Domestic Violence
Women’s Health

Ending Domestic Violence for a Healthier Community

Domestic violence is an all-too-common public health issue that affects millions of individuals and families worldwide. Defined as a pattern of abusive behaviors within an intimate relationship, domestic violence includes physical, emotional, sexual, and economic abuse.

It not only poses physical and psychological harm, but also has far-reaching impacts on the overall health and well-being of victims, families, and communities. Fear and financial dependence prevent most victims from seeking help. As a result, injuries go untreated, stress builds up, mental health worsens, and the relationship can end in death by either homicide or suicide.

Defining Domestic Violence

The United States Surgeon General first listed violence as a public health priority in 1979.

Intimate Partner Violence, or IPV, can consist of:

  • Physical abuse — This includes hitting, slapping, punching, and any form of physical harm. Bruises, broken bones, and unexplained injuries may be a warning sign.
  • Emotional abuse — This can come in the form of insults, humiliation, threats, and constant criticism. Victims often experience anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
  • Sexual abuse — Unwanted sexual advances, coercion, or non-consensual sexual acts fall under this category. Signs may include unexplained sexually transmitted infections or injuries.
  • Economic abuse — Controlling a victim's finances, restricting access to resources, and preventing them from holding a job are common tactics. Victims may be financially dependent on their abuser.
  • Psychological abuse — Manipulation, gaslighting, and mind games can have a profound impact on a victim's mental health. They may doubt their own reality or feel trapped.

IPV by the Numbers

According to the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, there are millions of victims in the U.S. each year.

Some findings include:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men — report experiencing severe physical violence from an intimate partner.
  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men — have experienced violent sexual contact by an intimate partner.
  • 14% of women and 5% of men — report having been stalked by an intimate partner.
  • 61 million women and 53 million men — experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.

The Consequences

Survivors of IPV face a host of potential health issues with physical injuries being most common. About 75% of women and 48% of men who survive IPV experience some physical injury related to their abuse. Also, crime statistics show that one in five homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. More than half of all female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by current or past male partners.

IPV survivors are also at risk for other chronic conditions affecting the:

Survivors can suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They face a higher risk for addictive behaviors like smoking, binge drinking, and risky sexual activity. People from marginalized groups like LGBTQ+ or racial and ethnic minorities are at higher risk for worse consequences.

Recognizing Domestic Violence

Sometimes it’s hard to speak up for someone you think is being abused. We tend to make excuses for why things are a certain way, or we worry we’ll be told to, “mind our own business.” But those being abused can’t or won’t always ask for help. By saying something, you could ultimately save their life.

Abusers often demonstrate the following:

  • A bad temper
  • Abuse of other family members, children, or pets
  • Accusations that the victim is flirting or having an affair
  • Antiquated beliefs about gender roles in relationships
  • Blaming the victim for anything bad that happens
  • Controlling all finances
  • Controlling what the victim wears or how they act
  • Cruelty to animals
  • Demeaning the victim publicly or privately
  • Embarrassing the victim in front of others
  • Extreme jealousy
  • Extremely controlling behavior
  • Forced sex
  • Harassing the victim at work
  • Possessiveness
  • Sabotaging birth control methods
  • Sabotaging the victim’s ability to work or attend school
  • Unpredictability
  • Verbal abuse

If you think someone is being abused, you should:

  • Never judge them
  • Avoid telling them they need to leave (they know that)
  • Not badmouth the abuser
  • Act as a trustworthy friend to the victim
  • Tell them why you’re worried and be specific
  • Listen
  • Offer help
  • Respect their choices
  • Don’t tell them what they should do

Remember, as much as you want to help them, you’re not in their shoes. Respect the complexity of the situation but stay anchored as an ally and a voice of reason. 

We’re Here for You

AltaMed is available to help you, or others, find resources to end an abusive relationship. Our Behavioral Health Services are staffed with licensed clinical social workers who speak English and Spanish and are trained to help you through whatever life puts in your way. You don’t have to go through it alone. To learn more, call (855) 425-1777.

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Ending Domestic Violence for a Healthier Community