It may seem that domestic violence is on the rise in Washington state and other places throughout the US. Despite evidence that reports of abuse at the hands of intimate partners are on the rise, statistics may not tell the whole story.
Removing the shame and stigma surrounding the cycle of intimate partner violence (IPV) makes it easier for survivors to share their experiences. Increased awareness and wider reporting on the issues shed new light on what was once a “family secret” but always more common than we want to admit.
In other words, it’s possible that we’re just more aware of the problem.
What is intimate partner violence?
In legal terms, domestic violence is a separate category from simple assault and battery. That’s because the power dynamics and romantic nature of such relationships make them more complicated than other violent crimes.
Victims must often live – or at least deal on some level – with their abusers on a continuing basis. This is especially true when they share children, business interests, and finances with their abuser even after they no longer share a roof,
Because we know that intimate partner violence can happen to anyone regardless of gender identification, socio-economic status, ethnicity, or age, terms like battered woman syndrome seem outdated. It’s more accurate to say intimate partner violence, although such crimes happen disproportionately to women.
However, IPV doesn’t just mean physical assault. Emotional abuse, neglect, and threats of violence are all behaviors that contribute to fear and intimidation in an intimate relationship. In fact, these forms of abuse can have a longer-lasting impact than even broken bones, making it difficult to trust people and form healthy relationships in the future.
Conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are not uncommon for people in long-term or severe domestic abuse situations.
Getting help, even if you’re unable to get out
Survivors of domestic violence experience a range of after-effects that make leaving such situations more difficult. They also find it harder to start over when victims are able to leave.
The first step to recovery is for survivors to realize that the abuse isn’t their fault. There are a number of agencies that can provide emotional and legal support to break the cycle of violence.