The DREAM study uses cognitive interviewing to assess the face validity and participants’ understanding of two commonly used scales in domestic violence research and screening. It is important to be able to identify women who have experienced domestic violence, the nature and severity of their abuse for two reasons: (i) to provide an accurate individual score for women participating in research projects, so that we can measure changes over time after they have received an intervention, and (ii) as a screening tool, to ensure access to appropriate services via primary care and other routes.

A number of scales have been designed but tick box answers to questionnaires and numerical scores do not tell the whole story and may not be an accurate reflection of women’s experience. Women may be reluctant to answer honestly because they feel ashamed of what has happened or they may fear a negative reaction from others, and want to play-down their abuse. Sitting with women while they fill out a questionnaire and then going through it together afterwards can help us to understand what the questions mean to women, check that they understand them and find out if they have difficulty in remembering the details of what happened to them and how often it happened. This study will look at two scales that are regularly used: the Composite Abuse Scale (CAS) and the HARK four questions. We will also pilot the use of an ‘Upset’ scale for women to rate items according to impact rather than relying on frequency as a proxy.

The results inform the future use and design and use of quantitative measurements and highlight the importance of cognitive interviewing as part of the validation process.

Project completion date: October 2013

Contact person: Maggie Evans 

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