Preventing Violent Intimacy
Intimate Partner Violence. Hopefully, it’s jarring to see those three words in conjunction. Intimacy and violence should meet only in contradiction. For one in three women, however, these words fit painfully together. According to a recent global health study by the World Health Organization (WHO), one in three women will experience physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner at some point in her life.
The CDC defines intimate partner violence as occurring between current or former partners or spouses. Although incidence rates of violence vary between countries (and even within countries, based on several risk factors), the problem persists around the world. Wherever you are reading this, no matter what context or community you live your life in, this scourge is affecting women around you. Women you know. Women you love.
- World Health Organization: Violence Against Women (2013)
Intimate partner violence damages women, families and societies. Health, productivity, and equality all decline. Intimacy itself is degraded, replaced by mistrust, pain, and fear. This particular type of violence perpetuates itself, as adults growing up with violence in the home are more likely to inflict or experience intimate partner violence themselves. At its core, the violence is based on inequality. Intimate partner violence manifests unequal gender norms, imbalanced access to education and employment, and communities or societies that promote male control over women.
There’s nothing domestic about intimate partner violence. Societies and communities have adopted norms that breed inequality, and the damage spreads from individual perpetrators throughout the society. The WHO study concludes that this is not a women’s health problem, but a public health problem. Beyond public health, it’s clear that intimate partner violence is also a societal problem. All portions of society must cooperate to prevent and respond to violence against women. This cooperation starts with individuals. Individuals who promote equality for all persons, who will accept nothing less than safety for all women. Help to break the link between intimacy and violence. Affirm healthy intimacy; replace violence with safety, security, and love. If one third of your society either inflicts or endures violence, then no one truly feels safe. Live so that all people are equal and secure.