Timely Topic: Caring for Survivors of Intimate Partner Violence
Experts Discuss Impacts, How To Help Victims for National Domestic Violence Awareness Month
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), includes forms of psychological, physical and sexual abuse, violence, or aggression that occur in a close relationship between romantic partners.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime; millions of survivors report that their exposure to IPV began in the form of teen dating violence. Research also suggests that only 1 in 3 sexual assaults is reported to police.
More than 43 million women and about 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. An intimate partner can be a current or former spouse or a dating partner. The lifetime economic and social costs from domestic violence are staggering, with an estimated $3.6 trillion in losses due to health care costs, criminal justice responses, lost productivity, social services and mortality.
“While there continues to be significant social stigma surrounding domestic violence, the awareness campaign we hold nationally each October is a reminder that we all have people who we know and care about who are survivors of intimate partner violence,” said Dr. Denise Paquette Boots, professor of public policy and political economy and associate dean of undergraduate education in the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences at The University of Texas at Dallas. She also is a criminologist and expert on domestic violence and is teaching an undergraduate course on family violence this semester.
“These victims may be silent and may not have told you about their abuse, whether it was a child in a home with family violence or as an adult in an intimate partner relationship, but it is not a rare event,” she said.
“COVID has created dangerous situations for many victims.”
– Dr. Denise Paquette Boots, professor of public policy and political economy
The long-term impact of IPV on victims, she said, is multifaceted and devastating.
“For those of us who do research, teach and work around this community, this month is an opportunity to educate, as well as to dispel stereotypes and myths that perpetuate silence, regarding domestic violence,” Boots said. “COVID has created dangerous situations for many victims, where the power and control of their abusers have been magnified by their inability to leave their homes as well as additional economic stressors. Creating spaces that are safe for our friends and family to talk to us about their experiences is very important right now.”
Other ways to show support include attending virtual events and donating goods, time or money to nonprofits that offer critical emergency and transitional housing, outreach and counseling services for domestic violence survivors and their children.
JaeHee Chung-Sherman, a licensed clinical social worker in the UT Dallas Student Counseling Center, said long-term impacts of IPV can be experienced by the survivor and their loved ones, including children, family, friends and communities.
“Many times, after a survivor courageously leaves a chaotic and violent relationship, the remnants of its impact may be experienced for months and years afterward,” Chung-Sherman said. She provided the following examples of impacts:
- 1. Financial insecurity: It is not uncommon for perpetrators to use economic abuse against victims, such as threatening physical, emotional and/or sexual violence if they do not open credit and checking accounts for the perpetrator’s use. The perpetrator may also have illegally used the victim and the children’s identities to open credit accounts. This may result in long-term debts and lead to difficulties with housing, banking accounts, college scholarships and financial aid.
2. Legal issues: For many survivors who leave an abusive relationship, they may share custody of the children, which can affect the children’s safety and security. Survivors may have to interact with their perpetrators in the court system, and legal proceedings can extend for months and years.
3. Homelessness: Many survivors have no choice but to leave their residences (many with children) with little or no support. Victims may be a co-signer on a mortgage or lease, which may affect their ability to secure additional housing and result in intermittent or long-term homelessness.
4. Physical health impacts: Enduring chronic and acute stress directly affects the body, particularly the immune system, because the brain and body were in a constant state of fight, flight or freeze, which may result in chronic pain, migraines, digestive issues or sexual dysfunction. Some survivors may have experienced head trauma from violence, which can affect memory, concentration, focus, mood, speech and sleep.
5. Mental health impacts: Psychological impacts of domestic violence may include depression, anxiety, hypervigilance, lack of trust in new relationships and sadness. The majority of perpetrators groomed victims – and many times their children – to believe that they could not survive without them. Many survivors may struggle with self-doubt, guilt and fear that they did something wrong to create the abuse.
“What research continues to note is that when a victim is believed and supported by friends, family and their community, the pathway toward healing, recovery and post-traumatic growth is substantial,” Chung-Sherman said. “It is never too late to receive the help and assistance you need.”
Note to journalists: Dr. Denise Paquette Boots and JaeHee Chung-Sherman are available for news media interviews. Contact Brittany Magelssen, 972-883-4357, [email protected]