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Intimate Partner Violence in America

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When such term as “Intimate Partner Violence” is uttered, we are always thinking that it is something remote and unlikely to happen to us. But what if we are wrong? If some time ago IPV was predicted to happen only in problem families, now it is not the case. In modern America a couple that seems to have an exemplary relationship, may prove to be one with the presence of everyday violence. In this paper we will try to identify IPV and its forms, assume its’ possible causes, predict its effects on people’s lives and consider possible preventative measures that may help in fighting this type of family abuse.

Defining Intimate Partner Violence

According to the recently revealed statistical data, about 26 percent of women and 16 percent of men in the USA report a lifetime occurrence of IPV defined as any physical, psychological or sexual action against the partner in intimate relationship that can cause negative influence on his or her health and is performed against his or her own will (Mitchell, 2009). Frightening, exaggerating statistics or sad, day-to-day reality? The two crucial questions in this respect are (1) what do we understand by IPV and (2) how do we define a person entitled “an intimate partner”? The first question can have a broad range of answers. Some scholars consider it to be one of the three forms of interpersonal violence, the two other being self-violence and collective violence. Others think of it as a term that describes any kind of violence between a man and a woman behind the closed doors. Still there are those, who view it as something mostly happening with aggression directed towards a woman (Mitchell, 2009). The particular term, “IPV”, is utilized to describe the problem more accurately and to differentiate it from the other forms of family violence. It refers to physical, psychological, and sexual abusive practices that take place between intimate partners (Hattery, 2009). Spouses, ex-spouses, cohabiting partners and partners in any romantic relationship are most frequent victims of IPV. It should be emphasized that this type of abuse is very likely to be repeated multiple times. Moreover, according to the recently collected statistical data, from 40 to 70 percent of female murder victims were killed by husbands or boyfriends.

Forms of Intimate Partner Violence

As any kind of domestic abuse, this type of violence is realized in different forms. If to differentiate them in terms of lethality of the violence and the level of control in the relationship, two forms of IPV may be pointed out: (1) situational couple violence and (2) intimate terrorism. The first form is motivated by a desire to control the partner, but occurs when specific conflict situations cause appearance of violence. The second form of IPV, intimate terrorism, occurs when partners-abusers attempt to exert control over their partners, using a broad range of power and control tactics, which include physical violence (Hattery, 2009). So, in both cases a usual quarrel or misunderstanding may lead to violence, if woman’s partner is a control-freak and experiences a constant need of domination over somebody. The difference between the two is seen in frequency of their occurrence. While situational couple violence, when identified, may be stopped and never repeated with the passage of time, intimate terrorism is something much more serious and is repeated on a regular basis. Moreover, it has a possibility of worsening in future. If to differentiate IPV by the type of influence on the partner-victim, there are three its main forms: physical, psychological and sexual. Controlling behavior, psychological aggression and abuse, as well as an attempt to establish supremacy, are viewed as psychological IPV. Sexual IPV is clearly seen in situations of forced intercourse and in any attempts of sexual coercion. General assault and battery of a woman are viewed as physical IPV.

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Possible causes of Intimate Partner Violence

IPV is a complicated issue in its core, because its causes are difficult to discover and explain. The only thing that may be stated for sure is the fact that there are certain risk factors that may point to the possibility of this type of family abuse occurrence. Among them the following ones can be identified: young age of the partners, low income, low academic achievement, and aggressive behavior in adolescence. One more important risk factor may be a problematic situation in the family of the abuser. If a child sees a constant fight between the parents, in which father beats and assaults mother on a regular basis, he or she may remember this and transfer this mode of behavior into his or her own intimate relationship.

IPV is often discussed as an integral component of the battered woman syndrome. The whole cycle of this type of violence most frequently includes a certain period when tension is building up after abuse. The batterer may express pricks of consciousness and a period of a relative peace and calm may ensue. The cycle is further reactivated at the moment, when tensions increase and stresses resurface. The main assumption of this theory lies in the fact that partner violence increases in frequency and severity over time (Williams, 1998).  

Another theory of possible IPV causes is connected to the idea of men’s constant striving for being superior and desire to suppress those, who are weaker. Partner violence is often preceded by attacks on partner’s vulnerabilities. Men with low self-esteem may defend themselves against their own feelings of sensitiveness, frustration and use violence against their partner as a defense. Male physical violence can serve to intimidate, control and silence the partner, to gain the upper hand in the relationship. In particular, physical violence may be applied as a strategy of first resort among men, who lack verbal communication and problem-solving skills (Williams, 1998). Higher frequency of men in the role of abuser in a relationship is preconditioned by gender belonging. Men are generally more aggressive, because of the higher level of testosterone in their blood. Wife assault is seen as a normal violence used by males to sustain the oppression of women and motivated by a male sense of entitlement (Dutton, 2006).

Effects and preventative measures that may be helpful in solving the problem

IPV has detrimental effect on physical and psychological health of the individual. Women, who have experienced partner violence, are at significantly greater risk of development of heart and circulatory system diseases, alcoholism and other kinds of addictions, than are women, who have not experienced it (Mitchell, 2009). They may face irreversible psychological changes and will possibly attend psychotherapy till the end of their lives. The constant fear they live in between the acts of IPV may develop into phobia and hysteria. Prolonged depression, suicidal behavior, and chronic pain syndrome can be mentioned among the other possible consequences of IPV.  Repeated sexual abuse practices by a partner may sufficiently affect the reproductive system of a woman. It may also cause premature labor and the appearance of sexually transmitted diseases.

What can be done to prevent IPV from spreading in modern America? This is a tough question to answer, because most of the cases of partner abuse remain unreported and stay behind the closed doors. But there are a couple of things, which can be implemented to change the current situation for the better. In the sphere of healthcare, a profound education of medical care providers is to be secured; funding is to be provided to address domestic violence in healthcare setting. There exists a need in better police training in order for lawmen to detect the IPV occurrences successfully. But the most important aspect of the prevention and help program is of course victims’ support and creation of treatment programs for perpetrators. It is essential to remember that people, who are the victims of abuse, are very likely to become abusers in the future. Therefore, their psychological treatment is one of the primary issues to consider. Perpetrators are also not to be forgotten: even though they stop their activity after it is detected by police and healthcare professionals, it does not mean they suspended it forever.

Intimate Partner Violence is one of the pressing problems of American society. Its occurrences become more and more frequent as the years roll on. The important thing to remember is that detection of such problem’s existence is not enough. Ignorance is not an option in the case of witnessing IPV occurrence, because you never know when and under which circumstances such thing may happen to you.

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