October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence, also called Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), is very common. It is important to bring awareness to how serious and common this issue is in the US.
What is intimate partner violence (IPV)?
IPV is abuse or aggression that occurs surrounding a romantic relationship. It can occur with either a current or former spouse or dating partner. It can vary in how often it happens and how severe it is. It can range from one episode of violence to chronic and severe episodes over multiple years. It can start at any time during a relationship, even after the “intimate” part of the relationship has ended.
IPV can include any of the following:
Physical violence – Such as hitting, kicking, or using any type of physical force to try to hurt an intimate partner.
Sexual violence – Forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sexual act, sexual touching, or a nonphysical sexual event (such as sexting), when the partner does not or cannot consent.
Stalking – A pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone else who is close to the victim.
Psychological aggression – Using verbal or non-verbal communication with the intent to harm a partner mentally or emotionally and/or to exert control over a partner.
Who is affected by IPV?
IPV is common among all people, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, as well as people with disabilities.
When IPV occurs in adolescence, it is called teen dating violence. This type of IPV affects millions of US teens every year.
While IPV impacts all type of people in the US, some groups have a higher risk for violence. For instance, youth from groups that have been marginalized, such as sexual and gender minority youth are at greater risk of experiencing sexual and physical dating violence.
How common is IPV?
Research gathered by the CDC indicates that about 41% women and 26% of men, have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner, and reported a significant impact related to this violence, during their lifetime. Common impacts reported include physical injury, PTSD, concern for safety, fear, missed work, and needing help from law enforcement.
What are the consequences of IPV?
IPV is a significant health issue that has both individual and societal costs. Here are some sobering statistics from data gathered from US crime reports:
1 in 5 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner.
Over half of female homicide victims in the US are killed by a current or former male intimate partner.
There are many other negative health outcomes associated with IPV for individual survivors, including:
Heart and cardiovascular problems
Muscle and bone problems
Nervous system problems
Reproductive system problems
Psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD
Higher risk of developing addiction to alcohol, tobacco, and/or drugs.
What about the societal costs?
The most recent estimate of the economic cost associated with IPV in the US that I could find was from 2013, almost 10 years ago. At that time the cost of medical services for IPV-related injuries, lost productivity from paid work, criminal justice, and other costs added up to about $8.3 billion annually in the US. There is a study from the state of North Carolina from 2020, stating that domestic violence costs in the state for that year added up to $360 million. A 2022 study from Wisconsin estimated the annual cost of IPV in 2021 at $657 million and growing. Imagine that times 50 for the US.
That is just the economic cost. There are also long-term societal costs of IPV on the ones who have witnessed it (1 in 15 children annually in the US). They also have much higher rates of the negative health outcomes I mentioned above.
Addressing the issue of IPV could save thousands of lives and billions of dollars.
We will talk more about how we can help address this problem in a future Health Tip.
If you have any questions about domestic violence, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.
Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor