Intimate Partner Violence: Let VA Help - VA Portland Health Care System
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Intimate Partner Violence: Let VA Help

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The VA IPV Program might be able to help you.

By Phillip Myers, VAPORHCS Public Affairs Volunteer
Friday, December 23, 2016

On Sept. 11, 2014, the VHA announced a “Plan for Implementation of the Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence (DV/IPV) Assistance Program.” The program was finalized by the VHA Domestic Violence Task Force in December 2013 with 14 key recommendations. To implement the Assistance Program, the VHA designed a pilot program that would take place in six VA medical center facilities including VAPORHCS.

The National VA Social Work Newsletter in 2014 said that “Domestic Violence/Intimate Partner Violence is a significant and complex health issue faced by many of our Veterans and their families. While the term ‘domestic violence’ has often been used to refer to intimate partner violence, it more precisely refers to any abuse or violence that takes place within the home…”

Kristi Ketchum, MSW, LCSW, a neurology social worker and dementia educator, is guiding the program here at VAPORHCS. Kristi, who has been with the VA for six years, is well-qualified to lead VAPORHCS’ efforts in this pilot program. Her experience includes social work focusing on female Veterans’ experiences.

“Among women Veterans, the lifetime prevalence of IPV is 33 percent,” says Kristi. “Military populations report higher rates of IPV than their civilian peers, and male combat Veterans are at increased risk for using relationship violence.”

What are the key elements in VAPORHCS’ IPV Assistance Program Pilot? Kristi explains that implementation expands screening, prevention and intervention to Veterans, along with strengthening partnerships with external community providers and resource centers.

A comprehensive, 12- week group for Veterans struggling with abusive behaviors and aggression in intimate relationships is in the process of being activated with a starting goal of Fall, 2016. Entitled “Strength at Home,” the groups will last two hours and include a maximum of eight Veterans.

“Our groups are intensive and therapy based and all group members participate in discussions,” says Kristi. “Interested Veterans must complete a 60-minute intake assessment, and they are asked to provide consent for us to contact their intimate partner to provide safety information and to assess past or ongoing abuse.”

VAPORHCS is currently screening women Veterans in the Center for Women Veterans Health. The VHA is actively researching a screening tool appropriate for both men and women, and VAPORHCS is currently conducting a small-scale screening pilot with male veterans. The goal of screening is not disclosure. “Asking about IPV is an intervention in itself and sends an important message to Veterans,” says Kristi who indicates that the highest risk age group for experiencing IPV is 18 to 24.

IPV can be seen as physical abuse and/or emotional abuse such as name calling, isolating from friends and/or family, bullying, stalking and threatening to hurt or kill friends or pets.

As VAPORHCS’ key point of contact for IPV, Kristi provides crisis intervention and resource referral to staff and Veterans, and she partners with community agencies to provide education, resources and referrals. She has compiled and maintains a resource guide, and is developing a safety planning guide for VA providers to help Veterans experiencing violence to increase safety when leaving or returning to unsafe conditions. She also helps to coordinate activities for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

There are many component parts to the intricate problems created by intimate partner violence. But, as Kristi Ketchum explains, there are also many solutions to counter this ongoing dilemma. Support and encouragement are provided through people such as Kristi.

If you would like additional information, her VAPORHCS contact info is 503-220-8262, ext. 58594. Email address is


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