Just eleven months ago, right after the start of the COVID-19 reports here in the United States, I wrote about how the disease had affected marriages in China. I spoke about the possibilities of the increase of divorces and domestic abuse happening in America.
A CNBC report from a couple of months ago shared, “According to data … the number of people looking into divorce was 34% higher from March through June 2020 compared to those same months in 2019. Along with that they also reported a sharp increase in domestic abuse. A Massachusetts hospital reported a significant increase over the same period of 2019.”
In this report matrimonial attorney, Jacqueline Harounian, states that “in the New York area, it is being widely reported that there has been a sharp increase in use of substances and alcohol, as well as a rise in mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. Combined with economic uncertainty, stress from remote schooling and remote working, it is no wonder that family and marital relationships are deteriorating behind closed doors. Parents are experiencing conflict, whether they are married, separated or divorced. In a growing number of cases, there is domestic assault.”
The new term for forms of domestic abuse is Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). This affects millions in the United States and is increasing in alarming cases because of the COVID-19 social distancing restrictions. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported:
• About 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact.
• Over 43 million women and 38 million men have experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
The separation caused by this pandemic creates an environment that is difficult to detect in relationships. Many of the abused are fearful and will not speak out or try and get away. Many abusers make the partner dependent on them so to restrict all parts of the abused partner’s life. Mental abuse is the key to many relationships causing the abused to be filled with self-doubt, feeling worthless, leading to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and falling into depression.
The CDC describes Intimate partner violence (IPV) as abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship. “Intimate partner” refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners. IPV can vary in how often it happens and how severe it is. It can range from one episode of violence that could have lasting impact to chronic and severe episodes over multiple years. IPV can include any of the following types of behavior:
• Physical violence — is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force. (Many abusers are skilled as not to leave marks that are visible).
• Sexual violence — is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.
• Stalking — is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.
• Psychological aggression — is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or to exert control over another person.
Data from U.S. crime reports suggest that about 1 in 5 homicide victims are killed by an intimate partner. The reports also found that over half of female homicide victims in the U.S. are killed by a current or former male intimate partner.
VA’S IPV PROGRAM
To address the issue of IPV, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) issued the first policy to implement their Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP). The program’s mission is to, “provide a comprehensive network of services to Veterans, their families and caregivers, and VHA Employees who use or experience intimate partner violence (IPV).”
The IPVAP has adopted a holistic, Veteran-centered psychosocial rehabilitation framework that promotes a culture of safety through raising awareness to intervention. All IPVAP programs and services are built upon four guiding principles:
Person-first language — refrains from the use of stigmatizing labels and refers to the behavior to be changed rather than labeling the person (e.g., “Individual who experiences/uses IPV” rather than “victim/batterer”) creating a respectful space in which to assist the individual seeking care and recovery.
Veteran-centric recognition — of the unique stressors and experiences that Veterans and their families may face, that cultivating and maintaining healthy relationships may be difficult, and that addressing risk and protective factors for IPV impacts other areas of concern for Veterans (e.g., housing stability, suicidality).
Recovery-oriented model — which provides a coordinated network of VA and community services that build upon the strengths and resilience of individuals and families with an expectation of improving relationships and quality of life. By serving both those who experience, as well as those who use, IPV, the program aims to significantly mitigate risk while promoting healthy relationship skills.
Trauma-informed programs and services — are based on understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of trauma by emphasizing physical, psychological, and emotional safety, and encouraging healing and empowerment. Likewise, as stated in directive 1198, the IPVAP Trauma-informed care model provides a coordinated network of VA and community services that build upon the strengths and resilience of individuals and families with an expectation of improving relationships and quality of life.
RECOGNIZE AND SUPPORT
During a public crisis (such as, the COVID-19 pandemic) which disrupts daily life, it is important to recognize and support those who are experiencing or using intimate partner violence (IPV). For individuals experiencing IPV, any disruption to normal life or access to services can mean increased potential for harm.
Special considerations to support the experience of violence during disasters include ensuring continued access to resources, support and services. Those who use violence may experience increased stress during a disaster because of many factors, such as reduced access to basic needs, food, water or shelter.
The VA Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program (IPVAP) has Coordinators in VA facilities available for support. You can contact the Mountain Home VA Medical Center’s coordinator at (423) 926-1171 extension 2598.
After reading this you may wonder why I brought this subject to your attention. The signs of abuse are not easy to recognize. The guidelines used by the CDC and VA explain the symptoms of someone being abused and the signs of one who is an abuser.
I knew someone that was living with an abuser who used psychological not physical methods to control the partner. With my encouragement and support of her medical team she broke those bonds. As a Service Officer for over 30 years, I have seen veterans who have suffered loss of disability monies and have been remanded to filthy and unhealthy living conditions because of abuse of their caregivers.
In almost every case of abuse I have been aware of or have heard the stories about the abused did not show physical damage and you had to be really aware to see the psychological and emotional impact. One sign I recognized was someone who was in an abusive relationship always looking to the partner for answers or permission to have or do anything. If you suspect a friend is in an abusive relationship let them know you are there for support and a safe place they can go.
NEWS OF NOTE
AMVETS Post 75 — meets the first Thursday of each month at the Tanner Building 115 Mulberry Street, the next meeting will Thursday March 4 at 6 p.m. You can call the Commander, Rob Watkins at 423-721-8918 for directions or more information.
Rob Watkins is a totally disabled, Air Force, Vietnam combat veteran. He has worked with Veterans for over 40 years. As a member of local organizations, he continues his path to help others. Please send information, dates for events, two weeks in advance, questions or suggestion; by mail to PO Box 224 Cosby, TN 37722 or c/o Newport Plain Talk, email; firstname.lastname@example.org, Facebook/View from the Bunker, or call 423-721-8918.