Intimate partner violence in Rwanda: the mental health of victims and perpetrators

Femke Verduin, Esther A N Engelhard, Theoneste Rutayisire, Karien Stronks, Willem F Scholte
Journal of Interpersonal Violence 2013, 28 (9): 1839-58
Exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) is a common feature of women living in low- and middle-income countries. Several studies have shown a significant association between IPV against women and mental health in both developed and in low- and middle-income countries. In postconflict settings, the relationship between IPV and mental health is likely more complex, given the high levels of violence experienced by the population as a whole. In this cross-sectional study the authors explore the association between IPV and common mental health disorders (CMD), and more specifically, suicidal ideation, among inhabitants of postgenocide Rwanda. The authors use the concept of "mutual partner violence," thereby exploring the association between IPV and CMD in victims, perpetrators, and those who state they are both. Data of 241 married men and women were used. Symptoms suggestive of CMD were established by use of the Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20), and physical intimate partner violence was measured using the Conflict Tactics Scale, Short Version (CTS2S). The authors applied multivariate logistic regressions with total SRQ-20 scores (above/below cutoff) and suicidal ideation as the outcome measures and corrected for age and gender. The study findings suggest that reported IPV is associated with CMD (odds ratio [OR] = 1.7, 95% confidence interval [95% CI] = 0.92-3.15) and suicidal ideation (OR = 1.6, 95% CI = 0.70-3.53). Those who state to be both victim and perpetrator (OR = 1.75, 95% CI = 0.82-3.72), or only perpetrator (OR = 3.13, 95% CI = 0.49-20.0), are more likely to report mental health problems than victims and people who do not report IPV. In a postconflict situation, perpetrators of IPV may suffer from mental health problems as much as, or even more than, victims. Longitudinal data are needed to clarify the complex relationship between CMD and IPV, especially if outcomes may also be related to other forms of violence experienced in the past.

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