Intimate Partner Violence among Female Students at a Rural University in Limpopo Province, South Africa: A Mixed Methods Study with Intervention Implications
Background: Limpopo Province has the highest rates of intimate partner violence (IPV) in South Africa, with data suggesting that over half of women experience IPV in their lifetimes. However, data among young, university-attending women in this province is lacking. This study aimed to estimate the prevalence of IPV victimization among university women and examine factors associated with IPV history. The study also aimed to explore how university women recognize IPV, suggest ways victims seek help, and identify a victim’s coping strategies using qualitative methods.
Methods: This study utilized a mixed methods approach and was conducted at the University of Venda (UNIVEN), a rural-based university in Vhembe district. Convenience sampling was used to recruit female participants who were currently enrolled at the university, aged 18 to 31 years, and currently in a relationship or in a relationship within the past year. 113 females were enrolled in the study. After obtaining written informed consent, we conducted a self-administered cross-sectional survey. IPV was measured using the Revised Conflict Tactics Scale (CTS2), which assessed for both past year and lifetime IPV experiences. To explore the association between IPV and other factors, other measures included an alcohol use screening tool (AUDIT-C) and a measure assessing attitudes toward gender roles. Descriptive statistics and Fisher’s exact tests were performed to assess the relationship between potential risk factors and IPV. Logistic regression analyses examined the associations between exposure variables and lifetime IPV victimization. Short explanatory model interviews (SEMI) examining women’s perceptions of IPV-related issues using a custom vignette were administered directly following the survey. The interviews were recorded and later analyzed using thematic analysis.
Results: 92.23% of participants reported being victims of any form of IPV in their lifetime. Psychological aggression (82.52%) was the most prevalent type of lifetime violence, followed by sexual coercion (73.79%), physical assault (37.86%), and injury (15.53%). The joint frequency distribution of IPV victimization by subscale reveals that 9.71% of participants reported being victims of all four forms of IPV at least once in their lifetime, while most respondents reported experiencing two types of IPV (35.9%). Compared to having no sexual partners in the past year, having two or more sexual partners was significantly associated with higher odds of being a lifetime victim of sexual coercion (p = 0.031; OR: 4.41; 95% CI 1.14 - 17.02). Study findings support an increased odds of lifetime IPV (p = 0.030; OR: 7.04; 95% CI 1.21 – 40.97) and physical assault (p = 0.010; OR: 3.77; 95% CI 1.37 – 10.40) for participants who personally knew an IPV victim at UNIVEN compared to women who did not personally know a victim. Participants who disagreed or strongly disagreed that IPV should be viewed as a crime were 11.37 times more likely to be victims of lifetime sexual coercion than those who agreed (p = 0.027; OR: 11.37; 95% CI 1.32 - 97.82). The SEMI revealed most women recognized IPV in the vignette, and the recommended help-seeking behaviors included seeking informal and formal help, leaving the relationship, and changing behavior.
Conclusions: IPV prevalence among the study sample was reported nearly universally. Number of sexual partners, personally knowing a victim of IPV at the university, and attitudes toward gender roles were significantly associated with having a history of IPV. University commitment and multi-sectoral collaboration at all levels are critical for the provision of resources, services, and violence prevention efforts. Future research is needed to inform evidence-based interventions that will reduce victimization by addressing risk factors, under-reporting, and barriers to seeking help.
Conflict Tactics Scale
Intimiate partner violence
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