Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence (DV) or intimate partner violence (IPV) is a serious health problem with a profound impact on victims, survivors, families, and society. In 1989, the United States Congress officially designated October as National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence includes child abuse, dependent abuse, and elderly abuse. However, we will refer to domestic violence (DV) as violence between intimate partners and use the term intimate partner violence (IPV).
How common is Intimate Partner Violence?
The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV) reports that on average, close to 20 people per minute, or one person every three seconds are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 1 in 5 women and 1 in 12 men have experienced contact with sexual violence by an intimate partner. Even after a relationship is over or in the process of ending, violence can remain and often escalates as the person perpetrating the abuse feels he/she is losing control, thus escalating the erratic and violent behavior. The NCADV reports that 1 in 7 women, and 1 in 18 men, have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime; they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed. Additionally, some minority populations, such as undocumented immigrants, refugees, members of the LGBTQ community, and minorities are at a higher risk of IPV due to their identity with these groups.
What is Intimate Partner Violence, and what are the warning signs?
The common denominator in an abusive relationship is an abusive intimate partner who wants to gain or maintain power and control over their current or past partner. Many people envision IPV as being only physical assault. The truth is sometimes the emotional harm done by perpetrators of IPV is longer lasting and more challenging to heal than physical abuse. IPV comes in many forms.
The following behaviors are forms of IPV:
Unwelcomed physical contact to intimidate a partner, cause injury, disability, disfigurement, or even death.
Any sexual behavior that is unwelcomed or that pressures, forces, or coerces an intimate partner to engage in. This may include forced sex within married couples, forced pregnancies, and forced abortions.
Non-physical behaviors or any patterns of bullying or abusive words that wear a person’s self-worth down such as threats, criticism, belittling, humiliation in front of others, and placing blame.
Controlling what the partner does, whom they can see or talk to, when and how often they can leave the house and what they can read and watch on TV, etc.
Instilling fear in a partner, by the way, the perpetrator talks, looks, or gestures at them. Destroying the victim’s property, threatening or abusing pets or children, and brandishing weapons.
It usually includes treating women in stereotypical old ways, such as the woman is the servant of the man, the man is “the master of the home,” women should not go out without the male partner, and the male makes all the important decisions for the couple, the home, or the children.
Not allowing the partner to seek or keep a job, keeping the partner financially dependent on the abuser, keeping the money of the partner if employed, limiting the money the partner gets by giving them a generally very low allowance, not including partner in bank accounts, making partner ask/beg for money for even basic needs.
Using threats to hurt their partner, family members, pets, or children. The use of emotional blackmail by threatening to commit suicide or murder-suicide if a partner leaves the perpetrator. Threats to report partner to immigration if undocumented, to disclose their sexual orientation if they are from the LGBTQ community, or even threats of using revenge porn. Coerce partner into dropping legal charges or even engaging in illegal activity.
This is a form of psychological manipulation where the perpetrator of abuse is skilled at minimizing, distorting, twisting, or denying the truth of his/her abuse where the victim ends up doubting him/herself, wondering if he/she imagined things, is overacting, feels somehow responsible for being abused, or that he/she is going crazy.
A pattern of unwanted behavior from a perpetrator that causes the victim to feel afraid, threatened, nervous, or in danger. For example, unwanted phone calls, texts, messages, comments on social media, showing up at places like the home or place of employment, damaging their vehicle or other property, etc. The behavior does not need to be threatening, as it may include unwelcome gifts that make the recipient feel uncomfortable or afraid.
Forcing individuals into labor/commercial sex work through force, fraud, corruption, or intimidation for economic gain, or to maintain power and control.
Infidelities can be considered a form of IPV because they can be demoralizing and damaging to the psychological well-being of the victim. They can leave the partner feeling humiliated, hurt, vulnerable, and helpless, and even contribute to the development of mental health conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Love should not hurt in any way, shape, or form.
How can we address Intimate Partner Violence?
Just like with any other physical health condition, education, prevention, screening, and early intervention of IPV are essential to eradicating and reducing the impact on those affected. Through education and prevention campaigns, we can highlight healthy romantic relationships and help reduce the reoccurrence, frequency, and intensity of IPV.
Workplace strategies for building a workplace environment that prevents and supports current victims of IPV include:
- Modeling healthy relationships
- Having gender equity
- Consistent messaging that IPV will not be tolerated
- Educational and prevention campaigns
- Having a safety protocol in place
- Ongoing training on IPV
- Having a designated person/team of staff to assist with IPV cases
- Having an Employee Assistance Program
- Allowing personal time off as needed
- Allowing flexibility in working accommodations for safety reasons
- Exploring additional safety measures at work
- Strengthening relationships with local IPV prevention organizations
- Being culturally sensitive
- Protecting the confidentiality of employees as much as possible
Anyone can be a victim of IPV, but we can also be a source of help and support to victims. When in doubt, be there for the victim and offer resources when they are ready to receive them, and it is safe for both of you. Novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez once said: “No person deserves your tears, and the one who deserves them will not make you cry.”
The following programs assist both male and female victims of domestic violence: