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Defining Domestic Violence

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Every October is devoted to bringing awareness to Intimate Partner and Domestic Violence (IPDVAM). The intention is to empower our community to work towards ending gender-based violence. We all deserve to be respected, treated with dignity, and have a life free of violence. This year’s campaign theme, #Every1KnowsSome1, highlights how common domestic violence is and that it is more than physical violence.

-National Network to End Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, also called intimate partner violence, is an unhealthy pattern of behavior in any romantic relationship (regardless of gender or relationship status) that is used to gain and maintain power or control of the intimate partner. This includes physical violence, sexual assault, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, and economic abuse. From punching and kicking to rape, manipulation, gaslighting, screaming, blaming, and taking money away, domestic violence can be obvious and also subtle, causing many victims so much emotional and mental turmoil that they continue to stay in the relationship out of fear and shame.

Victims of domestic violence….

  • Sometimes feel scared of how their partner may behave.
  • Constantly make excuses to other people for their partner’s behavior.
  • Believe that they can help their partner change if only they change something about themselves; in other words, the victims blame themselves for their partner’s abusive behavior.
  • Try not to do anything that would cause conflict or make your partner angry.
  • Always do what their partner wants instead of what they want.
  • Stay with their partner because they are afraid of what their partner would do if they broke up.

Domestic violence is directly linked to substance use and mental health disorders. Many victims of domestic violence will misuse alcohol and drugs to numb their emotional pain, and this misuse can turn into a substance use disorder. Emotional numbness, often brought on by alcohol and drug misuse, is a defense mechanism employed by the mind to avoid intense and overwhelming emotions such as fear, hatred, shame, and grief.

When you go emotionally numb, you lose the ability to feel and experience your emotions on a psychological and emotional level. In this sense, emotional numbness is often clinically connected with dissociation, which is the disconnection from one’s memories, identity, environment, body, or senses. Therefore, many individuals assume that emotional numbness is healthier than negative emotions. However, this is not true, as emotionally numb individuals are repressing their feelings subconsciously and can be in danger of lashing out or experiencing a flood of emotions when they least expect it.

Domestic Violence Is Much More Common Than You May Think

  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. This equates to more than 10 million women and men in one year.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence; intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and, in some cases, might not be considered “domestic violence.”
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crimes.
  • Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.
  • Only 34% of people injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.

Domestic Violence And Sexual Assault

Sexual assault refers to sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the victim. Some forms of sexual assault include attempted rape, fondling or unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetrating the perpetrator’s body, and rape. The majority of sexual assault victims, nearly 90%, know their attacker. The intersection of domestic violence and sexual assault runs deep. Between 14% and 25% of women are sexually assaulted by intimate partners during their relationship. More statistics on domestic violence and sexual assault are as follows:

Sexual Assault And Trauma

Victims of domestic violence experience a form of trauma, depending on their upbringing in childhood and their sense of resiliency. This can result in trauma-related disorders such as PTSD. The short and long-term mental and physical health consequences of sexual assault are well-researched and documented in the literature. Following an incidence of sexual assault, victims are at risk for multiple types of physical injuries (bruises, cuts, injuries to genitalia, broken bones, head trauma, etc.). Sexual assault survivors risk sexually transmitted infections and chronic health problems, including chronic pain. They report a significantly lower health-related quality of life, including dissatisfaction in future romantic relationships, than those who have not been sexually assaulted. Sexual assault victims also risk severe mental health disorders, including panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, acute stress reaction, non-suicidal self-injury, and suicidal behaviors.

If you or a loved one are a victim of domestic violence, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 for confidential assistance from trained advocates.

Seeking Treatment At AKUA Mind And Body

Once you are out of imminent danger and are in a safe place, it is crucial to seek therapy. Domestic violence is trauma, and therefore seeking professional mental health treatment can help you acquire healthy coping skills to move forward with your life. AKUA Mind and Body offers different therapy approaches for victims of trauma. We are a full-service mental health and addiction treatment program and believe in a whole-person, individualized approach. We want to help you. We provide psychotherapy approaches and medications to help manage your symptoms. Professional treatment can help manage negative and unhealthy thoughts and help recognize ineffective patterns of thinking and behavior, validate your feelings and help you learn healthy coping skills. To read more about domestic violence on our blog, click here.

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