We’ve repeatedly heard that one in eight women in the United States is at risk for breast cancer. And while efforts to create breast cancer awareness are strong, there has been far less interest in another key issue that impacts women and children: domestic abuse.
It will probably surprise you to learn that one in every four women in the United States is impacted by physical violence from an intimate partner during her lifetime. I know this to be true as I am one of those women.
When I’ve shared my story, you can see the looks on people’s faces as they realize you can never judge a book – or a woman’s life experience – by its cover. Far more of us are impacted by this than most people think!
In addition to deaths and injuries, physical violence by an intimate partner is linked to multiple adverse health outcomes, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Some, such as broken bones, are the direct result of physical violence. Additionally, multiple health conditions have been linked to the impact intimate partner violence has on the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, endocrine and immune systems through chronic stress or other mechanisms.
Intimate partner violence also impacts the reproductive system, bringing sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies and gynecological disorders.
It’s tough to talk about and women who do speak out can put themselves at great risk by doing so. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore this and act like it’s somebody else’s problem.
Domestic violence affects women in every community, in every age group, economic status, race, religion, nationality and economic background. It is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another.
Here at EmpowHER we hear far too often from women who describe what is essentially an assault or other form of domestic violence against them.
They ask what they did wrong, instead of recognizing that they are being violated and are at risk if they remain in the relationship.
Emotionally abusive and controlling behavior is part of a systematic pattern of dominance and control that often escalates to violence, physical injury, psychological trauma and, sometimes, death.
Further, children raised in an environment that includes domestic violence often take that same behavior into future generations, perpetuating the cycle.
So what can you do and how do you know if you, or a friend, is in an abusive relationship?
Educate yourself and know the warning signs of domestic violence.
They include physical signs of abuse, and a partner whose behavior includes constant criticism, threats, intimidation, and trying to isolate and control.
This is a health issue and you will find more information in our Domestic Abuse Community section.
Research avenues of support and keep the information handy in case you need it.
Many communities have local advocacy groups for victims of domestic violence. Those in immediate danger can call 911.
On the national level, you can contact the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 and TTY 1-800-787-3224.
Consider taking action that will support other women.
You can help raise funds or volunteer for a local women’s shelter, for example, or get involved in political action to strengthen laws to protect women and children.
The public policy team at NNEDV provides tools that enable you to work with them to support laws including the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA), and make a difference in the lives of victims.
Gain strength and insights from the work being done by those who advocate for women and against domestic violence.
One such advocate is Jessica Yaffa, who suffered rape and attempted murder at the hands of her now ex-husband (who’s serving a lengthy sentence for his crimes).
Jaffa has made it her mission to prevent other women from going through what she did. She’s the author of "Mine Until: My Journey Into and Out of the Arms of an Abuser."
Have you experienced domestic abuse or violence in your own relationships and survived?
Do you have advice or words of wisdom to share with other women? Are you involved in advocating for victims of domestic violence?
If so, I’d love to hear from you in the Comments section. Together we can make a difference and raise much needed awareness.
Intimate Partner Violence: Consequences, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Retrieved 10/23/14,
Domestic Violence Facts, National Network to End Domestic Violence,
http://www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet%28National%29.pdf Retrieved 10/21/14
Domestic Violence and Abuse, HelpGuide.org,
http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/domestic-violence-and-abuse.htm, Retrieved 10/21/14
Escaping the Dark House: A Domestic Abuse Survivor's Story, EmpowHER.com,
https://www.empowher.com/domestic-abuse/content/escaping-dark-house-domestic-abuse-survivors-story?page=0,0 Retrieved 10/21/14
Reviewed October 24, 2014
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
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