Primary Sources: Responding to Domestic Violence and Its Consequences

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A teen couple embracing each other.

The statistics are staggering: Approximately one in three adolescent girls today is experiencing some form of abuse in a dating relationship, and nearly one-third of American women report having been physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend at some point in their lives.

Recent research on domestic violence grades states on how supportive they are to adolescent victims, examines the link between intimate partner violence and HIV, and offers suggestions for working with victims who maintain contact with their abusers. 

(Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, the Family and Youth Services Bureau or the Administration for Children and Families).

In a recent look at the nation’s domestic violence laws, only five states—California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Oklahoma—received A’s for their efforts to protect adolescent victims. Break the Cycle’s annual “State-by-State Teen Dating Violence Report Card 2009” gives good grades to States whose definition of abuse includes lesser offenses (cyberstalking, harassing phone calls), as well as to states that allow minors to file for protection or restraining orders without an adult. States who do not allow minors to file alone, whose definition of abuse does not include sexual abuse and whose statutes apply only to heterosexual relationships got bad marks. States that do not allow unmarried victims or minors to file for protection or restraining orders failed automatically.

In what may be the first study to use a large representative sample of the U.S. general population to examine a relationship between intimate partner violence and HIV, researchers have found a strong association between the two. The authors of “Is Intimate Partner Violence Associated with HIV Infection Among Women in the United States?” [General Hospital Psychiatry, 31(3):274-8, May-June 2009] used data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, in which women reported whether they had been physically or sexually abused by a partner in the last year, as well as whether they were HIV positive. The authors recommend that U.S. clinicians and policymakers become aware of the association between intimate partner violence and HIV infection, aim to reduce both through screening and prevention programs, and screen HIV-positive women and those with AIDS for intimate partner violence. Previous studies have found a similar relationship between intimate partner violence and HIV among women in India and Africa.

Often, victims of domestic violence continue to live with their abusers if they believe leaving will make their lives or their children’s lives worse, if they have nowhere else to go or can’t afford to move, or if the relationship has positive aspects that make them willing to put up with some violence and control. The traditional focus on helping victims leave their relationships may deter such women from seeking help, says the author of “Advocacy Beyond Leaving: Helping Battered Women in Contact With Current or Former Partners” (PDF). As an alternative, this guide provides safety-planning strategies for adult victims and their children, information on the possibility of changing the violent and controlling behavior of partners and parents, and suggestions of ways agencies can better respond to victims who remain in contact with abusers.

Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications.

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