Intimate partner violence (IPV) affects one in three women and can have long-lasting psychological effects, with abuse survivors typically exhibiting elevated stress and depressive symptoms. However, women with greater personal empowerment resources (i.e., self-care, agency, self-efficacy) and who practice relaxation techniques generally exhibit lower stress and depressive symptoms. The present study investigated the effectiveness of Personal Empowerment Programs (PEP) and practicing relaxation techniques in promoting empowerment and lowering stress and depressive symptoms. Ninety women were recruited from PEP classes conducted at domestic violence agencies in Orange County, California. Salivary cortisol and affect were assessed before and after one PEP class. Perceived stress, depressive symptoms, empowerment, and relaxation techniques were also assessed. Practicing relaxation techniques correlated with more empowerment. For women without sexual abuse experiences only, having completed more classes (>5 classes) in the program was associated with greater empowerment, less stress, and fewer depressive symptoms. Implications extend to future studies and interventions for IPV survivors.


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