Domestic Violence

Friday, November 7, 2014

FortuneWeeklyByLine_AnnaDeLeon

Domestic violence is not a new concept; rather, it is one whose meaning has evolved over the course of the past several decades and continues to evolve today. Historically, domestic violence has been understood as an issue that affects women but its reach is substantially wider and as devastating for all of its victims, direct and indirect. In the world today, most individuals receive their information and images of any given idea from the media and the internet. Most of the images presented on television, in the news and entertainment programs, as well as in web-based informational sources illustrate domestic violence by using images of socioeconomically disempowered women who, for the most part, are not involved in the workforce and are supported wholly by a male counterpart. These images, while sometimes accurate, fall far from presenting an accurate portrait of the many scenarios that represent domestic violence. Domestic violence is present in every part of society and occurs in all age, racial, ethnic, socio-economic, sexual orientation, and religious groups.

The Unites States Department of Justice defines domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. (http://www.justice.gov/ovw/domestic-violence)

It is estimated that 85-90 percent of domestic violence victims are female, most between the ages of 20-24. Male victims represent 5-10% of domestic violence, a lower number that is partially contributed to the reluctance of males to report domestic violence incidents. A large percentage of male victims suffer at the hands of strangers whereas female victims are mostly victimized by intimate partners. Approximately 33% of gays and lesbians are victims of DV during their lifetimes.

There are nearly 60 million American adults living with mental illness and nearly 50% of the women who are mentally ill have been the victim of domestic violence at some time in their lives. Domestic violence seriously impacts mental illness causing exacerbation of existing symptoms; onset of new symptoms and in some cases causes the new onset of mental illness. Panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, depression and anxiety are often worsened by domestic violence and/or other severe forms of abuse. Individuals living with mental illness and who are victims of DV endure added stigma which results in under-reporting of incidents and hesitance to seek treatment for medical and mental health needs that result from the victimization. (http://www.fcadv.org/projects-programs/trauma-mental-health-domestic-violence)

Victims of DV lose almost 8 million days of work annually and incur medical and mental health service costs exceeding $5.8 billion annually. (https://www.childwelfare.gov) The trauma and costs of DV are not limited to those directly affected by the abuse and violence; children, other family members, friends and support systems, employers, the criminal justice system and the mental and medical healthcare systems also feel the overwhelming sense of urgency around the issues of DV.

In The Fortune Society’s new jail diversion program, CIRT (Court-Based Intervention Resource Team), which targets individuals with mental illness who are currently detained on Riker’s Island, the issues of DV are quite prevalent. Given the goal of the CIRT program, to reduce the number of jail days for mentally ill detainees, cases where DV is an issue are challenging in that in many cases the detainee cannot return to their former residence thereby necessitating the securing of emergency housing.  Judges are reluctant to release detainees without a firm housing commitment in place. In addition, CIRT clients who are victims of DV require intensive support services and are often experiencing exacerbation of their mental health symptoms as the result of the victimization coupled with time spent on Rikers’s Island. For situations such as these, CIRT staff utilize Fortune’s Better Living Center Article 31 clinic for psychiatric support services and therapy. As in all service planning for mentally ill individuals, especially victims of DV, wraparound support services provide the best outcomes.

If you are interested in more information, or need assistance, the following link provides some helpful resources: http://www.helpguide.org/articles/abuse/help-for-abused-and-battered-women.htm#resources

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