Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Domestic Violence....a serious public health issue

Photo credit: Mel Evans Associated Press

Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) is a serious public health issue. It is not only experienced in the black community nor among the wealthy. It does not discriminate. It happens among heterosexual couples and same-sex couples. It occurs within all age ranges, ethnic backgrounds, and economic levels. 
Domestic violence is used as a tactic to gain and maintain control over the person being abused. The abuser uses fear, shame, humiliation and intimidation. He/she may threaten to harm you, your children or your family or friends. Even though women are the most victimized, men also fall victim to abuse. Abusive behavior is not acceptable no matter who is doing the abuse.
In light of recent reactions to Ray Rice and his then fiancee's elevator incident, I felt compelled to share some insight so as to educate and perhaps enable you to see the severity of abuse and perhaps save someone who might currently be a victim. It is my hope that this would begin the conversation on how we each can address this major public health issue.


  •  85% of domestic violence victims are women.
  • 1/3 of American women and 1/4 of women worldwide will experience domestic/dating violence in their lifetime.
  • An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year. 
  • Only 25% of all physical assaults perpetrated by intimate partners are reported to the police.
  • Females who are 20 to 24 years of age are at the greatest risk for  nonfatal intimate partner violence.
  • Boys who witness domestic violence are 2 times as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults.
  • Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.

General warning signs of domestic abuse

People who are being abused may:
  • Seem afraid or anxious to please their partner
  • Go along with everything their partner says and does
  • Check in often with their partner to report where they are and what they’re doing
  • Receive frequent, harassing phone calls from their partner
  • Talk about their partner’s temper, jealousy, or possessiveness

Warning signs of physical violence

People who are being physically abused may:
  • Have frequent injuries, with the excuse of “accidents”
  • Frequently miss work, school, or social occasions, without explanation
  • Dress in clothing designed to hide bruises or scars (e.g. wearing long sleeves in the summer or sunglasses indoors)

Warning signs of isolation

People who are being isolated by their abuser may:
  • Be restricted from seeing family and friends
  • Rarely go out in public without their partner
  • Have limited access to money, credit cards, or the car

The psychological warning signs of abuse

People who are being abused may:
  • Have very low self-esteem, even if they used to be confident
  • Show major personality changes (e.g. an outgoing person becomes withdrawn)
  • Be depressed, anxious, or suicidal
If you suspect someone you know might be in an abusive relationship, reach out. My husband and I did it many years ago for a neighbor. We contacted a helpline to advise us on how we should approach her. We were very young then and had no idea how to help her but knew that we had to help her and her daughter. She left. That was approx 18 years ago. All cases do not have happy endings. All victims are not as responsive to help as our neighbor was. Reach out anyway without judgement.

Do's and Don'ts

  • Ask if something is wrong
  • Express concern
  • Listen and validate
  • Offer help
  • Support his or her decisions
  • Wait for him or her to come to you
  • Judge or blame
  • Pressure him or her
  • Give advice
  • Place conditions on your support

Adapted from: NYS Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence

There is also an app that is available for victims of abuse.

National Hotline for Domestic Abuse - 
800-799-SAFE (7233)


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