Domestic violence is a serious public health problem that is rarely discussed except in particularly heinous examples that make the national or local news. It is estimated that nearly 1 in 4 women will be victims of a physical assault from partner violence throughout their life. This is not to say that men do not also face domestic violence, it is estimated that close to 1 in 13 men will be victims of partner violence during their lifetime. Studies have shown that on average it takes women six help-seeking attempts before entering a domestic violence shelter and five attempts of leaving an abusive environment before they are able to permanently leave. As a result of this hesitancy to seek help many women suffer from various unmet health needs – mental health and physical ailments alike. Some of the barriers discussed include isolation, fear of partner being arrested, low self-esteem, lack of social support, insurance, and transportation.
While these figures seem dismal and obstacles insurmountable, there are innovative solutions being brought forth to help combat them. One example of this is the use of telemedicine to offer telepsychiatry consults to patients. A study carried out in a rural setting found that telepsychiatry consults helped patients speak to a mental health professional with an increased level of comfort and alliance when compared with in-person contacts for this population, since it provided patients control and distance, and thus less anxiety provoking feelings. The study also found the telepsychiatry applications to be just as effective and acceptable as traditional face-to-face clinical practice with an added bonus of an extra level of separation/anonymity for survivors of domestic violence.
Beyond studies to better understand how solutions could be carried out, universities and private companies have stepped up to offer services to those affected by domestic violence.
Domestic violence is a public health concern that is present across socio-economic, religious, racial, and cultural backgrounds; it is not a problem that a particular subset of the population needs to address. Stopping domestic violence is a complex, multi-faceted issue that requires a response that is adaptive and innovative and the responsibility to solve this issue spans across law-enforcement and government entities, non-profit and for-profit businesses, medical professionals and the general public alike.
If you or someone you love is a victim of domestic violence, you can also find help here.