions and the researcher’s reflections are also included.
Advisor: Roger Bruning

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