I See DV As An Important Public Health Issue

I See DV As An Important Public Health Issue

This is our final How I See DV (#SeeDV) post to wrap up our 2013 Domestic Violence Awareness Month campaign. We are so grateful to everyone who participated and supported our efforts in October.

Today’s How I See DV perspective is written by Cora Harrington, the founder and chief editor of The Lingerie Addict. The Lingerie Addict is a fashion blog dedicated to lingerie, and has been featured on the websites for CNN, Vogue Italia, Forbes, and Time. Cora is a former domestic violence advocate, sexual assault crisis line worker, and family advocate for victims of violent crime. She currently lives and works in Seattle, WA.

coraIn the last few decades, issues affecting health, and, in particular, women’s health, have taken center stage. From Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October to American Heart Month in February, people are talking more and more about ways to get healthy and stay healthy. That’s a wonderful thing, and I’m glad these conversations are happening. But there’s still one issue that is all too often ignored in the discussion about health…and that’s domestic violence.

While anyone of any gender can be affected by intimate partner violence, 85% of domestic violence victims are women, and 1 out of 3 women in the United States will experience domestic in her lifetime. For African American women and Native American women, those percentages are shockingly higher; almost 50% of Native American women have been beaten, raped, or stalked by their partners, and intimate partner homicide is one of the leading causes of death for African American women aged 15 to 35.

More women require medical attention for domestic violence than for rape, muggings, and accidents combined, and domestic violence during pregnancy is the #1 cause of maternal mortality (maternal deaths) in America. Imagine. If we had these kinds of numbers for any other disease – heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes – people would be protesting in the streets demanding an immediate solution. But since the issue is intimate partner violence (a “personal matter” or a “domestic dispute”), the response, all too often, is just more silence.

I’m not a medical professional or a first responder, so I don’t see domestic violence on the “front lines,” so to speak. Nor am I a Domestic Violence Advocate (though I used to be). So if you’re someone like me reading this, who has a job that has nothing to do with intimate partner violence or sexual assault or the healthcare field, how is thinking of domestic violence as a public health issue possibly relevant to you?

Because a public health perspective helps to give a framework for both understanding DV and for talking with and being supportive of survivors of DV.

Sometimes, when a victim of domestic violence attempts to confide in a friend, that friend is less than supportive.  Often, victims of domestic violence are asked why they don’t “just leave,” and have to cope with people implying that enjoy or even like the violence because they’re still in the relationship. However, those kinds of statements would be unthinkable for any other health issue.

No one would ask a cancer patient if she liked having cancer because she needed time to explore treatment options, make a treatment plan, or because she chose to reject one treatment in favor of another. No one would tell a PTSD survivor that he enjoyed having PTSD because he took awhile to find a therapist, tried multiple therapists, or even stopped and started therapy more than once. No one would tell a stroke survivor that she must have enjoyed having a stroke because she was concerned about her physical limitations or because she had financial worries. So why are these assumptions okay for survivors of domestic violence, many of whom have been physically and verbally battered into physical and emotional injuries? They’re not.

I’m not saying survivors of domestic violence are sick or unwell. Nor am I encouraging others to adopt a patronizing attitude towards them. I just think it’s worth thinking of other ways to frame this problem…and its solutions. After all, you probably know someone who’s dealing with domestic violence right now.



Comment section

0 replies
  1. When you start quoting false statistics then even more false statisics and false facts it is very hard to believe anything you say. I have spent the last year going over all the data I can from the feds and states about this and you are way off.

    1. Hi Robert,

      Thanks for your feedback! I’m wondering what conclusions you drew from your analysis of the data and how you came to that conclusion. I would definitely encourage you to check out the sources that we posted at the bottom of the article for more information about where we got our statistical information. We know that often times Domestic Violence goes unreported so its very likely that the numbers are much higher!

