Public Health and the Impact of Intimate Partner Violence

by | Oct 7, 2021 | Her/She/They/Us | 1 comment

Intimate partner violence continues to be a crucial public health problem (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020). Intimate partner violence may be more common than most people realize. An estimated one in four women and one in ten men have experienced some form of intimate partner violence (Evans, et al., 2020).

Research conducted in the United States following the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, has found that during the lockdown, domestic violence hotlines experienced a substantial 50% decrease in the number of calls placed; however, this was not due to a decrease in domestic violence rate prevalence. Instead, results indicated that due to the extended lockdown, several individuals were unable to reach resources such as support hotlines. This finding illustrates the ways in which crises like the global pandemic can exacerbate already tenuous and challenging situations and also speaks to the need for additional support and interventions (Evans, et al., 2020). 

The term intimate partner violence refers to a variety of behaviors that result in physical, sexual, psychological, and/or emotional harm, perpetrated by current or previous partners/spouses. Examples of intimate partner violence include stalking, threatening bodily harm, controlling a person’s actions, acts of aggression, and sexual coercion. Intimate partner violence is a serious problem that can result in serious long-term negative health impacts for individuals, their families, and their communities by extension, illustrating the importance of intimate partner violence prevention (Breiding, Chen, & Black, 2014; Intimate Partner Violence, 2020; Prevent Domestic Violence in your Community, 2020). Individuals who have experienced IPV may report suicidality, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, sexually transmitted disease, gastrointestinal problems, among other health impacts (Breiding, Chen, & Black, 2014). 

The month of October is both intimate partner and domestic violence awareness month, which is why this piece will cover intimate partner violence prevention in addition to available resources for individuals currently experiencing or recovering from intimate partner violence. 

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has emphasized the need to promote social change in order to prevent intimate partner violence. Education and social programming have the power to spark conversations surrounding healthy relationships, and doing so has the potential to bring about widespread change. Specifically, the CDC highlights the need to educate adolescents before their first romantic relationship. Dating violence starts early, therefore an early awareness of dating violence and healthy relationship behaviors can influence adolescents’ participation in healthy, constructive interpersonal relationships, while also allowing them to better identify problematic or harmful relationship patterns and behaviors. Early intervention dating violence prevention programs can also increase the likelihood that adolescents will practice these same learned behaviors into adulthood (Intimate Partner Violence, 2020; Prevent Domestic Violence in your Community, 2020).

intimate partner violence | kiss and tell
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Discussions surrounding healthy interpersonal relationships should include a variety of topics including the importance of respecting boundaries in relationships, multifaceted consent, emotional regulation, and healthy communication techniques (Breiding, Chen, & Black, 2014; Prevent Domestic Violence in your Community, 2020). Too often, seminars that focus on relationship education are exceedingly brief, leaving little room for open discussions, which in turn limit the potential these interventions have for change. Additionally, increasing a community’s ability to appropriately respond to intimate partner violence through the use of coalitions is another effective prevention technique. Not only should strategies focus on prevention, but they should also include information on appropriate intervention, and this can be accomplished by bolstering a community’s ability to accurately respond to intimate partner violence 

Implementing dating violence prevention programming can also work in conjunction with parent-child programs. Research has often demonstrated the impact child and caregiver relationships have on an individual’s future interpersonal relationships. Quite often, experiences a person has had with their caregivers become the blueprint for which all other romantic relationships are formed (Napier & Whitaker, 1978; Wolynn, 2016).

Many individuals learn how to communicate with others based on communication styles they have witnessed within their family home. Because of this, the CDC has also recommended parent and caregiver programs in addition to programs aimed at strengthening parenting skills. These services would also strengthen the bond between parents and their children, in part by encouraging increased open communication between caregiver and child. When adolescents feel more comfortable discussing their relationships and their concerns with their parents, intimate partner violence can be prevented and even identified and responded to. (Breiding, Chen, & Black, 2014). 

Furthermore, it is equally important to examine risk factors. While it is a bit challenging for researchers to identify risk factors for intimate partner violence across cultures, the literature points to a number of related factors associated with increased intimate partner violence (Jewkes, 2002). The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence has identified four levels of factors that contribute to intimate partner violence: individual-level influences, interpersonal-level influences, community-level influences, and societal-level influences.

