Wellness Beyond Symptom Reduction: An Exploration of Black Woman-Centered Wellness for Survivors of Gender-Based Violence

Stephanie Hargrove

Major Professor: Lauren B Cattaneo, PhD, Department of Psychology

Committee Members: Colleen Vesely, Leah Adams

Online Location, Online Location
July 26, 2021, 09:00 AM to 11:00 AM


African American women experience Gender-based violence (GBV) at disproportionate rates compared to women of other racial and ethnic backgrounds, yet they access formal health care settings less. Culturally adapted interventions have been implemented with relative success, however there is still a lack of interventions that measure success based on standards of wellness that are most important to Black women. Some scholars have proposed Critical Race Theory (CRT) as an alternative framework to cultural competence to conceptualize Black women’s wellness within the context of systemic racism and sexism. Based on this background, Study 1 is a literature review that explores components of wellness for Black women, GBV survivors. The peer-reviewed literature search yielded 127 articles that met criteria for review. We synthesized the relevant literature and determined eight prospective domains of wellness within four categories, using a CRT lens. The prospective domains are wellness in connection to spirit: Spirituality, society: Social Action Engagement and Critical Consciousness, relationships: Openness to Share Experiences, Developing Meaningful Community and Considering Family Relationships, and self: Reclaiming the Self and Physical Wholeness. For each domain, we provided a definition based on the literature and evidence for the relevance of the domain for Black women, GBV survivors using a CRT lens.

Study 2 is a qualitative study aimed at 1) understanding the concept of Black woman-centered wellness after experiences of GBV and 2) exploring how their understanding of wellness aligns with the domains synthesized from the literature. This qualitative study included semi-structured, in-depth interviews, using Critical Race Methodology (CRM). The participants were 20 Black women who endorsed experiences of GBV from 13 different states/territories across the US. Formal data analysis included three waves of coding: open, axial, and selective coding. This study employed strategies to ensure data quality recommended for constructivist and critical theorists such as reflexivity, triangulation, member checking, and peer debriefing. The results yielded two primary themes and six subthemes. The first theme highlights what wellness means within the context of ongoing sociopolitical oppression: wellness is steeped in resistance. The second theme delineates the specific intersecting components of wellness that are most important for Black women survivors of GBV: wellness is holistic through mind, body, and spirit. The participant’s perspective on wellness compliments the domains that were outlined in the literature review and provides nuance that is important for the distinction of essential components of wellness and factors that facilitate wellness for Black women. The findings have implications for policy, practice, and future research.