She's a character, she has opinions.

Defining Violence Against Women

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You know what’s difficult about compiling statistics about violence against women (domestic violence, intimate partner violence)? There are no commonly agreed on definitions. An intimate partner is just that, a person with whom you are (physically or emotionally) intimate. Domestic violence broadens this class of abusers to family members. However, there has to be a way to take into account people with whom you live who are not family members/intimate partners, and intimate partners with whom you do not live. Then there is the frighteningly large amount of women who are victimized by an “acquaintance,” which run the gamut from her best friend to her doctor to her coworker. The latter category is excluded from most studies about domestic violence so it’s important domestic violence (or intimate partner violence) not become a catchphrase for violence against women because it leaves out an entire category of people who do abuse.

Another issue that arises when only the traditional notions of domestic or intimate partner violence are used is that women abusers are often not considered. I’m not talking about those much rarer occasions where men are victimized, but rather about women in relationships with other women. Abuse occurs there also and must be recognized. Another issue gaining a great deal of attention these days is older women who are and have been abused. Often the pattern of abuse in their lives has gone on for so long that the effects are far greater than for other classifications of women.

Then there’s the abuse itself. This sort of abuse tends to be secret and frequently unreported. It’s also a continuum of abuse, which means you have to look at the long-term patterns, not just each incident on its own. Physical and sexual violence are a little easier to identify and explain, they are what they are. Verbal abuse is a little more difficult and tends to be dismissed until and unless one looks at the pattern. Emotional/psychological violence is the most difficult (and I think the most insidious) because it isn’t legally a crime, so it isn’t as frequently reported, tracked, or studied. It often isn’t recognized, even by its victims.

And, remember, often this sort of abuse is not reported. Women don’t report it for many reasons–because they are afraid, because they are involved in a non-traditional relationship, because they aren’t sure if what they’re experiencing is abuse, or many other reasons. And if it isn’t reported, we can’t know about it. We can’t even help.

As for who is abused? Well, that’s the easy question. She can be anyone. Any woman, any age, ethnicity, class, religion, education level, anything at all. Abuse knows no boundaries.

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

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