I am thankful everyday when I think back to my very personal experience as a survivor of Intimate Partner Violence[IPV]. I was neither poor nor uneducated, but I lived within this reality of fear and uncertainty on a daily basis. There were many occasions in which I thought that I was certain to be killed, and leave my children without their mother. Actually, you can’t get more intimate than when your partner is also your legal spouse. Logically, you ask the question of why women[men, also] stay in these relationships, as from the outside, it seems to be illogical. After all, that violence is violent and extremely unfair to use a ‘loved’ one as an emotional outlet. Mainly, it is unwarranted, as it has more to do with the abusive partner than the subject of that abuse.
Is it for the children, or do we believe that we can change the other person, or has the abuse become so intertwined and compounded by psychological abuses that we feel that it is our own fault? Who knows the answer, because certainly, it is a complex one at best. We tell the victims who are subject to violent partner’s abusive behaviors that, “You should leave!” “There are places you can go to be safe.” “You don’t have to take this kind of treatment.” Worst than that, we say that these couples should seek counseling. As if….
Survivors are lucky to get out alive, if they in fact do seize any opportunity to leave the situation or sever the relationship. Fortunately, I happen to be one of the lucky ones. I was able to leave- not unscathed, but gone. Moving forward, here are some statistics regarding those who never left willingly, but their escape was death…. at the hands of their partner-their abuser.
Homicide is one of the leading causes of death for women aged ≤44 years. In 2015, homicide caused the death of 3,519 girls and women in the United States. Rates of female homicide vary by race/ethnicity and nearly half of victims are killed by a current or former male intimate partner. Non-Hispanic black and American Indian/Alaska Native women experienced the highest rates of homicide (4.4 and 4.3 per 100,000 population, respectively). Over half of all homicides (55.3%) were IPV-related.
Approximately 15% of female homicide victims of reproductive age, 18-44 years, were pregnant or postpartum.
Homicide is the most severe health outcome of violence against women, and young women, racial/ethnic minority women, were disproportionately affected. A cross all groups of women, over 1/2 of female homicides, IPV-related, over 90% of these women were killed by their current or former intimate partner.
Strategies to prevent related homicides range from protecting women from immediate harm and intervening in current situations, to developing and implementing programs and policies to prevent IPV from occurring. First responders who assess risk for lethality can identify victims at risk for future violence. These assessments should inform and facilitate immediate safety planning and connect women with other services, such as crisis intervention, counseling, housing, medical and legal advocacy, as well as access to other community services.
State statutes limiting access to firearms for persons under a domestic violence restraining order can serve as another preventive measure associated with reduced risk for intimate partner homicide and firearm intimate partner homicide.
Approximately one in 10 victims of IPV-related homicide experienced some form of violence in the preceding month, which could have provided opportunities for intervention. Bystander programs, such as Green Dot, teach participants how to recognize situations or behaviors that may become violent and to safely and effectively intervene to reduce the likelihood of assault. In health care settings, the US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that women of childbearing ages are screened for IPV and that they refer those women who screen positive for intervention services.
Approximately 40% of non-racial/ethnic minority female homicide victims were aged 18-29 years. Argument and jealousy seem to be common precipitating factors.
Teaching safe and healthy relationship skills is important for strategically preventive efforts to reduce IPV. Young people must be taught to manage their emotions conflict management and improve problem-solving and communication skills. Preventing IPV from occurring also requires community efforts and the systemic factors that increase risk, like disadvantaged neighborhoods affected by poverty. Low social cohesion, lack of community or a ‘village’ approach to daily living also increases risk. Language barriers and lack of cultural competence or awareness of available services and resources adds to risk, too.
Ultimately, it behooves all stakeholders, service providers, educators, agencies and CBO’s need an awareness of risk factors and should have policies, protocols and culturally relevant strategies, including intervention strategies which serve to protect, educate, refer and identify women at risk or in relationships that have characteristic components associated with IPV. Women need empowerment and supportive involvement of all in close proximity. That includes neighbors, friends, families, and strangers.
We shouldn’t have to scream out,”FIRE” in order that someone will intervene. Intervening doesn’t mean physical involvement, or placing oneself at harm. It can be a telephone call to 911. That is the least that anyone can do. Ladies teach your children to dial 911. Give them the security pin to your phone, or teach them that none is needed if making an emergency call. Teach boys and young men to manage their emotions and anger, and tell them that emphatically, it is never ok to hit any females. Teach girls in ways that equip them with the self esteem and strength to leave or avoid relationships that begin to look toxic, harmful.
Education is the key to prevention, and emotional literacy, mutual respect, empathy, and academic achievement can all be fostered in the same environment and nurtured at home and in the community. It should be included within every content area at school, even if it is not addressed at home. If we aren’t a part of the solutions, then we are part of the problem! These types of problems, we do not need.