Recognizing and Responding to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) Programs

Publication Date: August 24, 2020
This is the cover of Recognizing and Responding to Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in Healthy Marriage and Relationship Education (HMRE) Programs report

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  • Published: 2020


Healthy relationship programming can play an important role in preventing and responding to intimate partner violence (IPV). Healthy marriage and relationship education (HMRE) initiatives, funded by the Office of Family Assistance (OFA) in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, present an opportunity for reaching adults who are experiencing IPV and connecting them with help.


This infographic presents key recommendations and results from the adult-focused component of the Responding to Intimate Violence in Relationship Programs (RIViR) study, which compared different approaches for offering HMRE program participants the chance to share IPV experiences and be connected to services.

Key Findings and Highlights

Over half (54%) of HMRE participants disclosed IPV. IPV was more prevalent among those who had children; were not in a steady romantic relationship; self-identified as multi-racial or a race other than Black, White, Native American, or Hispanic/Latino; were not working; were in unstable housing; received public assistance; or had incomes under $500/month.

Findings indicated that some participants chose to enroll in HMRE programming in order to gain insight on IPV experiences or to obtain assistance. Questionnaire-style tools were more likely to elicit IPV disclosure than universal education. Additionally, participants felt more comfortable disclosing personal experiences to others of a similar culture or life experience.


Findings suggest that HMRE programs working to build organizational capacity and readiness should

  • Cultivate a reciprocal partnership with a culturally competent local domestic violence organization;
  • Involve staff who share life experiences or culture in common with participants; and
  • Take time to create a welcoming, safe, caring, and interactive atmosphere for relationship education.

To create survivor-centered, trauma-informed opportunities for IPV disclosure, study results suggest that HMRE programs should

  • Treat IPV-related work as an integral part of the program;
  • Address confidentiality protections (and limitations);
  • Use brief, plain language assessment tools;
  • Deliver questionnaire-style tools in a conversational spirit; and
  • Create repeated opportunities for participant-initiated conversation about IPV.

Finally, results suggest that programs can help to protect the safety of IPV survivors by supporting and informing clients who do and do not choose to disclose their IPV experiences to HMRE program staff. HMRE programs should

  • Follow up on what participants share;
  • Work collaboratively and creatively to support survivors in accessing services and staying safe;
  • Offer a variety of resources; and
  • Stay in communication with participants.


McKay, T., Kan, M., & Brinton, J. (2020). Responding to Intimate Violence in Relationship Programs: Adult Study Summary. OPRE Report 2020-100. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families. Available at /opre/research/project/responding-to-intimate-violence-in-relationship-programs-rivir.

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