Pre-Collegiate Global Health Review
The Horrifying Toll of Domestic Violence
Andreanna Ulery, Saline High School, Saline, Michigan, USA
From April 11 to June 1, 2022, the American public was enthralled by a trial occurring in Fairfax County, Virginia, USA. The trial was a defamation trial, centering around whether or not Amber Heard had defamed her ex-husband Johnny Depp by characterizing herself as a “figure representing domestic abuse” (Jacobs, 2022). Depp v. Heard took the internet by storm, with numerous articles, videos, and social media posts being made by fans trying to vindicate the much-maligned actors. However, Depp v. Heard does not just symbolize the American public’s fascination with the entertainment industry, it symbolizes the polarization around the topic of domestic violence (DV), an issue that plagues not only the US, but threatens the lives of thousands of women across the world.
DV is such an insidious danger because it not only comes in a variety of forms, but because it is often not identified until the victim’s safety is threatened (Mayo Clinic, 2022). Using derogatory language, physical abuse, and manipulation are often what comes to mind when DV is discussed, however, DV is a much more complex issue that encapsulates a much wider variety of behaviours (United Nations, 2020). Emotional abuse, psychological abuse, financial abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and stalking are all possible components of DV (UN, 2020). These forms of abuse also tend to take on a characteristic cycle: the abuser begins with threats of violence, perpetuates violent actions, and lastly the abuser then apologizes and promises to change (Mayo Clinic, 2022). This cycle often repeats itself.
Emotional abuse is characterized by constant criticism, verbal abuse, isolation from friends and family, and humiliation (UN, 2020). Psychological abuse involves intimidation, threatening harm to self or others, and isolation (UN, 2020). An example of psychological abuse would be threatening suicide if the victim threatens to leave the abuser. Financial abuse often manifests through taking all financial autonomy from the victim and withholding access to funds or attendance at work (UN, 2020). Pushing, slapping, kicking, hitting, choking, damage of property, usage of a weapon for intimidation, and prevention of seeking medical/emergency treatment are all signs of a physically abusive relationship (UN, 2020). Sexual abuse involves a victim being forced to participate in a sexual act without consent (UN, 2020). Finally, stalking is characterized by behavioural patterns intended to harass, annoy, or terrorize victims (UN, 2020). Examples of stalking behaviour include repeated phone calls, surveillance at home or work, and threats against the victim. It is important to remember that all of the behaviours listed above are signs of abuse, and they are all valid reasons to ask for help. Many of these behaviours will escalate without intervention, possibly causing physical or mental harm to victims.
It is not just important to recognize the signs of DV, but to recognize the devastating impact of DV on women living across the globe. A 2018 study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in conjunction with the United Nations (UN), found that across the world, about 1 in 3, or 30% of women have been victims of physical and/or sexual abuse (WHO, 2021). These women are not only subjected to physical trauma, but often develop psychological issues as a result, including depression, PTSD, anxiety disorders, sleep difficulties, eating disorders, and suicide attempts (WHO, 2021). DV is a global issue, notably affecting both high- and low-income countries. The prevalence of intimate partner violence is estimated by the WHO to be 22% in high income countries and Europe, 25% in the Americas, 31% in the Eastern Mediterranean region, and 33% in the African region (WHO, 2021). This data demonstrates the indiscriminate nature of DV; it can truly happen anywhere to anyone. Perhaps most horrific is the enormous proportion of deaths due to DV across the globe. 38% of all murders globally are due to intimate violence, with 47,000 women and girls killed at the hands of an intimate partner in 2020 alone (UN Women, 2022). This figure equals a woman or girl being killed every 11 minutes (UN Women, 2022). However, despite the horrible prevalence of DV, it is estimated that anywhere between 2.5 to 15% of women actually report their experiences (Gracia, 2004).
It may seem daunting to be an ally to survivors of DV because we have not personally experienced the dynamics or endured the trauma. However, every person can do their part to bring awareness to the stories and lives of women who have or are enduring an abusive relationship. We can start by listening to and believing victims (National Domestic Violence Hotline, 2022), helping them gain access to resources and/or develop a safety plan, and encouraging them to take steps to leave their abuser.
Women do not deserve to live in fear, whether they are afraid of their partner verbally, physically, or emotionally abusing them. Women do not deserve to be terrorized, beaten, and demeaned. Women should not have to live in fear of their partner taking their life. Nobody deserves to be abused. Victims of domestic abuse are not alone. Any person, regardless of race, gender, age, sexual orientation, faith, or socioeconomic class can be a victim of domestic violence. It is our responsibility to give the oppressed a voice and advocate for an end to this tragic and deadly epidemic.
Gracia, E. (2004). Unreported cases of domestic violence against women: towards an epidemiology of social silence, tolerance, and inhibition . Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://jech.bmj.com/content/58/7/536
Jacobs, J. (2022, April 21). Jury reaches verdict in Johnny Depp-Amber Heard Trial: What to know. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/21/arts/johnny-depp-amber-heard-trial.html
Mayo Clinic Contributors. (2022, April 14). Recognize the signs of domestic violence against women. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/domestic-violence/art-20048397
The Hotline Contributors. (2021, October 15). When a survivor asks you for help. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.thehotline.org/resources/when-a-survivor-asks-you-for-help/
UN Contributors. (2019). Examining domestic violence around the world: The cost of doing nothing. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.un.org/en/academic-impact/examining-domestic-violence-around-world-cost-doing-nothing#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20report%20Violence,women%20experience%20domestic%20violence%20globally.
UN Contributors. (2020). What is domestic abuse? Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.un.org/en/coronavirus/what-is-domestic-abuse
UN Women Contributors. (2022). Facts and figures: Ending violence against women. Retrieved June 24, 2022, from https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/facts-and-figures