Prevention, Intervention Key to Halting Domestic Violence

Article excerpt

Byline: Theya McCown

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This costly social epidemic, increasingly referred to as intimate partner violence, or IPV, claims thousands of American lives each year.

Awareness is the key to addressing any detrimental social phenomenon, because awareness lays a foundation for understanding and paving a way for education and prevention efforts.

Professionals and activists in the movement to oppose violence against women have spent more than three decades countering stigmas and misinformation that minimize, excuse and perpetuate IPV. These efforts, over time, have resulted in effective legislation, improved response and an increased collective consciousness, which have saved countless lives and supported violence survivor.

We have fallen short, however, in terms of prevention and intervention. As Deborah Capaldi notes in her Sept. 28 guest viewpoint headlined "Violence between partners is a serious health problem," the movement has all but stalled when it comes to stopping the violence before it starts, and current intervention methods are largely ineffective.

As we examine and pursue more effective ways to prevent and intervene with IPV, it is imperative that we maintain a thoughtful and thorough understanding of its dynamics. Capaldi's notion that more than half of such violence is mutual and "related to poor relationship" skills undermines what the vast majority of experts in the field believe to be true.

While some studies seem to suggest women are as violent as men in intimate relationships, these studies are few and, most would argue, anomalous or even erroneous in research methodology.

In the most significant study to date, the Centers for Disease Control report that, in the United States, one in five women and one in 14 men will be victims of partner violence in their lifetimes. The same study also revealed that "the differences between women's and men's rates of physical assault by an intimate partner become greater as the seriousness of the assault increases."

While Capaldi notes that 30 percent of the 2,340 IPV deaths in 2007 were men, she fails to mention that this number includes men who were bystanders, men who died defending women, and men who took their own lives in murder-suicides, which account for a significant portion of the male deaths.

That information is relevant primarily because it must inform prevention and intervention efforts. The fact that IPV claims any lives - male or female - is tragic. It is a problem that our society continues to excuse and ignore. …