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Intimate Partner Violence

There is no perfect relationship, but it does not mean two individuals cannot coexist in a healthy, loving relationship. Relationships by nature are complicated because they attempt to merge two lives to create an interdependence built on reasonable expectations and mutual affection.

How do you know if you are in a healthy vs. unhealthy relationship?

We desire healthy relationships. To this end, we pursue relationships with compatible individuals. We observe whether the person we are courting possesses the qualities we expect to build a healthy relationship. We look for excellent interpersonal skills, mutual respect, trust, honesty, compromise, good communication, and empathetic understanding.

Juxtapose to unhealthy relationships mired in abusive and manipulative behaviors. The characteristics of unhealthy relationships include several forms of abuse, stalking behaviors, jealousy, isolating the person from their supports, intimidation, and deceitful behaviors. The unhealthy behaviors extend to a lack of respect for personal boundaries. When you attempt to establish personal boundaries in unhealthy relationships, you may find that your partner may try to ridicule or make you feel guilty about having limits.

What is intimate partner violence (IPV)? IPV “refers to behaviour by an intimate partner or ex-partner that causes physical, sexual or psychological harm, including physical aggression, sexual coercion, psychological abuse and controlling behaviors.”

IPV occurs across socioeconomic status, religious, same-gender relationships, heterosexual relationships, and cultural groups. Men most often are identified as the perpetrators of IPV, and women are most often the sufferer. There are situations in which women are the aggressors, but their IPV is frequently in self-defense. Women sometimes do not retaliate against their abuser because of fear, economic concerns, protection of their children, and the belief their partner will change.

Who is an intimate partner?

  • Current or ex-partner

  • Boyfriend or girlfriend

  • Spouse

  • Ongoing sexual partner (sneaky link, side piece, friends with benefits, side-chick)

  • Dating partner

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is becoming a pervasive issue. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC identify intimate partner violence as a significant public health concern. WHO estimates that worldwide, 1 in 3 women experience IPV in their lifetime. In addition, the organization reports 27% of women ages 15-49 said their current or former intimate partners violated them.

After the courtship, some relationships decline and, in worst-case scenarios, include episodes of violence with permanent consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports U.S. crime statistics to show 1 in 5 homicide victims die from violence by an intimate partner. In addition, current or former lovers were responsible for more than half the female homicides in the U.S.

According to the CDC, about 1 in 4 women and approximately 1 in 10 men experience IPV throughout their lifetime. The CDC also estimates more than 43 million women and 38 million men experience psychological aggression from an intimate partner in their lifetime. IPV is not exclusively an adult problem. In a calendar year, millions of teens experience teen dating violence (TDV). About TDV, around 11 million women and 5 million men report they experienced IPV before their 18th birthday.

IPV is considered a significant public health concern for a myriad of reasons. The mortality rate, the cost to public health facilities, providing healthcare, family disruption, displacement of children from home and school. The evidence of the physical violence is obvious, but the mental health struggles are invisible. The invisibility of mental health is a cause of great concern. Consequently, as we heal the physical scares, there is a need to prioritize and make available mental health services.

Mental health is one of the many public concerns associated with IPV. Some survivors of IPV may present with symptoms of trauma and stress-related disorders. The survivors may develop acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, they may display depressive and anxiety symptoms.

The psychological distress of living through the traumatic experience, in this case, IPV, may lead the person to become fearful, develop feelings of helplessness, avoidant behaviors to include people, places, conversations, things, and situations that would likely result in a reliving of the trauma. The trauma can have a debilitating impact on the person’s interpersonal relationships and social engagement.

It is significant survivors of IPV receive appropriate psychological care to learn adaptive coping and trauma-informed to deal with the trauma. Given they are likely to relive the trauma in various ways. The recurrent, involuntary, and instructive thoughts may lead the individual to self-medicate with excessive alcohol or other drugs to numb the pain of the trauma. Survivors may engage in self-harming behaviors, have suicidal ideations or suicide attempts.

I would be remiss to speak of IPV only as a public health concern and not mention the work done to address the problem.

There is noticeable progress in public awareness about IPV. However, several troublesome issues have hampered prevention efforts. Some of the hindrances to public awareness include social and cultural influences, commonly held views men are the principal perpetrators of IPV. Also, the underreporting of IPV is because of shame, guilt, and victim shaming.

Nonetheless, interventions like Walk A Mile In Her Shoes, batters intervention program (BIP), bystander intervention recognize and intervene in discrete acts of violence or call attention to acts of violence. The availability of funding for community-based organizations that offer victim advocacy services, housing programs, and initiatives to include men and boys as allies to prevent IPV. Social-emotional curricula to support young people learning the characteristics of healthy relationships. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994.

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