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Alison Beaver: Bad Relationships Linked to Bad Health

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One in four women experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence and abuse in their lifetime. And now, according to a recent survey by the CDC, intimate partner violence (IPV) is associated with poor health, chronic disease, injury and disability.

Over 40,000 women nationwide were surveyed, and the results are astonishing. Women who suffered from intimate partner violence reported a higher prevalence of these chronic health conditions:

High blood cholesterol
Heart disease

It has been well-documented that health conditions such as chronic fatigue, post-traumatic stress disorder and irritable bowel disease have been linked to those who have experienced or witnessed violence. It makes sense that women living in a daily “battle field” of violence and fear, in their own home, would experience chronic negative health consequences, not unlike those experienced in a “real” battle field: injury, disability, death, psychological effects, and others. We all have the same stress responses that tell our body to “fight or flight” or “tend or befriend”. If this stress response occurs chronically, such as living in fear on a daily basis, it is well-established that chronic stress is linked to cardiovascular disease, asthma and diabetes.

What astonished me about the findings: according to the CDC, “adverse health conditions might, in certain cases, lead to increased IPV”! If this is a reciprocal relationship, meaning that (very generically) poor health can lead to intimate partner violence, and intimate partner violence can lead to poor health….what can we do about this?! Train medical professionals to ask more “relationship-type” questions during office visits, advocate for more funding on prevention and education?

I hear many of my mom friends telling both their toddlers (boys and girls): Don’t hit. Don’t bite. Be nice. These toddlers are acting out because they have not reached the developmental milestone of “using their words”; they are unable to express language, vocabulary and words in an appropriate manner. What happened to adults, those that are hitting, biting and threatening violence? Some may have experienced or witnessed violence themselves. Others may not have been taught how to express their anger. Still others may believe in the stereotypical gender roles, which may lead to a belief that women are inferior, therefore justifying their violence.

If a causal relationship is proven, meaning that IPV causes chronic health conditions, do you think more attention will be provided to violence and women's issues?

You can receive more information about domestic and intimate partner violence at these national organizations: www.ncdsv.org and www.ncadv.org

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