Do you know anyone with IPV? Many people do not know the acronym even though IPV is a serious, preventable public health problem in our community. IPV is short for Intimate Partner Violence, a reference term for aggressive behaviors that occur between partners in life such as husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, or gay/lesbian couples. The two people have to reside together or have cohabited before but not necessarily be married to each other. Most of the time, it is a male (87%) who abuses his partner.
According to an abstract summarizing data from the National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published in 2011 by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, slightly more than one out of five women (22.3%) reported severe physical violence by an intimate partner. Severe physical violence by an intimate partner might include “being hit with something hard, being kicked or beaten, or being burned on purpose.” This statistic does not include other IPV behaviors that may be physical, sexual, economic or psychological in nature.
In Florida Statutes Chapter 741, issues involving intimate partner violence are labeled Domestic Violence (DV). The terms seem interchangeable to laypeople like me but depending on the context in which they are used, one or the other is preferred or required. It’s domestic violence in the court systems. Victim advocates referring to the wide variation of DV often use Intimate Partner Violence.
This distinction is one that I learned since I started attending the Pinellas County Domestic Violence Task Force a year ago. Donna Lancaster and I committed to be the connectors for Zonta Pinellas with the PCDVTF. We attend their bi-monthly meetings as active listeners and learners, often thinking about how we in Zonta can ally with the Task Force to prevent violence in the home, support domestic violence survivors and their families, and educate others–including policy makers–about the nature of domestic violence challenges in our county. We can all help in some way!
For instance, we’ll help DV victim advocates from law enforcement agencies and the Family Resource Center staff the DV Prevention Tent on June 25, Sunday, at the St. Pete Pride Street Festival. We’ll interact with children and adults to encourage the development of peaceful behaviors.
I am tickled to see outstanding examples of community-led, trickle-up collaborations to help improve our quality of life in Florida. We don’t need state mandates as much as we need people to come together as advocates, caregivers, parents, educators, law enforcement, counselors, and DV survivors to find solutions that lead to coordinated community care for DV victims and their families and accountability for the batterers.
Look at the Coordinated Community Wheel below to get a sense of the intricacy and power of various systems working in unity to help DV victims and survivors.
When we don’t know something, we tend to simplify it to what we do know. But as the above wheel attests, social service providers–such as CASA and the Haven in Pinellas County–are a valuable but singular entity working to reduce IPV and serve IPV victims. It takes many systems, independently constructed, led and managed, to coordinate their activities to identify and prevent IPV, as well as serve IPV-stricken victims and their families, and push for batterer accountability when home violence occurs.
I saw this wheel in the recently published Pinellas County Intimate Partner Fatality Review Report for 2016. The Task Force, comprised of representatives from the above systems to coordinate and regularly improve service delivery to help IPV victims thrive in life, has a Fatality Review Committee that studies IPV situations resulting in death in Pinellas County. They examine what happened in each situation, whether the victim or batterer had interacted previously with social services, health, or justice systems, and whether family members or friends were aware of the potential for violence. All these bits of knowledge and contact could show missed opportunities and, therefore, ways to prevent abuse from happening in other households in the future.
The Fatality Review Report for 2016 also gave me these important points.
IPV including the ultimate harm–death at the hands of another–can happen to anyone. Race, age, sexual orientation, religion, gender and socioeconomic status do not insulate women, or men, from IPV. The eight IPV victims who died in 2016 in our county ranged in age from 22 to 87 and represented all walks of life. One was a 58 year old man knifed to death by his girlfriend.
Three factors prevent women from leaving abusive situations: fear, finances, and children.
The breadth of what domestic violence centers do in Florida. Not only do they provide safe residence for a small percentage of IPV victims, they also offer “safety planning, relocation assistance, counseling resources, and assistance with filing injunctions for protections” to stop the harm from happening again.
When guns are in the house, IPV victims and their abusers are more likely to die. Guns were used 44% of the time in IPV situations involving victim death. Guns were used in 89% of the IPV homicides/suicides in Pinellas County in 2016.
Court-ordered anger management counseling for batterers is not the same as, nor is it as effective as court-ordered and monitored Batterers Intervention Program (BIP) participation for abusers.
The sad news is that from 2000-2016, the courts did not require or refer batterers to BIP in 90% of the cases. BIP is the only treatment shown by research to lower recidivism by IPV abusers. So we are missing two opportunities to lower the frequency of IPV.
The Fatality Review Committee’s recommendations, on pages 7 & 8 in the report, for action by law enforcement, the State Attorney offices, and Clerk of the Court to improve services and accountability could be done fairly easily. The Domestic Violence Task Force endorsed the Fatality Review Committee’s recommendations for adoption. Some of these recommendations can be achieved locally while others require state-level policy or budgeting changes. One recommendation speaks to the media’s responsibility to change its coverage to include more methods for preventing IPV and promoting victim safety.
Take heart…and action. Advocates must work together to inform and encourage local and state policy makers to strengthen our systemic responses to Intimate Partner Violence. We have the power as citizens to make things different.
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Picture of woman from Pixabay
Views expressed in this blog post are mine and may not reflect the stance of the Zonta Club of Pinellas County or Zonta International. — Doris Reeves-Lipscomb