Breaking the Silence

Website for the American Mental Health Counselors Association's Breaking the Silence initiative to address mental health stigma.

Addressing Intimate Partner Violence: A Public Health and Mental Health Imperative

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By contributing blogger Joel E. Miller

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is a multifaceted public health issue that has gained much attention, especially as the National Football League addresses some of its players’ violence charges.

The issue, of course, is not about football or football players. The bigger issue is that domestic violence affects one in every four women — according to statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The group notes that 1.3 million women are victims of assault by an intimate partner each year; 85 percent of all domestic violence victims are women; and the women at greatest risk of non-fatal intimate partner violence are between 20 and 24 years of age.

The Numbers Behind Violence by an Intimate Partner are Staggering

Nearly 3 in 10 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States have experienced rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner and reported at least one impact related to experiencing these or other forms of violent behavior in the relationship (e.g., being fearful, concerned for safety, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, need for health care, injury, contacting a crisis hotline, need for housing services, need for victim’s advocate services, need for legal services, missed at least one day of work or school).

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States – more than 12 million women and men over the course of a year.

Among victims of intimate partner violence, more than 1 in 3 women experienced multiple forms of rape, stalking, or physical violence.

About 1 in 4 women, and 1 in 7 men, have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner (e.g., hit with a fist or something hard, beaten, slammed against something) at some point in their lifetime.

Nearly 1 in 10 women in the United States (9.4%) has been raped by an intimate partner in her lifetime, and an estimated 16.9% of women and 8.0% of men have experienced sexual violence other than rape by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime.

Nearly half of all women and men in the United States have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime (48.4% and 48.8%, respectively).

These numbers underestimate the problem. Many victims do not report IPV to police, friends, or family. Victims may think others will not believe them or that the police cannot help.

 

A Preventable Problem

Intimate partner violence is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans. The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse.

But as you know as a clinical mental health counselor, the primary goal is to stop IPV before it begins. There is a lot to learn about how to prevent IPV. But we do know that strategies that promote healthy behaviors in relationships are important. For example, programs that teach young people skills for dating can prevent violence. These programs can stop violence in dating relationships before it occurs.

And we know that there are best practices in treating women and men who have been victims of IPV and for those who have been the perpetrators of such violence

Moreover, the facts and the statistics cry out for a public health and mental health

Intimate partner violence affects all sectors of our communities. Preventing intimate partner violence requires a comprehensive approach involving many individuals, organizations, and sectors.

Did you know that victims of IPV attempt to leave an average of seven times before they are able to successfully make a permanent break — and it’s at that point that they’re actually in the most danger? In fact, 50 percent of women who are murdered in IPV situations lose their life after they leave their abuser. We’ve all got a lot to learn about IPV and its terrible effects.

 

The Impact of IPV

The health effects of IPV include chronic pain syndromes, eating disorders, musculoskeletal complaints, brain injury impairments such as memory loss, loss of balance and blurred vision and sleep disturbances.

There also are several serious psychological effects, such as depression, anxiety and panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance abuse.

In addition to the physical and mental impacts, domestic violence is costly. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “the costs of intimate partner rape, physical assault and stalking exceed $5.8 billion each year, nearly $4.1 billion of which is for direct mental health care and medical services.” In addition, 8 million days of unpaid work are lost each year because of domestic violence issues.

 

Call to Action

AMHCAs initial approach has been – through a series of webinar roundtable discussions — to bring attention to mental health providers, policymakers, and the public the overall magnitude of the problem, and preventive and counseling strategies to address the problem.

The Ray Rice incident in 2014 was just one instance of IPV, but the facts are that every minute in America, 24 people are harmed by an intimate partner. That’s 1,440 people an hour; 34,560 incidents a day; more than 12 million episodes every year.

Many experts believe that IPV has now reached epidemic proportions.  Maybe IPV has been more of a silent epidemic, but we have arrived at a teachable moment in America for both adults and children on the problem and solutions.

If is nothing less than a wake-up call to remind us that an estimated 25 percent of American women experience IPV.  It’s an opportunity for the world to know that three women are killed daily in America from IPV incidents. And it’s a call to arms because we all have a responsibility to do something about it.

 

One thought on “Addressing Intimate Partner Violence: A Public Health and Mental Health Imperative

  1. Pingback: A Perfect Storm: Biological, Behavioral, Social and Environmental Factors Affecting Women’s Mental Health | Breaking the Silence

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