      Thanks again,
      Hotline Advocate MC

  2. my story:
    I am a DV survivor.
    I was married for 18 years. The cycle of violence started the night we married, after only dating 3 months. He punched the wall on our wedding night – scared me right then and there. We were Christians and I couldn’t believe this was happening. I didn’t tell anyone. I did not know how men were supposed to act since I was raised by a single mom and had no men in my life. He used violence & crazy making to control me. Early in our marriage he would give me instructions and then when I followed them he would tell me I did not do them right. This confused me because I was sure I had. Luckily, I was a nurse and could figure out that at work I followed instructions so I had confirmation that I was not stupid. He called me despicable names and humiliated me. He would rage, break things in the house, throw food if he didn’t like the way I made it. We had a 5 month old baby the first time he actually hit me. The police came. He was arrested. I tried to leave. There were no shelters then so I went to the Human Services to get some money to put down on my own apartment. I had a black eye and couldn’t stop crying. The worker said she could see I didn’t want to leave him yet. I was denied. I worked full time, but did not have any money of my own. He used to tell me, “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine”. He was in jail, but his employer signed him out and he got out early. I picked him up at jail and we went back home.
    Many years later we had to rescue our children from the house after I went to get the police. It was before cell phones so I drove to the police station, which was about 1 mile away. When the police came to our home and after they secured my husband and got the children out safely, the officer told me to contact Cornerstone in Bloomington and to get an order for protection. His help was the beginning of the steps to freedom for myself and our children.
    I received instruction on how to safely leave from the Domestic Abuse Project (DAP) in Mpls, Mn. I was connected with them through the court system. They helped me make a Safety Plan which I followed. I went through their program and was surprised when I saw that he had done everything on the list of abusive behaviors. I didn’t think of myself as a battered woman because I wasn’t beaten all the time. I learned the type of abuse and the cycle of abuse.
    It took me several months to make the decision to really go. We went to a shelter for 3 weeks before finding our own place. Actually leaving was very difficult because I was sure he would kill me and/or the children. He did try to intimidate me, but I treated him as a drug, as if I were a drug addict and I told myself I could not have even one “taste” of him or I could be back where I was before. To me this meant I did not speak to him, at all. I only communicated through lawyers and a third party. I strongly feel this helped keep me away. I listened to my gut for safety, something I learned at DAP. This helped me when I needed to go to the house to get more of our clothes etc. I got a backache and stomach ache and decided to listen to those cues and I called the police to come with me. They told me to wait while they checked the house (my husband was supposed to be gone). They found him inside with a friend of his, waiting for me.
    It wasn’t easy to move out and start a new life but I’m glad I did. The effects of the abuse are fading, but there are always reminders. I have a happy, safe, peaceful life now.
    I am sad to think of how many people are trapped in these types of situations. There is help now and hope.
    Stay safe.

    1. Jade,

      Thank you for sharing such a powerful story with us. It sounds you like went through so much. But you got out and I am so glad to hear that you are safe. You’re right, leaving an abusive relationship is so difficult. But it can be done and your story is a testament to that. Everyone goes through their own process of change and I know that your story will help others along their own path.

      If you need anything, you know how to reach us, 1(800)799.7233.

      Thanks again,
      Hotline Advocate MC

  3. civil domestic violence is being used not for its intended purposes but merely for revenge. my ex gf did this to me after i dumped her and it was amazingly effective. i did everything i could to combat it but it was useless. the probono domestic violence legal team in chicago works in the courthouse itself and basically holds the “victims” hand by spoonfeeding them these ridiculous accusations and pretty much ensures they win the case. i couldn’t think of a more traumatizing experience to go through and i have been through a lot in my life.

    i can’t emphasize how unfair the system treated me as a man and how stigmatizing it is to be wrongfully accused and convicted of domestic violence. in fact i entered a deep depression after 3 month trial was over and am no where near recovered. it still makes me sick and unfortunately your post has a “man hating” spin to it whereby you paint all domestic violence as male initiated towards females. that is not true and in fact far from it. you are actually a part of the problem of domestic violence if you fail to do proper research.

    but hey, who cares about the truth or facts when you get to write that article and feel all warm and fuzzy for being a ‘good person’. people like you make me sick and trust me, i encountered so many like minded individuals its astonishing. unfortunately the only way you get to realize the truth is if you know someone or you yourself were ran over by the system of VAWA.

    1. Hi Raj,

      The experiences you’ve described do sound traumatic, and it makes sense that you’re still dealing with the emotions and depression that came up as a result. No one should be wrongfully accused or convicted of a crime and it is heart-breaking and incredibly frustrating when it happens. Help should be available to anyone who needs it, and everyone has the right to be safe and not feel threatened.

      You are right that men can be victims of domestic violence; however, statistically, most victims are women. We posted several resources at the bottom of the article if you’d be interested in more information.

      Regardless of gender or sex, we believe that no one should be abused in any way, and that every person has the right to be safe.

      Thank you for sharing the story with our community.

      Hotline Advocate AS

      Please note: some information was removed from your original comment as it was personally identifying. In our community guidelines here, we request that identifying information not be posted for your safety.

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