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Domestic Violence: A Women’s Health Issue Domestic Violence: A Women’s Health Issue
Domestic violence is a worldwide problem affecting people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic status regardless of religious affiliation, education or occupation. In... Domestic Violence: A Women’s Health Issue

by Kimberly Allen, RN

Domestic violence goes by other names including intimate partner violence.  Domestic violence is a worldwide problem affecting people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic status regardless of religious affiliation, education or occupation.  In the US domestic violence is the number one cause of injury to women between 15 and 45 years of age.  That’s more than rapes, muggings, and car accidents combined.  Approximately 4 million women are physically abused by spouses, ex-husbands, and male partners every year in the US.

Every 15 seconds a woman is physically abused by her husband or partner in the US.  Also, in the US 1 out of 3 women will experience domestic violence at some time in her life.  There are currently approximately 2,000 shelters for battered women in the US.  Even after leaving the violent environment 70% of women are injured by the husband or partner they left.  If these statistics aren’t alarming enough children that witness domestic violence in their home suffer from emotional and behavioral problems ranging from withdrawal and low self esteem to nightmares and aggression towards their peers, other family members and some start vandalizing property.  Some blame themselves.  Studies also show that boys that witness domestic violence are twice as likely to become abusers as adults than boys that are not exposed to domestic violence.  In fact witnessing violence in the home is the greatest risk of violent behavior carrying on into adulthood.  The cost of domestic violence is at least $6 billion a year with most of that being for medical care, especially emergency room visits, as well as mental health services.  In terms of lost work, victims of domestic violence lose approximately 8 million paid days of work.  That amounts to over 32,000 full time jobs.  Then add the cost of investigating and prosecuting the almost 17,000 homicides that are committed every year during domestic violence encounters.   This makes domestic violence a significant health problem.
The US Department of Justice has defined domestic violence as “a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner”.  The USDOJ  further recognizes that domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse it can also encompass sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse as well as economic abuse.  Any type of action or threat of action that are meant to intimidate, humiliate, manipulate, frighten, or terrorize as well as to injure or wound another person.  The USDOJ has gone on to define the various types of abuse.There are a variety of different theories about what causes domestic violence.  These theories involve both psychological issues like the personality traits including mental characteristics of the abuser.  They also look at social issues, for example the abusers family structure, social learning and stress level.  However, as with so many other issues related to human health no single factor is seen in all cases of domestic violence.
Recognizing domestic violence before it escalates to the point where someone is in serious danger is the first step to getting help.  No one anywhere should have to suffer an abusive relationship.  It’s important if you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship that you recognize it and seek help.  If it’s someone you know that you suspect or know is in an abusive relationship try to be supportive and encourage them to seek assistance.  Some of the key signs of abuse are fear, if you or someone you know is afraid of their partner, afraid to talk about certain things or feel that you’re always wrong.  There may also be physical symptoms like bruises, broken bones and other injuries.  Trust me not that many people walk into doors.
Due to the prevalence of domestic violence all Drs, nurses and therapists are trained to watch for symptoms of abuse, especially in the emergency room.  In many states there are laws in place requiring Drs to report any suspected cases of domestic violence.  If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence there are numerous organization available today with emergency hotline phone numbers, shelter and counseling to help you get out of an abusive situation.