Take a Stand against Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is particularly relevant at the moment, because on October 7th the Washington Post published a 2005 recording of President-Elect Trump bragging about kissing and grabbing women without permission. Since the leak, the president-elect has consistently referred to such comments as “locker room talk.” In a recent interview with Anderson Cooper, Melania Trump further dismissed the seriousness of her husband’s comments by stating, “I heard many different stuff—boy’s talk. The boys, the way they talk when they grow up and they want to sometimes show each other, ‘Oh, this and that’ and talking about the girls.”

It is time to be clear. Trump’s comments may echo in locker rooms or be the status quo among young men, but that does not make it forgivable to joke about sexual violence. And to imply that joking about sexual violence against women is somehow more tolerable when it is said by an immature male or in a sporting environment only further encourages the perception that men have an implicit ownership of a woman’s sexual rights.

In a 2010 report entitled “Preventing Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Against Women,” the WHO emphasizes the need to understand and target the factors that commonly lead to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women. Unfortunately, an overwhelming burden of intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women occurs at the hands of men. This becomes unsurprising when one identifies the factors that promote violence against women. The WHO lists “patriarchy, power relations, and hierarchical constructions of masculinity and femininity as a predominant and pervasive driver of the problem.” The paper further argues that “dismantling hierarchical constructions of masculinity and femininity predicated on the control of women, and eliminating the structural factors that support inequalities are likely to make significant contribution to preventing intimate partner and sexual violence.”

Several examples of such social and cultural norms are cited in the report, but one appears to be particularly relevant in the setting of Trump’s recent comments: the idea that a man has a right to assert power over a woman and is considered socially superior to her. In the leaked video, Trump supports his right to kiss and grab women with the argument that “when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

No, Mr. Trump, you cannot.

The WHO highlights methods to prevent intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women, stating that there are three main approaches for changing social and cultural norms: correcting misperceptions that the use of sexual violence is normal and common among peers, media awareness campaigns, and directly working with men and boys to educate them on the topic. I hope that the media storm surrounding the video’s release, as well as the responses to it by prominent figures will serve to raise awareness, because women, men, and children alike should be able to live a life free of violence.

Readers, take a stand against domestic violence of all forms. Challenge jokes that diminish the seriousness of such acts. To fail to question only perpetuates the pervasive social and cultural acceptance of violence against women. Do not tolerate the perception that men are socially superior to women. Educate others that domestic violence, including intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women, is a global epidemic that affects us all.

I encourage current and future medical providers to seek the education they need to be a first resource for survivors of domestic violence. Make preventing and responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence a priority in your clinical practice.

The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS) 2010 Summary Report defines five types of sexual violence:

  • Rape – “any completed or attempted unwanted…vaginal, oral, or anal penetration through the use of physical force, threats to be physically harmed, or when the victim was drunk, high, drugged, or passed out and unable to consent.”
  • Being made to penetrate someone else
  • Sexual coercion – “unwanted sexual penetration that occurs…after being pressured in ways that included being worn down by someone who repeatedly asked for sex or showed they were unhappy; feeling pressured by being lied to, being told promises that were untrue, having someone threaten to end a relationship or spread rumors; and sexual pressure due to someone using their influence or authority.”
  • Unwanted sexual contact
  • Non-contact unwanted sexual experiences – “unwanted experiences that do not involve any touching or penetration, including someone exposing their sexual body parts, flashing, or masturbating in front of the victim, someone making a victim show his or her body parts, someone making a victim look at or participate in sexual photos or movies, or someone harassing the victim in a public place in a way that made the victim feel unsafe.”

According to the NISVS, nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.8%) in the United States (U.S.) have been raped at some point in their lives. And nearly 1 in 2 women (44.6%) and 1 in 5 men (22.2%) in the U.S. experienced sexual violence other than rape. Worldwide, this rate is higher, with 1 in 3 women (35.6%) experiencing either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.

Domestic violence can refer to intimate partner violence, but also encompasses child abuse, elder abuse, or abuse by any member of a household. The World Health Organization (WHO) identifies four forms of intimate partner violence: acts of physical violence, sexual violence; emotional (psychological) abuse; and controlling behaviors.

Intimate partner and sexual violence disproportionately affects women worldwide, and can significantly impact a woman’s reproductive health and the health of her baby if she is pregnant. Women who have been physically or sexually abused by their partners have a 16% higher risk of having a low birth weight baby (16%). They are twice as likely to have an induced abortion, and almost twice as likely to experience depression.  In some regions, women who experienced partner violence were 1.5 times more likely to acquire HIV and 1.6 times more likely to have syphilis. Of women who experienced non-partner sexual violence, they were 2.5 times more likely to have alcohol use disorders and 2.6 times more likely to have depression or anxiety.

In 2013, the WHO produced a clinical and policy guideline entitled “Responding to intimate partner violence and sexual violence against women,” noting that health care providers are identified by survivors of intimate partner violence as the first and most trusted professional contact they would seek. These WHO guidelines emphasize the need for undergraduate medical curricula to include education on how to recognize, manage, and treat issues of IPV and sexual violence. Providers need to be prepared to give survivors immediate access to post-rape care, ideally within 72 hours, which includes psychological support, emergency contraception, and HIV and other STD prophylaxis.

For more information about domestic violence or how you can help please see the resources below:

If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.

If you or a loved one think that you are a victim of abuse in any form, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY) now for anonymous, confidential help available 24/7.

REFERENCES

  1. Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  2. WHO/LSHTM. Preventing intimate partner and sexual violence against women: taking action and generating evidence. Geneva/London, World Health Organization/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2010.
  3. WHO/LSHTM. Global and regional estimates of violence against women: prevalence and health effects of intimate partner violence and non-partner sexual violence. Geneva/London, World Health Organization/London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, 2013.
  4. Violence against women: Intimate partner and sexual violence against women. Fact sheet. Reviewed September 2016. Accessed on 10/14/2016 at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/

Featured image:
utopia banished by kr428

Ashley Franklin

​​Ashley is a member of the University Of Central Florida College Of Medicine class of 2017. She graduated from Rollins College with a B.A. with Honors in Chemistry. Ashley is a varsity rower of ten years, as well as an enthusiastic runner, cyclist, climber, and hiker. She is passionate about women’s health, and plans to pursue a career in Obstetrics and Gynecology. Her research interests include exercise in pregnancy, the health concerns and practices of pregnant athletes, adolescent gynecology, the implementation of new OB/GYN guidelines, and medical education. Ashley also enjoys reading, crocheting, collaging, and dancing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *