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Stay Safe: Inside Intimate Partner Violence

It might be uncomfortable, but it’s important to talk about intimate partner violence – or what we used to call domestic violence. Far too often, it’s a life-or-death issue.

One in five homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner, according to data from US crime reports. The number is even higher for just women – more than half of female homicide victims in the US are killed by a current or former male intimate partner.

Still, it’s a problem that can be minimized and misunderstood, simply because people don’t talk about it. So let’s dispel some common myths about intimate partner violence.

Myths and Facts Around Domestic Violence

Myth: It’s not that common.

Fact: More than one in three women in the US have experienced rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. And keep in mind, the true prevalence is not known because many people are afraid to talk about or report their experiences with violence.

Myth: It happens only to women.

Fact: Men also experience intimate partner violence at a similar rate. About one in three men report experiencing sexual violence, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. More than half experienced these or other forms of violence by that partner before age 25.

Myth: It’s an adult problem.

Fact: Intimate partner violence can start early. In fact, teen dating violence affects millions of US teens each year. It’s something that was first experienced before age 18 by millions of women and men who reported some form of intimate partner violence later in life.

Myth: It’s easy to identify.

Fact: For young and more mature people alike, the experience of intimate partner violence can be confusing. Was that teasing or was it psychological aggression? Was he just being rough or was it sexual violence? According to the Centers for Disease Control, an intimate partner can be a former or current dating partner or spouse, and violence includes the following:

  • Physical violence - Hitting, kicking or using another type of physical force to hurt or try to hurt a partner.
  • Sexual violence - A forced or attempted forcing of a sex act, sexual touching or non-physical sexual event (such as sexting) when a partner does not or cannot consent.
  • Stalking - Repeated, unwanted attention or contact that causes fear or concern for safety of the victim or those close to the victim.
  • Psychological aggression - Verbal and non-verbal communication that’s intended to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or exert control.

Screening for intimate partner violence is becoming a more common part of health care visits. As a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, I routinely ask patients questions like:

  • Have you ever been hit, slapped, kicked or physically hurt by someone?
  • Have you been emotionally, physically or sexually abused by someone?
  • Are you and your family living in a safe space?
  • Do you feel safe?

It can be hard to speak up, but your primary care provider can connect you with resources you need to ensure your safety. We’re here to listen, to help and to ensure your physical and emotional wellbeing.

If you or a loved one have experienced intimate partner violence or trauma of this nature, know that all CHI Health emergency rooms are equipped to care for you in these situations. Reach out to your provider if you have more questions.

Briana Harris Mayle, APRN
Briana Harris Mayle, APRN

Briana Harris Mayle, APRN is a Women's Health Nurse Practitioner with CHI Health.

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