Domestic Violence Affects All
Posted on Oct 18, 2011 | 0 comments
In a perfect world, people wouldn’t want to exert power or control over one another. Unfortunately, the reality is that power dynamics exist in every aspect of our lives. These power structures are based on gender, ethnicity, class, age, immigration status, and many other factors.
Because these power structures pervade our society, some people feel as if they cannot have as much control over their own lives as they wish. For example, in a patriarchal society, women may not feel as if they can independently make all of the life decisions that they want. This gender-based dynamic is made even more complex when a woman’s immigration status, educational background, income level and marital status are added to the mix.
Intimate partner violence (or domestic abuse/violence, or relationship abuse) is based on these power dynamics. This is an epidemic that disproportionately affects women. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of victims of domestic violence are women. One out of four women in the United States will experience relationship abuse in her lifetime, and some studies have indicated that South Asian women may be even more at risk.
Domestic violence is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors including physical injury, psychological abuse, sexual assault, progressive social isolation, stalking, deprivation, intimidation and threats. These behaviors are perpetrated by someone who is, was, or wishes to be involved in an intimate relationship with an adult or adolescent, and are aimed at establishing control by one partner over the other. Domestic violence is a health issue that impacts people of all ages, including children, adolescents, and the elderly.
If you are experiencing relationship abuse, it is not your fault. You deserve to be happy, healthy, and treated respectfully.
Sometimes people ask, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” It is not that easy. There are many barriers that prevent women from leaving abusive relationships:
- Women may be financially dependent on their partners
- They may feel as if the abuse they experience is “normal”
- They might think that others in their community will blame them for what happened
South Asian communities may consider some forms of abuse to be acceptable, and so women might feel as if the community will not support them if they leave. The only way to solve problems like this is if the South Asian community can start openly discussing relationship abuse, and supporting survivors of this abuse. The high rates of intimate partner violence in the South Asian population can be reversed if the community can come together to hold abusers accountable for their actions.
In addition to the deep psychological trauma associated with relationship abuse, studies have also found that domestic violence causes other health consequences:
- Women who have experienced domestic violence are 80 percent more likely to have a stroke, 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, 60 percent more likely to have asthma, and 70 percent more likely to drink heavily than women who have not experienced intimate partner violence.
- In the United States in 1995, the cost of intimate partner rape, physical assault, and stalking totaled $5.8 billion each year for direct medical and mental health care services and lost productivity from paid work and household chores. When updated to 2003, dollars, the cost is more than $8.3 billion.
- Sexual and domestic violence are linked to a wide range of reproductive health issues including sexually transmitted disease and HIV transmission, miscarriages, risky sexual health behavior and more.
Some South Asian communities may also instill in women the idea that after they get married, their husbands can have sex with them whenever they want. Women may feel as if marriage denies them the power to have any say in when to have sex. This is not true. Marriage does not take away your right to have control over your body. If you feel that your partner or spouse is pressuring you to have sex, this could be considered marital rape.
This blog post contributed by Anjali Dixit, B.S., MPH candidate during an internship at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF) Research Institute. Learn more about South Asian wellness at PAMF’s South Asian Health website.