BY MELISSA KOTTKE, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, Director of the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health, Practicing OBGYN at Emory University Hospital Midtown.
One in four women will experience some kind of domestic violence during her lifetime. Each year, intimate partner violence results in an estimated 2 million injuries and 1,200 deaths among women. These statistics may be shocking, but sadly, they are very real.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a month to focus on ending the violence that affects so many lives and to increase awareness that there is help for those suffering. It is a time to remember those who have lost their lives because of an abusive relationship. And it is also a time to work towards the prevention of intimate partner violence.
Intimate partner violence can affect anyone, regardless of age, race, sexual preference, economic background or religious beliefs. It can affect couples that are married, living together or who are dating. Intimate partner violence includes a wide range of verbal, emotional, sexual, physical and psychological behaviors. Any behavior that intimidates, manipulates, humiliates, isolates, frightens, terrorizes, coerces, threatens, blames, hurts, injures or wounds someone is abuse.
Domestic violence affects the entire community and should not be considered a private family matter. Intimate partner violence has major health implications for individual and public health. Those who have experienced partner violence are more likely to smoke, use substances, have depression, experience post-traumatic stress disorder, attempt suicide, have unplanned pregnancies, have sexually transmitted infections and have decreased access to healthcare.
Studies show that children who witness violence at home experience behavioral problems and increased aggression, have less developed social and conflict resolution skills and may suffer long-term developmental effects. These youth are also at risk of engaging in future violence and of being abused themselves.
Intimate partner violence is not okay and you are not alone. If you or someone you know needs help, please consider:
Unfortunately, we are seeing evidence of domestic violence at younger and younger ages. One out of 10 high school students nationwide reports being hit, slapped or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the previous year. Here in Georgia, that number is even higher, where one in six report dating violence. A study recently released revealed that youth dating violence is beginning as early as 6th grade. New technologies like sexting, Internet stalking and incessant texting are emerging modes for teen dating violence and abuse.
The Jane Fonda Center at Emory University has recently been chosen as one of 11 sites in the nation to fund a new $1 million initiative called Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships. The program is aimed at stopping teen dating violence and abuse before it starts. It is the largest national public health initiative ever funded, targeting 11-to-14-year-olds. The goal is to reduce the nation’s unacceptable level of intimate partner violence through early prevention. Perhaps if we support young people as they are forming relationships and show them what a healthy relationship is, Domestic Violence Awareness Month can become a thing of the past.
Parents, you can help prevent teen dating violence by:
For more information on the Jane Fonda Center, call 404-712-4710 or visit: http://www.gynob.emory.edu/centers/jfc.html
For more information on Start Strong Atlanta, visit: http://startstrongatl.org/
For more information on the National Domestic Violence Hotline, visit: http://www.ndvh.org/