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Growing attention for professor’s work on domestic violence

Graduation day: Assistant Professor Catherine Marrs Fuchsel (center, in glasses) with her April 2012 support group.
Graduation day: Assistant Professor Catherine Marrs Fuchsel (center, in glasses) with her April 2012 support group.
Photo provided by Catherine Marrs Fuchsel.

Catherine Marrs Fuchsel’s research has revolved around violence in marriage and immigrant Mexican women. Recently, the St. Catherine University assistant professor of social work’s domestic violence prevention model garnered local support and was accepted for national publication.

Marrs Fuchsel developed the three-part theoretical model from the findings of her Ph.D. dissertation. Three hypotheses were developed in the model that have now been translated into a psycho-education domestic violence prevention model (DVPM) curriculum. The curriculum that is facilitated in Spanish encourages the immigrant Mexican woman — and other female victims of abuse — to take stock of who she is and what she wants out of an intimate partnership before entering into it.

This summer, Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work will publish her manuscript “Domestic violence, culture, and relationship dynamics among immigrant Mexican women." Over the last few months, Marrs Fuchsel has tested the DVPM curriculum with two psyco-education/support groups.

The 19 women were recruited from Migrant Health Service Inc., a community health clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Among her findings:

  • The women’s self-esteem increased and women became empowered to examine current relationships.
  • The women learned about healthy dating and relationships.
  • The women learned how to access resources in the community and keep themselves safe in current relationships.

“I was surprised by the experiences because I was not sure if the women would open up to discuss their current relationships with other women,” says Marrs Fuchsel.

Over 11 weeks, the group covered different topics such as self-esteem, coping strategies, dynamics of domestic violence, and understanding dating in relationships within a cultural context. They met once a week for two hours.

“Some of the women were shy in the beginning,” recalls Marrs Fuchsel, “but then towards the end they had formed relationships, confided in each other, and exchanged phone numbers at the end of the group to stay connected for support.”

Growing interest for new model

Several other Migrant Health Service Inc. clinics in Minnesota have expressed interest in her DVPM curriculum. Marrs Fuchsel will start training sessions with a Migrant Health Service Inc. clinic in Willmar this summer. She will be training the clinic supervisor and staff psychologist to facilitate the group.

“This community-based, participatory research with a vulnerable group of women living in Minnesota is becoming a huge success,” says Marrs Fuchsel. “I feel very fortunate to work with these amazing women and to share the DVPM curriculum with them.  I want to empower these women by helping them understand what it means to be in a healthy relationship.”

After further data analysis, she will continue to develop the DVPM curriculum instructor’s manual for local and national social service providers who work with immigrant Mexican women.

For more information about the curriculum, email Catherine Marrs Fuchsel at clmarrsfuchsel@stkate.edu or call 651-690-6146.

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May 24, 2012 by Pauline Oo

See also: Faculty, Healthcare, Leadership, Social Justice