The concept of stigma is recognized as a widespread, universal experience which is a major cause of personal suffering and a deterrent to obtaining health care. Vulnerable populations, such as women with disabilities (WWD) who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV), are at risk for several of the various forms of stigma, especially self-stigma. Health care providers and social scientists believe that stigma has a negative influence on people’s lives by contributing to high levels of stress and social disadvantages.
The primary purpose of this research study was to describe the nature of the phenomenon of self-stigma by WWD who had experienced IPV and extricated themselves from their violent situations. A secondary purpose was to identify if additional types of stigma were experienced by these disabled women and to compare the findings to a stigma model constructed through the process of concept analysis. The study was conducted through the use of a secondary data analysis on qualitative data obtained from a phenomenological research study which explored the lived experience of WWD who experienced IPV. The population was adult women who were currently participating in either individual counseling or a women’s support group at a community mental health center located in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. A convenience sample of 24 disabled women over the age of 21 was recruited from the center. After obtaining Institutional Review Board approval and each individual participant’s consent, the interviews and the collection of the demographic data were held at the counseling center. Each interview was audio-recorded in a private office. The data used for the secondary analysis were the original transcripts analyzed again using Colaizzi’s phenomenological methodology.
A description of the participants’ background, health status, and abuse history was obtained from the demographic data collection. The findings revealed 53 examples of self-stigma validated from the interviews. Several examples of public stigma, double stigma, and health care provider stigma also were identified. The four empirical referents from the concept analysis, experience of discrimination, feelings of being devalued, negative attitude towards self, and struggles with self-care and functioning were confirmed. For the women in this study, the experience of self-stigma was present, along with conditions identified in the literature as precursors or antecedents to the experience of stigma. Of the nine consequences determined from the concept analysis of stigma, the participants identified seven of these outcomes as a part of their personal experiences. The model, constructed as a part of the concept analysis of stigma, to illustrate the pervasiveness of stigma and how it influences aspects of life and functioning was modified based on the study findings. Additional research is needed to validate the concept analysis, support or further modify the model and to determine its psycho-educational use.
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