CHAPEL HILL – UNC Professor Rebecca Macy led a team of researchers who recently published a study that proved women who completed a required domestic violence intervention program were less likely to be victims again and more likely to leave abusive partners.

Macy and the team followed women and children participating in Mothers Overcoming Violence through Education and Empowerment, known as MOVE, which is a 13-week program that helps victims of domestic violence rebuild self-esteem and strengthen positive parenting skills.

“We saw significant reductions in the partner violence that the women experienced and that the children were exposed to over the course of the program,” Macy said. “Those significant reductions in physical abuse, psychological abuse, and abuse that resulted in some type of injury were all sustained for three months after program completion.”

Macy is a professor in the UNC School of Social Work. To conduct the research, her team was awarded $600,000 from the Duke Endowment.

Rebecca Macy

Rebecca Macy

“Changes in Intimate Partner Violence Among Women Mandated to Community Services” was published in the online journal, Research on Social Work Practice, in November.

Three months into the program, their research found that women were almost 97 percent less likely to have experienced repeat physical abuse and 84 percent less likely to have been psychologically abused.

“Having other women in that group that have been in the same position that they have been in is really helpful,” Macy said. “Having that support, seeing that other women who have been in those really difficult positions can also make changes and make a difference in their lives—that’s a really powerful experience for them and helps them make changes themselves.”

Through the intervention program, Macy said that she saw women finding the courage to leave their partners.

“At the three-month follow-up, fewer than 20 percent of the women were in the relationships that got them involved in MOVE—the relationships that were violent.”

Programs like MOVE don’t necessarily force women to leave their partners,  Macy explained, rather they teach them how to develop strategies to deal with and overcome the challenges in their lives.

“Most of those programs don’t make you make a big choice, like you have to leave your partner. Some of the women in MOVE stayed with their partners, but they were also saying to us, we also found with those families there was less domestic violence. There was improvement.”

Macy said her team is now studying how the women and families are doing a year after completing the program.