We Believe You: The Harsh Realities of Sexual Violence

By Lacey George | MAEd Student, UAB Community Health & Human Services

Photo by Duanu00e9 Viljoen on Pexels.com

Conversations surrounding the controversial topic of sexual violence, and its effects on survivors, their loved ones, and our society, have been increasing over time. In light of the
#METOO movement, sexual abuse, assault, and violence survivors are finally given a voice to tell their story, sometimes years later. Because of this, we are finally confronting the
realities of what those brave women, men, and children have endured.

Sexual Violence is too Common

  • Each year, sexual assaults occur in approximately 463,634 Americans, which is roughly 1 every 68 seconds.
  • More than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced sexual violence, including physical contact in their lifetimes.

Sexual Violence Starts Early:

  • 1 in 3 females will experience rape between the ages of 11-17 years of age, and 1 in 8 experience it before the age of 10.

The effects of sexual violence are long-lasting and far-reaching. Sexual violence negatively affects the survivor’s quality of life, psychological wellbeing, and social opportunities, such as dating and social isolation. Sexual violence intersects with many chronic health problems, such as sexually transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, depression, and sexual health problems. Moreover, sexual violence is linked to adverse health behaviors. For example, victims are more likely to smoke, abuse alcohol, use drugs, and engage in risky sexual activities.

Stopping sexual violence before it has the chance to occur has become the primary focus of sexual violence prevention efforts. This type of prevention effort focuses on changing out-of-date beliefs and victim-blaming attitudes and framing sexual violence as a significant public health problem. To effectively prevent sexual violence, we must make the connection between all forms of oppression (including racism, homophobia, sexism, adultism, and many others) and how oppression has created a culture in which inequality thrives, and violence is seen as the norm.

Actions to Prevent Sexual Violence:

  • Promoting social norms that protect against sexual violence encourages men and boys to be allies for others.
  • Teaching skills that can prevent sexual violence, such as teaching safe-dating and intimate relationships skills, promoting healthy sexuality, and teaching healthy coping mechanisms to adolescents.
  • Creating protecting environments, such as improving safety and monitoring in schools, community centers, and workplaces.

Alabama & Local Resources for Support:

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Prevention strategies. Retrieved on February 2, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/sexualviolence/prevention.html

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.) Sexual Violence. Retrieved on February 2, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/index.html

Cherniavsky, E. (2019). Keyword 1: #MeToo. Differences, 30(1), 15–23. https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-7481176

Jaffe, S. (2018). The collective power of #MeToo. Dissent, 65(2), 80-87. https://doi.org/10.1353/dss.2018.0031

Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network. (2020). About sexual assault. Retrieved on January 29, 2021, from https://rainn.org/about-sexual-assault

Smith SG, Zhang X, Basile KC, Merrick MT, Wang J, Kresnow M, & Chen J. (2018). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2015 Data Brief— Updated Release. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved on January 28, 2022, from https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/2015data-brief508.pdf


Intimate Partner Violence: Love Shouldn’t Hurt

By Shon Mack and Senequa Malone | Interns and UAB Community Health and Human Services Students

Image credit Unknown, Graphics by Shayna Bryan

(This article is based on a discussion from WWL’s Monday Night Wellness Watch You can watch a recording of that livestream in the video player below, or on our YouTube page by clicking this link.)


Intimate partner violence (IPV), also known as domestic violence, is a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain control over another intimate partner.

IPV can take many forms. Some are more overt, such as physical violence, others are subtle like verbal, mental, emotional abuse, or other forms. Always, the goal is to control the victim through manipulation.

What are the warning signs?

            Aggressive behavior, controlling, manipulation, isolation, talking down or belittling, frequent bouts of jealousy are all common signs of an abusive relationship. The cycle of abuse ebbs and flows. Love bombing occurs when the abuser overwhelms their victim with loving words, actions, and behavior as a manipulation technique. This often acts as an apology for the abuse, maybe following an incident where the victim threatens to leave. Once the victim is convinced, or guilted, into staying the abuse resumes and may escalate.

Who are the victims?

            Anyone can be a victim of intimate partner violence. Women are more common in IPV cases, but men suffer as well and are often forgotten or disregarded. Statistics show that 1 out of 3 women 1 out of 4 men become victims. In Alabama, 37.5% of women and 29.5% of men experience intimate partner physical violence, sexual violence, and/or stalking in their lifetimes. Every case is different, and victims may have one or several of these indicators in common.

What are some of causes?

            Main cause is poor upbringing. Children growing up in households that normalize abuse. Research points to many causes of domestic violence, but all these causes and risk factors have one underlying commonality: the abuser feels the need to exert complete control over his or her partner. Some studies indicate that a cause of domestic violence stems from an intersection of both environmental and individual factors.

Who are the perpetrators?

  • Toxic – People who are full of toxicity
  • Hurt – People who are dealing with hurt
    • “Hurt people, hurt people”, people who have been hurt themselves can lash out to hurt others as a destructive way of dealing with their own pain
  • Broken – People who suffer from insecurities, low self-esteem
  • Learned – People who come from generations of abuse and repeat the abusive behaviors their learned from their family

Why do people stay?

Most people stay in abusive relationships due to a combination of love and fear. They love the person; believe they can change the person. Change comes from within. Loving an abusive person will not make them stop being abusive, they need to acknowledge their behavior and want to change before they are able. It is of utmost importance to understand it is no one’s responsibility to change the abuser. You do not owe them.

However, the number one reason people stay in abusive relationships is fear. People who are in these relationships have often been manipulated into believing it is normal, they deserve it, and/or that they cannot function on their own. They fear life on their own. They feel that no one will want them. For some, the abusive situation might be better than where they came from prior.

Unfortunately, ending an abusive relationship is not as simple as the victim choosing to leave; it is often a matter of the victim being able to safely escape their abuser. Finance can play a major role as well and situations are more complex when children or assets are involved.

How can you escape an abusive relationship?

There are many dedicated experts and volunteers out there to help victims of abuse escape their situation. Contacting the Crisis Center, National Domestic Violence Hotline, and/or other local and national services is a good first step. Here is a list of common steps to take when leaving a domestic violence situation:

  • Create a safety plan
  • Have options where you can go (have a few in mind)
  • Have a bank account or credit card put in your name
  • Get a new cell phone
  • Change the locks, get a security system and outside lights
  • Think of ways to get your children to safety without being obvious
  • You can also think of excuses on how to get out of the house as mentioned earlier

If you do not feel safe researching or accessing online resources in your home, the public library is a great resource and a safe place where your activity cannot be tracked.

Love:  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

Local resources:

National Resources:


Citations:

Lamothe, C. (2019, December 17). Love bombing: 10 signs to know. Healthline. Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/love-bombing. 

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (2020). Domestic violence in Alabama. Retrieved from http://www.ncadv.org/files/Alabama.pdf

Statistics. NCADV: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://ncadv.org/statistics. 

Warning signs of abuse. The Hotline. (2021, June 15). Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://www.thehotline.org/identify-abuse/domestic-abuse-warning-signs/. 

Why Do Victims Stay? NCADV: National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. (n.d.). Retrieved October 15, 2021, from https://ncadv.org/why-do-victims-stay.