October Health Beat

“Karen’s Kolumn” is researched and written by Public Health Nurse Karen Dolley. We appreciate her support and willingness to share!

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

According to 2009 data from the Federal CDC, women experienced 4.8 million partner related physical assaults and rapes. Men were victims of 2.9 million partner related physical assaults. These numbers underestimate the problem as many victims don’t report this violence to family, friends, or law enforcement. Many victims think others will not believe them and that law enforcement can’t or won’t help. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women and 50% of the homicides in Maine are related to domestic abuse. Domestic violence affects people of all races and at all socioeconomic levels.

Often domestic violence begins with emotional abuse and progresses to physical and/or sexual abuse. Frequently, several types of abuse occur together.

There are four major types of partner violence. Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt another person by hitting, kicking, or using any other type of physical force. Sexual violence is forcing a partner to engage in a sexual act without their consent. Threats include using words, weapons, or other means to communicate an intention to cause harm. Emotional abuse is threatening a partner, his or her possessions, pets, or family members or harming a partner’s sense of self worth. Examples include stalking, name calling, intimidation, humiliation, and controlling behaviors like not allowing a partner to see family or friends, threatening to take the children away, and not allowing access to family income.

According to a 2005 CDC study published in 2008, women who had experienced domestic violence were more likely to have a stroke, to have heart disease, to have asthma, and to drink heavily when compared with women who had not experienced domestic abuse. Physical injuries include bruises, broken bones, and head trauma. Victims of violence often have low self esteem and may experience depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and suicidal behavior.

Children may be injured during partner violence incidents. A 2001 study found that children of abused mothers were 57 times more likely to have been harmed because of violence between their parents when compared with children of non abused mothers. It is important to talk with children about what a healthy relationship is, to teach them to respect others, and to teach them there is no excuse for abuse.

Call the police if you see or hear evidence of domestic violence. If you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, let them know you are concerned for their safety and that you want to help. Let them know that they deserve a healthy, non-violent relationship. Listen to them and acknowledge that they are in a scary, difficult situation. Remind them that the abuse is not their fault. Be respectful of their decisions about their relationship as difficult as that might be. Help them to develop a safety plan. The safety plan includes identifying a safe place to go, packing a bag with clothes, money and copies of important documents, leaving this bag with someone they trust, and planning an escape route for themselves and their children.

Let them know they are not alone. Provide them with information about local resources like Womancare and Spruce Run. The phone number for Womancare is 564-8165 or 1-888-564-8165. The number for Spruce Run is 947-0496 or 723-5664. The 24 hour hotline number for Spruce Run is 1-800-863-9909. On weekends and nights you may reach Womancare at 564-8401.

For more information about domestic violence go to www.womenshealth.gov, www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention, www.wmncare.org, or www.sprucerun.net. Do not forget that internet use and sites visited can be monitored. A safe alternative might be a local phone call or a visit to your nearest resource.

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