CWRU awarded NIH grant to identify effective treatments for intimate partner violence

Project will identify most promising interventions and help providers tailor treatments

Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine's Gunnur Karakurt, PhD has been awarded a four-year, $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify effective treatments for intimate partner violence (IPV), and to develop a decision-making tool for care providers. The project involves analyzing national data to identify subgroups of people who respond similarly to specific IPV treatments. By combining findings with a meta-analysis of the literature and computer modeling, clinicians will be better able to choose between evidence-based treatments.

The project aims to reduce inequalities of current treatment methods, Karakurt said. "Standard treatment for IPV is typically gender-specific, involving anger management groups for offenders and support groups for victims. Grouping this way marginalizes the effect of background and circumstance."

Karakurt, a licensed marriage and family therapist, and an associate professor of psychiatry at the medical school, will lead a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, biostatisticians, and computer scientists to analyze data for the project. Karakurt will collaborate with colleagues from University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, Metro Health, and Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute for the project.

Victims and perpetrators of IPV will be separated into subgroups based on factors that may contribute to violence and influence treatment effectiveness. Treatment outcomes will be analyzed not only on the basis of demographic and socioeconomic background, but also with different IPV methods, severities, social contexts, and comorbidities. Using advanced prediction modeling techniques, treatment outcomes will then be systematically tested and characterized for each identified subgroup.

The project considers nuances and complexities that underlie IPV. Each IPV case differs in violence form, severity, and mutuality within the relationship. Perpetrators and victims of IPV include both men and women with varying physical, mental, and emotional treatment needs.

"Unfortunately, many individuals who do not respond well to treatment aren't offered alternative treatments specifically tailored to their situation," Karakurt said. There are currently no tools available to accurately assess and select optimal treatment for each individual IPV case. The newly funded project will use findings to generate a clinical decision-making tool that could help millions of men and women who succumb to IPV each year connect with relevant care.

The tool may help steer care providers away from generic, broad spectrum IPV treatments. Customizing treatments to reflect IPV variability could also improve outcomes for certain subgroups. According to recent estimates, nearly a quarter of women in the United States will experience IPV in their lifetime.

"Inequalities arising from age, gender, race, ethnicity, economics, immigration status, and all kinds of other factors play a role in the path toward violence," Karakurt said. "Our goal is to help overcome treatment inequalities so all individuals have an equal chance at improving their lives."​

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