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Domestic Violence: What is it and why are we talking about it?

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October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In recognition of this, we present a 3-part series on the issue.

Domestic violence, also known as family violence, intimate partner violence, or battering, is a seldom discussed but common occurrence in the United States. Recent Statistics from the Texas Council on Family Violence states that 1 in 3 Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. In 2016, 172,575 calls were made to Texas domestic violence hotlines – that's 472 calls per day!

But what exactly is domestic violence?

The Texas Council on Family Violence defines domestic violence as “a coercive, controlling behavior that may include physical, sexual, psychological, emotional, and verbal abuse”. The Texas Family code defines domestic violence as “An act by a member of a family or household against another member of the family or household that is intended to result in physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or sexual assault, but does not include defensive measures to protect oneself”. A family member in this case is someone related to the batterer by marriage or blood, a former spouse of the batterer, or is or was in a relationship with the batterer.

And the consequences to the survivor can be dire – low self-esteem, isolation from friends and family, property being destroyed, physical injury, sexual assault, injury to or death of pets, and death to the survivor. Children who experience domestic violence are also at greater risk for developmental delays, psychiatric disorders, difficulties in school, aggression, and low self-esteem, and the number one predictor for whether a child goes on to become a perpetrator or survivor of domestic violence is to experience domestic violence.

It's probably no surprise that there is a link between domestic violence and mental illness. While the rate of mental illness among the general population in the United States is 1 in 4 adults, the rates are much higher for those who experience domestic violence. According to the Florida Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 54% to 84% of women who experience domestic violence can be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, 63% to 77% can be diagnosed with depression, and 38% to 75% can be diagnosed with anxiety. While there is evidence of a link, it is unknown whether the abuse brings on the mental illness or if those with mental illness are more likely to become survivors of domestic violence. However, women who experienced childhood physical or sexual abuse are 6 times more likely to experience adult physical or sexual victimization.

Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender, sexual preference, socioeconomic status, education, or location.

Next in this series: How does domestic violence work and why don't survivors don't leave?


Barbara ColemanComment