As another Mother’s Day comes and goes, we reflect on our lives as children. Some have the great sadness of remembering their exposure early in life to familial violence. The World Health Organization reports that, worldwide, men who were exposed to domestic violence as children are three to four times more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence as adults than men who did not experience domestic violence as children. Women, as well as men, tend to repeat violence that they were exposed to as children. The report cites that one in four women will experience serious violence in their lifetimes and that one in seven men will also experience intimate partner violence. In my experience, I have seen many courageous people who were themselves the victims of violence gain insight and put an end to patterns of generational violence.
Inter Partner Violence (IPV) is insidious because it is not always visible. Psychological abuse, emotional neglect, and financial abuse, as wells as physical and sexual abuse, cause misery in families and destroy lives. Domestic violence in all of its forms is a pattern of control and power over another person.
There are many reasons this problem is underreported. Some victims feel ashamed and believe that somehow they have caused the violence to be done to them or that they have somehow deserved it. Others are reluctant to expose their partners and cause embarrassment to them. Some are afraid that they will suffer even greater repercussions if they report.
As a nation, our health care systems are addressing this problem and now routinely ask patients in their intakes if they feel safe in their environments. Agencies in the community offer shelter and safety to victims of domestic abuse. The national hotline number—800-799-SAFE– can be helpful in finding a community resource.