Trauma, Power, and Intimate Relationships Among Women in Prison

Focus Areas: Health & Wellness Ending Gender Violence

The present study, which included four focus groups of women (n = 21) in four New England prisons, aimed to understand how power impacted women’s relationships, exposure to violence, and health. Women described power in three ways: (a) power as control over their sexuality and their sexual partners, (b) power emerging from emotional strength, and (c) power referring to a process of empowerment. Women’s perceptions and experiences of power were informed by their trauma histories and influenced their sexual behavior and health. Our findings provide a framework for considering incarcerated women’s experiences of power in trauma-informed interventions for this marginalized population.

McCauley, H. L., F. Richie, S. Hughes, J. E. Johnson, C. Zlotnick, R. K. Rosen, W. M. Wechsberg and C. C. Kuo (2020). "Trauma, Power, and Intimate Relationships Among Women in Prison." Violence Against Women 26(6-7): 659-674.


Wendee Wechsberg

“We must listen to the communities, the local people, to understand culturally what is going to fit and what is going to be the language of the research, and not just say we know what to do here.”