Date of Award

Winter 12-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Social Work

Additional Affiliations

Brown School of Social Work

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Exposure to political violence or war is associated with intimate partner violence (IPV) in post-conflict settings (Clark et al., 2010; Gupta, Reed, Kelly, Stein, & Williams, 2012), and civilians and veterans who develop posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after exposure to combat or violence are more likely to perpetrate violence against an intimate partner (Taft, Watkins, Stafford, Street, & Monson, 2011). Rwandan health professionals estimate that after the 1994 genocide more than one-quarter of the country’s population now suffers from PTSD (Munyandamutsa, Nkubamugisha, Gex-Fabry, & Eytan, 2012). Although the majority of Rwandan women (56%) have experienced IPV in their lifetime (National Institute of Statistics Rwanda, Ministry of Health (MINISANTE) [Rwanda], & ICF International, 2012), mental health problems from trauma have not yet been considered as a factor in efforts against gender-based violence.

This study used mixed methods to document and describe the phenomena of trauma exposure, mental health problems, and intimate partner violence in Rwanda. The study examined risk and protective factors associated with the perpetration of physical, sexual, emotional, and financial intimate partner violence, with a particular focus on the role of trauma and mental health. Twenty-nine married men and 16 of their wives from rural and peri-urban communities of Rwanda completed semi-structured in-depth interviews (IDIs). Structured, face-to-face survey interviews were conducted with a representative sample of married men over the age of 35 (N=148) from one southern Rwandan district. Bivariate analyses were conducted to test relationships between risk and protective factors of interest and prior year perpetration of IPV. A series of multivariate logistic regression models tested the relationship between trauma and mental health problems with IPV.

More than 30% of the male survey sample reported perpetrating at least one type of IPV in the previous year. Patriarchal attitudes, younger age, alcohol consumption, and anger were significantly associated with IPV perpetration in bivariate analyses. Although male survey respondents reported on average 11.2 lifetime traumatic events, exposure to traumatic events was not significantly associated with perpetration of IPV in bivariate analyses. Twenty-one percent of respondents met diagnostic criteria for PTSD. In multivariate analyses, men who met diagnostic criteria for PTSD were 3 times more likely to report perpetrating physical IPV compared to men without PTSD, OR = 3.13 [1.10, 8.86], and 1.4 times more likely to report emotional IPV perpetration, OR = 1.39, [0.57, 3.35]. Meeting the diagnostic cut-off for depression was associated with IPV in bivariate but not multivariate analyses. Stories from IDI respondents indicated that trauma exposure and the mental health of both male and female partners is important.

Study findings confirm the importance of studying unique factors for IPV in a post-conflict setting and indicate that interventions to address mental health should be considered in policies and programs to address IPV in Rwanda. The findings may also have implications for other populations affected by political or community violence in the United States or abroad.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Carolyn K Lesorogol

Committee Members

Wendy Auslander, Tonya Edmond, Ramesh Raghavan, Jean-François Trani, Edward Spitznagel


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