Individual-level influences refer to a person’s history and any factors within their history that may increase their likelihood of either perpetrating intimate partner violence or being victimized. These factors include adopting beliefs that condone dating violence, sexist attitudes, isolation, and a family history of violence. Acts of aggression such as hitting a partner or spouse can be learned for both men and women who have observed these behaviors (National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence, n.d.; Jewkes, 2002). 

Next, interpersonal relationship level influences express how a person’s immediate circle can influence intimate partner violence occurrences. An individual’s social group including family and friends can in fact influence behavior. Strategies aimed at producing change at the interpersonal and individual levels both focus on encouraging relationships that value respect, trust, and equality. Lastly, community-level influences describe how a person’s community and surroundings affect their experiences as well as their relationship outcomes (Risk Factors for Interpersonal Violence, n.d.). 

Empowering individuals and supporting their economic and reproductive freedoms have been shown to have a significant impact on intimate partner violence outcomes. Positive outcomes may result from a variety of avenues including access to education, stable income, fulfilling community involvement, and access to contraception and family planning services (Jewkes, 2002). Research has indicated the importance of these factors in preventing intimate partner violence, especially when the victim is a woman. While there is limited research available on intimate partner violence prevention among trans individuals, these same factors (education, employment, community, and contraceptive access) may also protect trans individuals from intimate partner violence. 

Education, employment, and community can help women feel valued and connected and may influence them to seek support when needed (Jewkes, 2002). Additionally, education and stable employment can help women have more mobility should they choose to leave an abusive partner. Increased education may allow a woman to pursue a different career or to progress in her current profession, and this can result in increased financial independence. The pandemic has also revealed the importance of economic independence for individuals attempting to sever relationships with abusive partners. Unfortunately, increased unemployment due to the COVID-19 crisis has impacted several individuals’ economic independence, and by extension their ability to remove themselves from an unsafe environment (Evans, et al., 2020). 

intimate partner violence | kiss and tell
Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash

Reproductive justice may seem irrelevant to some when it comes to intimate partner violence prevention, but that simply is not the case. For some individuals, having a child or multiple children with a perpetrator makes it even more challenging to leave an unsafe relationship. Women who are empowered to make their own reproductive and health-related decisions are less likely to be victimized or to continue being victimized; therefore it is crucial that part of the solution or response to intimate partner violence includes reproductive freedom (Jewkes, 2002). Creating opportunities for women increases their agency and diminishes their risk for intimate partner violence victimization/further victimization. 

Researchers and organizations such as the CDC have emphasized the need for violence prevention through education, dating violence, and parent and child programming, community agency coalitions, and through supporting economic and reproductive freedom (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020; Megans et al., 2020; Jewkes, 2002) Intimate partner violence is a serious problem with equally serious, far-reaching consequences for survivors, their families, and their communities. Fortunately, there are resources available for those currently suffering from dating violence or being with an abusive partner, as well as for individuals who are still coping with the effects of intimate partner violence. Please note that resources may vary depending on where you live. While there are national hotlines and organizations available, it is also useful to look for what implements are available in your area. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call the emergency number 911. 

 Resources include the following

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Call 1.800.799.7233 and TTY 1.800.787.3224 (confidential and free)

For those unable to safely place a call, text LOVEIS to 22522. 

Family Violence Prevention Services

A crisis intervention specialist may be contacted 24/7 through this phone number: 210.733.8810

StrongHearts Native Helpline for domestic/sexual violence

The StrongHearts Native Helpline is a confidential hotline for native individuals who have or who are experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence. The number ( 1.844.762.8483) is available between 7 am and 10 pm central time every day. 

