A Theory-Based Approach to Understanding Suicide Risk in Shelter-Seeking Women

Academic Article


  • Women seeking shelter from intimate partner violence are at an increased risk for suicide ideation and attempts compared to women in the general population. Control-based violence, which is common among shelter-seeking women, may play a pivotal role in the development of suicide ideation and attempts. Current risk assessment and management practices for shelter-seeking women are limited by the lack of an empirically grounded understanding of increased risk in this population. We argue that in order to more effectively promote risk assessment and management, an empirically supported theory that is sensitive to the experiences of shelter-seeking women is needed. Such a theory-driven approach has the benefits of identifying and prioritizing targetable areas for intervention. Here, we review the evidence for the link between coercive control and suicide ideation and attempts from the perspective of Baumeister’s escape theory of suicide. This theory has the potential to explain the role of coercive control in the development of suicide ideation and eventual attempts in shelter-seeking women. Implications for suicide risk assessment and prevention in domestic violence shelters are discussed.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wolford-Clevenger C; Smith PN
  • Start Page

  • 169
  • End Page

  • 178
  • Volume

  • 16
  • Issue

  • 2