We are all struggling with the new challenges of dealing with a coronavirus pandemic. Yet not all are equally impacted.
With the focus on a viral infection, it is easy to lose sight of other challenges in our community, made worse by the social isolation, financial hardships and stress brought on by COVID-19. Examples include mental illness and substance-use disorders. There are also the silent epidemics of domestic violence and child abuse.
Domestic violence, also known as intimate partner violence, is among the most common forms of violence in society. While it can affect any person, those at greatest risk are women ages 20 to 34. Because many in this demographic are mothers, millions of children are exposed to intimate partner violence, with adverse consequences to health and well-being that can last a lifetime.
Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive behaviors, which can include physical and sexual violence, intimidation, stalking, social isolation and psychological abuse. Abuse often begins with unpredictable outbursts by the abuser, progressing over time from verbal and emotional abuse to physical abuse, leading to a constant state of fear on the part of the victim. Witnessed violence refers to verbal or physical violence that is heard or seen by a child.
Intimate partner violence is estimated to result in more than 2.5 million injuries each year in the U.S. It is also estimated that up to one-third of children in the U.S. live in a home where intimate partner violence occurs.
In addition to the long-lasting harms to children who witness abuse, children themselves can be victimized through neglect and/or emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Along with their fear, children even more often lack the ability to reach out for help.
Victims of violence may experience shame, disempowerment and fear, and they may be reluctant to seek help. They may fear reprisal, economic hardship, lack of a place to go, and/or the belief that the abuse is their fault (it is not). No one deserves to suffer from emotional, physical or sexual abuse. Ultimately, the decision to seek help or leave an abuser is a personal decision. But it is important that every victim of domestic violence knows there are resources to help.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE.National Sexual Assault Hotline: (800) 656-4673.Durango Alternative Horizons Hotline: 247-9619.Durango Southwest Safehouse Hotline: 259-5443.Durango Sexual Assault Services Organization Hotline: 247-5400.Remember: If you are suffering from abuse, it is not your fault. No one deserves to be abused.
Dr. Matthew A. Clark is a board-certified physician in internal medicine and pediatrics practicing at the Ute Mountain Ute Health Center in Towaoc.