Healthcare, IPV, and Health Centers

We know that intimate partner violence (IPV) significantly affects health outcomes for those who experience it. Survivors can experience a wide variety of health issues related to abuse, including (but not limited to): injuries, miscarriage, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), sexually transmitted infections/diseases, stress-related symptoms, and more.

If you need primary and preventative healthcare services, click this link to use the Find A Health Center tool.

Some IPV-related health issues are physically visible and obvious. Many people expect to see broken bones, black eyes, or bruises. But there are other health issues that are not as obvious in being related to abuse. Gastrointestinal issues, increased risk of stoke, and other ailments may be invisible or develop over time in the aftermath of abuse.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)-funded health centers are designed to serve medically underserved populations. Currently, 1 in 11 or almost 30 million people in the U.S. rely on a HRSA-funded health center for care, including 1 in 8 children, 1 in 5 rural residents, 1 in 3 people living in poverty, and 1 in 5 uninsured people.

healthcare and abuse page
healthcare and abuse page

Health centers are located in all 50 states and U.S. territories and provide primary medical and dental care, behavioral health, and substance use disorder services. Some health centers provide expanded services to include pharmacy, obstetrics, or vision care. To help individuals access services health centers assist patients with transportation, translation and interpretation, case management,  health education, and referrals. All services are provided regardless of a person’s ability to pay.

If you need primary and preventative healthcare services, click this link to use the Find A Health Center tool.

There can be significant long-term health impacts as a result of experiencing IPV.

Research has shown:

A significant trend between IPV, obesity, and disturbed eating behaviors.

Women who experience IPV are more likely to use tobacco.

Spousal abuse has been identified as a predictor of developing a substance abuse problem.

Substance abuse and high-risk alcohol use are more prevalent among women who experience IPV.

Women and girls in abusive relationships are often forced or coerced into unwanted sexual activity, impacting their ability to care for their reproductive and gynecological health.

Survivors of IPV are at increased risk of severe mental health problems that can persist years after the abuse has ended.

IPV is a leading cause of injuries and homicide for women.

Women who have experienced IPV are generally less likely to access preventative and injury-related health care.

It is also common for health issues or health care needs to be used against a survivor as part of the abuse. Examples can include:

  • Your partner tampers with, withholds, or destroys your medication.
  • Your partner insists on joining you for doctor’s appointments or hospital visits and won’t let you be alone with the doctors or nurses.
  • Your partner forces you to consume alcohol or use drugs.
  • Your partner coerces you to engage in sexual activity that results in a sexually transmitted infection or unwanted pregnancy.
  • The abuse causes a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.
  • Your partner refuses to allow you to seek medical treatment or preventative health care when you need it.
  • Your partner is your caregiver and is not caring for your needs.

Accessing health care can present significant barriers for survivors.

Some examples of common obstacles survivors may face when trying to seek healthcare include:

  • Lack of transportation for emergency care, routine appointments, or preventative care.
  • Inability to pay for medical treatment: lack of insurance, inability to afford copay, no affordable health care providers in an accessible area, etc.
  • Lack of translation/interpretation language services.
  • Discrimination in services, such as minimizing a survivor’s pain due to racial bias.
  • Fear of reports being made to the police or Child Protective Services (CPS).
  • COVID-19 restrictions or concerns. Ex: not being able to bring your children to the ER or doctor’s office and having no one to care for them.

IPV can have devastating effects on the survivor. Receiving access to healthcare is just one step toward recovering from the trauma of abuse.

With the help of HRSA-funded health centers and other government-supported programs, survivors have the opportunity to heal physically, mentally, and emotionally, moving closer to a life of free of violence.