A new CDC report shows that one-quarter of U.S women have suffered intimate partner violence. This won’t come as much of a shock to those of us who have been paying attention. I also highly doubt that it will change the minds of those who like to deny the extent of violence against women, seeing as how they regularly ignore the FBI stats on the instance of false rape reports. But I do think that the report is somewhat interesting for its demographic findings:
Black women were more likely to report domestic violence than whites or Hispanics, but it was most frequent among multiracial, American Indian and Alaska native women.
Women of all income and education levels suffer such abuse, although it was more frequent among the poorest and those who attended but did not graduate from college.
“Perhaps one of the factors at play here is the high prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses, and dating violence,” Michele Black, a CDC epidemiologist who helped write the agency’s report, said in a telephone interview.
Black said she could not say whether domestic violence rates were rising. The results were comparable with those of a 1995 government survey that found that 24.8 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men reported suffering domestic violence.
The CDC said women who suffer domestic violence are three times as likely to engage in risky sex and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily than other women.
They are also twice as likely to report that their activities are limited by physical, mental or emotional problems and 50 percent more likely to use a cane, wheelchair or other disability equipment, the CDC survey found.
These women also were 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease or arthritis and 60 percent more likely to have asthma.
Kiersten Stewart, director of public policy for the Family Violence Prevention Fund advocacy group, said the CDC figures broadly fit other assessments that about a quarter to a third of U.S. women experience domestic violence.
The CDC’s website offers this definition of intimate partner violence:
The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same-sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy.
IPV can vary in frequency and severity. It occurs on a continuum, ranging from one hit that may or may not impact the victim to chronic, severe battering.
It goes on to more explicitly define the different types of intimate partner violence, and though I found the sexual violence definition to be lacking (“physical force” is a limiting, often-misunderstood and differently interpreted phrase), the rest seems fairly accurate and comprehensive.
The point in the report about women who report abuse being more likely to “use disability equipment” is an interesting one. I couldn’t find the report on the CDC website, but since these numbers came from a survey, it doesn’t seem like they would have determined the dynamics of that link. I have to imagine that there is a causational effect, but in which direction? Are women who suffer intimate partner violence more likely to have a disability due to the physical effects of the abuse, or are women with disabilities more likely to be victimized? (My personal speculation favors the latter but imagines that the former is also somewhat true.)
The CDC also encourages doctors to ask women about intimate partner violence when they display stress or other (undefined) symptoms of abuse. I think that this is probably good advice. I would guess that many doctors shy away from these types of questions for fear of insulting or upsetting a patient. But I also think that asking these questions regularly is the only way to normalize them enough that women don’t become offended. I have been asked on more than one occasion by my gynecologist, as a part of routine questioning, whether I am currently or have ever suffered abuse in a relationship. And though I would probably be a little put off if asked that question by someone who knows my husband and I, I’m otherwise quite aware of why those types of questions are important and am not fazed by them (and I also know that people who don’t “seem” like they would be victims or perpetrators of abuse often are). What do you think?
On a related note, Women’s eNews has a story about a New York program to fight intimate partner violence that aims to directly involve clergy and encourage them to connect with secular anti-violence organizations.
“In instances of domestic violence the first line of defense is you,” [Rabbi and trainer Diana] Manber told her audience last month. “They go to you before they go to a social worker, a lawyer, a hospital, a best friend, a neighbor. They come to you looking for answers. But do you know the answers?”
She thinks that too often the answer is no because clergy are not trained to identify and respond to domestic violence.
Manber says that during five years of rabbinical school–she graduated from the Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York–the subject of domestic violence did not come up once.
“Rabbis, imams, pastors are all in a position to connect victims to social workers and legal services,” Manber told her audience at the Family Justice Center. “With domestic violence, it is not enough to pray. You have to act.”
It sounds like a great program and Manber convinced me that it’s imperative to helping women of faith who experience intimate partner violence. Right now, the program seems to be aimed at Jewish and Protestant clergy. I’d love to see it extended to Catholic and Muslim audiences, particularly since they tend to be more conservative than their Jewish and Protestant counterparts, and therefore likely need the training even more.