October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and it is imperative to understand this public health issue in the United States and Ohio. According to the United Nations (UN), domestic abuse, also known as domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IPV), is “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.” Domestic violence can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, faith, sexual orientation or class. Victims of domestic violence could be married, living together, dating, or can include a child or another family member. The United States Department of Justice lists several categories of domestic violence:
In addition to these types of domestic violence identified by the Department of Justice, the UN has also included stalking as a category.
One in 4 U.S. women have experienced sexual assault, physical violence or stalking
Domestic violence is prevalent across the United States and in Ohio. The CDC conducts the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), a random-digit-dial telephone survey about intimate partner violence, sexual violence and stalking among adult women and men. Based on the phone interviews from April 2015 to September 2015, the CDC identified that almost one in four women (25.1 percent or 30.0 million) in the U.S. has “experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact.” For men, it was around one in ten (10.9 percent or 12.1 million individuals).
From July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, there were 112 fatalities in 72 cases.
At the state level, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) described in their fatality infographic that from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, there were 112 fatalities in 72 cases. Of those 112 fatalities, 81 were deceased victims whereas 31 were deceased perpetrators. Moreover, there were 62 female fatalities and 50 male fatalities. What is more alarming is that 22 children died last year, the highest number most ever, and six of the victims were babies. Unfortunately, no surprise—there are correlations between domestic violence and infant and maternal health.
Domestic violence negatively impacts maternal health
UCSF (University of California San Francisco) Health states that “Domestic violence is more common than any other health problem among women during pregnancy.” Birthing people who fell victim to domestic violence while pregnant usually attend prenatal appointments later in their pregnancy. In a study between women who were victims of domestic violence compared to those that were not across multiple nations (excluding the US), those who were victims were 25 percent less likely to utilize enough antenatal care compared to those who were not victims. Domestic violence during pregnancy has also been associated with substance abuse, alcohol use, smoking and inadequate gestational weight gain. More Black women experience reproductive coercion at 37.1 percent in contrast to 18 percent of white women. Most importantly IPV during pregnancy was associated with death. In a study in Philadelphia, intimate partners committed 50 percent (four out of eight) of homicides and the women-victims documented a history of IPV according to provider and agency records.
More Black women experience reproductive coercion at 37.1 percent in contrast to 18 percent of white women.
Domestic violence harms infants physically and behaviorally
Because domestic violence is listed as an adverse childhood experience (ACE), these incidents also negatively impact infants before and after birth. ACEs are based on a study on how types of trauma exposed during childhood affects an individual later in life. Intimate partner violence during pregnancy has been correlated with preterm birth and low birth weight; both contributing factors to infant mortality. Infants who dealt with prenatal domestic violence will have worse tempers than infants who did not experience incidents. They will also endure higher levels of trauma symptoms such as being easily startled and replicating the same actions without enjoyment. Other behavioral patterns will affect infants including eating problems, poor sleeping habits and increased crying. If there is not an intervention to stop domestic violence, then when infants become middle school children, they will eventually internalize symptoms of depression and anxiety.
If you know someone who needs help, please have them contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788.
There is help to end domestic violence
Domestic violence is prevalent anytime time of the year, so it is important to spread awareness and share resources to victims. There are various domestic violence shelters across Ohio. For example, Journey Center for Safety and Healing in Cuyahoga County provides an emergency shelter, trauma therapy and domestic violence support groups. As part of the Lutheran Social Services’ (LSS) Network of Hope, LSS CHOICES, located in Franklin County, offer 24-hour hotline, Speakers Bureau and temporary emergency shelter. If you know someone who needs help, please have them contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788. You can also learn how you can support a family or friend who maybe a victim of abuse by following steps from the Ohio Domestic Violence Network:
- Understanding abuse.
- Recognize the signs of abuse
- Understand why a victim stays.
- How to help if they leave
Taking these steps will help prevent the effects of domestic abuse for birthing people and babies.
* Although we at Community Solutions use the terms ‘women’ and ‘mothers’ here and in our previous writing due to how the data is reported, we acknowledge and recognize that not everyone who carries a pregnancy refers to themselves this way. We respect the diversity of all birthing people.