What is Intimate Partner Violence ?
From the time babies could speak their first words, large ideas were instilled into small young minds. Don’t steal, share your toys, say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’—these are just a few of the phrases that are constantly floating around in the air while toddlers transition into young children. As children grow older and mature into young adults, the previous phrases get harder and harder to apply. ‘Don’t steal’ now means ‘do not steal a pack of gum off of the shelf of the convenience store,’ ‘share your toys’ now mean ‘share the bathroom with your younger siblings while keeping a cool head, ‘say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’’ now mean ‘that kid in school can be a jerk but reciprocate his anger and or hatred with kindness.’ Knowing what is right to do is one matter, being able to apply it is an entirely different matter.
Some think that being able to keep a cool head while living up to ethical standards gets easier with time, but the truth is, doing the right thing can be extremely difficult, especially when certain circumstances are applied. Being bullied is difficult to swallow and coping with it and remediating the situation can be difficult by tenfold. There are many forms and settings where bullying can take place: in the workplace through hateful words, at the restaurant through sexually harassing comments, and a place that many hope never occurs to them: in the home, with a person that they love. Leaving the situation and regaining your former self back may be difficult but is a journey that one must take, for their healthy wellbeing in all dimensions: mentally, emotionally, and physically.
- “An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence):” The implied statement behind this statistic, however, is that there are actually more victims of harassment and violence. Physical assault is not the only form of harassment that can be experienced by an intimate partner. Derogatory statements, rape, robbery, and sexual assault are just some of the few types of violence one may experience within their home. Leaving the situation, however, is not as easy as one may believe it to be.
- “Only 16 to 38 percent of rape victims report the rape to law enforcement, and only 17 to 43 percent present themselves for medical evaluation after rape; and one-third of victims of rape never report the assault to their primary care doctor” (UptoDate): For many, turning to help and finding a better solution, away from the intimate partner violence can be difficult and emotionally draining. Oftentimes, those who are being abused or assaulted are drilled with a mindset that they don’t deserve help, nobody wants them, and the most common one, if they seek help, the abuser will be out to get them and hurt them even more. Threats and blackmail are a mental block to escaping from the physical and emotional pain.
Nobody deserves that type of pain. Finding the way out is difficult and can feel incredibly overwhelming, especially for young individuals who may feel as though they have nowhere else to turn. However, with small and gradual steps, the victim will eventually recover and leave that painful past behind.
- Find a safe environment away from the assailant: This is the first step in regaining health. If it’s possible, pack the bags, but most importantly, just get yourself and if there are any, kids, out of the harmful environment. For most victims, this will be a hard action to carry out as their leaving will most likely be met with anger, threats, and hateful comments, delivered by the assailant. Picking the right time to leave will aid the process. To avoid enraging the abuser further, mask the event with something that may occur on a day-to-day basis. Telling the abuser you’re going to the store, or picking up the kids from school and then leaving for a safer environment is a great plan of action.
- Seek unconditional support: Particularly crucial during this time of vulnerability, finding someone who will be there to tend to you will aid the recovery process immensely. Victims of intimate partner violence often emerge from the experience with weaker emotional health and physical health that is not up to par. Being alone may only amplify the fears and those who leave may second-guess themselves and end up back in the abuser’s arms. Know that you are loved, valued, and cherished, by seeking comfort and love in the home of a family member or good friend.
- Seek medical aid: Even if you were not physically harmed in an episode of violence, repairing the broken heart and building up the emotional health may require professional aid, and tuning to a therapist. If you do happen to be the victim of a sexual assault, known you’re not alone and transport yourself to a medical center as soon as possible. A sexual assault nurse examiner is a certified professional who knows how to handle the situation with tact and care. They will document the details of the violence, collect evidence through physical examinations and tests (you may say no to any part of the test that you wish not to engage in) and provide emotional support throughout the recovery process. Furthermore, they will be available to testify in court as to the extent of your injuries both emotionally and physically.
The worst thing to do after being a victim of intimate partner violence is to stay with the partner, praying that the situation will remedy itself because the sad truth is, those who assault and turn to violence oftentimes will continue to do so. Taking that first step is the most difficult and painful one but for the sake of yourself and, possibly your children, take that first step and learn that you, nobody, should have to receive that type of pain. If medical centers and having an adult learn more about your situation in person is too degrading and intimating, that’s okay. With time, that step will be crucial in propelling the recovery process but to regain your footing and start the journey towards better health, at least turn to a hotline. Available in the United States, HOPE (1-800-656-4673) can provide you with a center that will provide you medical care and offer you emotional support through a phone conversation. There are many hotlines, some of which offer medical advice, others of which to offer words of encouragement and support. Visiting a trained crisis counselor while accompanied by a supportive friend or family member can make the future seem a lot brighter.
- “Between 2001 and 2005, women between the ages of twenty and twenty four were at a greater risk of intimate partner violence than other age groups” (National Data on Intimate Partner Violence): At an age so young, not seeking professional treatment may severely alter the way one perceives relationships. With ongoing assault, the woman may be deceived into believing that violence is healthy within a relationship, or may take the other route: all relationships are hurtful and filled with cruel violence. Receiving medical aid will provide for the development of a healthy mindset.
- “Females living in households comprised of one female adult with children experienced intimate partner violence at a rate more than 10 times higher than households with married adults with children and 6 times higher than households with one female only” (Bureau of Justice Statistics): With a child, walking away is more difficult as you must bring them along with you or find a safer environment for them until you can give them the proper care they deserve. Children who are exposed to parental violence in the household are more likely to engage in violence themselves when they are older. Isolate yourself and your child to ensure healthy wellbeing for all individuals.
It takes great courage and love for yourself to leave a situation filled with violence whether it be verbal assaults or nonconsensual sex. Media and the news always emphasize women as being the victims, but the truth is, everyone can be a victim. Men, individuals who associate with the LGBTQ community, and those who don’t fall into the categories listed above are also vulnerable to abuse. If and when you find yourself into this situation, know that you are not alone and that the future can get brighter. Seeking help, medical aid, and family and friend support, can alleviate the pain that is felt both physically and emotionally.