National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-866-331-9474; www.loveisrespect.org

National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 (HOPE) www.rainn.org

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

National Center for Victims of Crime: 1-202-467-8700, www.victimsofcrime.org

National Human Trafficking Resource Center/Polaris Project: Call: 1-888-373-7888 | Text: HELP to BeFree (233733) www.polarisproject.org

National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights: 1-510-465-1984 www.nnirr.org

National Coalition for the Homeless: 1-202-737-6444 www.nationalhomeless.org

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence: 1-800-537-2238 www.nrcdv.org and www.vawnet.org

Futures Without Violence: The National Health Resource Center on Domestic Violence: 1-888-792-2873 www.futureswithoutviolence.org

National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health: 1-312-726-7020 ext. 2011 www.nationalcenterdvtraumamh.org

Resources for Children 

National Child Abuse Hotline/Childhelp: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453) www.childhelp.org

National Runaway Safeline: 1-800-RUNAWAY or 1-800-786-2929 www.1800runaway.org

Childhelp USA/National Child Abuse Hotline : 1-800-422-4453

Resources for Teens

Love is respect: Hotline: 1-866-331-9474 www.loveisrespect.org

Break the Cycle: 202-824-0707 www.breakthecycle.org

Differently Abled Resources

Domestic Violence Initiative 

(303) 839-5510/ (877) 839-5510

www.dviforwomen.org

The Deaf Hotline

The Deaf Hotline was created for deaf, deafblind, and deaf disabled individuals. Advocates are available  24/7 by phone (1.855.812.1001), email ([email protected]), and live chat. 

Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN) 

Email: [email protected] 

VP: 202-559-5366

www.deafdawn.org

Cultural Resources

Women of Color Network 

1-800-537-2238

www.wocninc.org

INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence 

[email protected] 

www.incite-national.org

LATINA/LATINO

Casa de Esperanza 

Linea de crisis 24-horas/24-hour crisis line 

1-651-772-1611

www.casadeesperanza.org

National [email protected] Network for Healthy Families and Communities

1-651-646-5553

www.nationallatinonetwork.org

National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center 

855-649-7299

www.niwrc.org

Asian and Pacific Islander Institute on Domestic Violence 

1-415-954-9988

www.apiidv.org

Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV) 

1-212- 473-6485

www.caaav.org

The Black Church and Domestic Violence Institute 

1-770-909-0715

www.bcdvi.org

Resources for Immigrants 

The National Immigrant Women’s Advocacy Project

(202) 274-4457

http://www.niwap.org/

LGBGTQ+ Resources 

LESBIAN, BI-SEXUAL, GAY, TRANSGENDER, GENDER NON-CONFORMING

The Audre Lorde Project 

1-178-596-0342

www.alp.org

LAMBDA GLBT Community Services 

1-206-350-4283

http://www.qrd.org/qrd/www/orgs/avproject/main.htm

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force 

1-202-393-5177

www.ngltf.org

Northwest Network of Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian & Gay Survivors of Abuse 

1-206-568-7777

www.nwnetwork.org

Trans Lifeline

877-565-8860

www.translifeline.org

Elder Abuse Resources 

National Clearinghouse on Abuse in Later Life 

1-608-255-0539

www.ncall.us

National Center for Elder Abuse 

1-855-500-3537

www.aginginplace.org

Resources for Men 

National Organization for Men Against Sexism (NOMAS) 

1-720-466-3882

www.nomas.org

A Call to Men 

1-917-922-6738

www.acalltomen.org

Men Stopping Violence

1-866-717-9317

www.menstoppingviolence.org

References 

Breiding, M.J., Chen J., & Black, M.C. (2014). Intimate Partner Violence in the United States — 2010. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Evans, M.L., Lindauer, M., & Farrell, M.E. (2020). A pandemic within a pandemic – Intimate partner violence during Covid-19. Perspective. 383(24). 2302-2303. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2024046.

Intimate Partner Violence. (2020). CDC. Intimate Partner Violence |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC

Jewkes, R. (2002). Intimate partner violence: Causes and prevention. Violence Against Women. 359. 1423-1427. DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(02)08357-5.

Napier, A. & Whitaker, C.A. (1977). The Family Crucible. Harper Collins. 

Prevent Domestic Violence in your Community. (2020). CDC. Prevent Domestic Violence in Your Community | CDC

Risk Factors for Interpersonal Violence. (n.d). National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence. Microsoft Word – Risk Factors for IPV.doc (ncdsv.org)

Wolynn, M. (2016). It Didn’t Start with You. Penguin.


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