HARLINGEN, Texas — October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs remains committed to helping Veterans, their partners and VA staff who are impacted by Intimate Partner Violence (IPV).
“Intimate Partner Violence is a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans,” said Martha Bustamante, the IPV coordinator for VA Texas Valley Coastal Bend Health Care System (VCB).
“The term “intimate partner violence” describes physical, sexual, or psychological harm by a current or former partner or spouse. This type of violence can occur among heterosexual or same sex couples and does not require sexual intimacy,” added the VA licensed clinical social worker.
This month’s national awareness campaign focuses on coercive control, a deliberate and systematic pattern of behavior designed to limit a person’s freedom and ability to act on their own needs, values, and desires and to create a threat of harm to compel compliance (source: www.CoerciveControl.com).
Coercive control is a strategy some people use to forcefully get their way in relationships. This behavior can look like isolating, manipulating, threatening, or punishing their partner. It’s abuse. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs graphic)
This form of IPV can be subtle and thus more difficult to detect. Examples of coercive control include: isolation, exploitation, deprivation of freedoms, intimidation, degradation in addition to physical and sexual violence.
Acts of IPV range in how often they occur or how violent they are.
“It can happen to women or men who have intimate relationships with women, men or both,” said Bustamante. “It can happen no matter your age, income, race, ethnicity, culture, religion, or disability.”
IPV includes, but is not limited to, any of the following:
Sexual violence: attempted or actual sexual contact when the partner does not want to or is unable to consent (for example, when affected by alcohol or illness)
Threats of physical or sexual abuse: ways to cause fear through words, looks, actions or weapons
Psychological or emotional abuse: name calling, humiliating, putting you down, keeping you from friends and family, bullying, controlling where you go or what you wear
Stalking: following, harassing, or unwanted contact that makes you feel afraid
IPV can happen to anyone no matter how much education or money they have. In the United States, about 1 in 4 women (or 27%) and 1 in 10 men (or 11%) report having been harmed by sexual or physical violence, or by stalking by an intimate partner at some point in their lives.
“It is important that victims of IPV are reminded and understand that they are not alone, and that they are resources and people available to provide them with assistance,” said Bustamante.
Intimate partner violence isn’t always physical violence. Controlling behavior can have negative impacts on relationships too. (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs graphic)
VA’s IPV assistance program focuses on the individual and works on developing a culture of safety. This holistic approach involves understanding, recognizing and responding to the effects of all types of trauma. The ultimate goals are to end violence, prevent further violence and promote healthy relationships.
The Veterans Health Administration launched the assistance program in January 2014 and has since established assistance program coordinators at more than 115 VA facilities to offer assistance to Veterans, their partners and VA staff. Program coordinators use resources from mental health, primary care, women’s health, Veterans justice outreach and employee occupational health and assistance programs.
The intimate partner violence program also offers intervention through VA and community partnerships that address housing, education and employment needs. This additional funding will allow VA to expand the program to all VA medical centers and build greater awareness of intimate partner violence as a serious health issue.
In June the VA announced that it was taking action to address intimate partner violence by earmarking $17 million in funds to support Veterans in need. The funds are being used to strengthen IPV assistance programs in VA facilities nationwide.
The NDV Hotline is available to help victims and survivors of domestic violence. For anonymous, confidential help, 24/7, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
VA Intimate Partner Violence Assistance Program logo.