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FOR RELEASE: May 30, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Health Officials Stress Recognizing Partner Abuse

Worldwide, one of the most commons forms of violence against women is abuse by their husbands or other intimate partners. While women can also be perpetrators of partner abuse, in the vast majority of cases involving an injury, men are the perpetrators, according to health officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is often referred to as “wife-beating,” “battering,” “partner abuse,” and “domestic violence.” Generally, it involves a pattern of coercive behaviors rather than an isolated act of physical violence. Intimate partner violence may include psychological abuse, such as belittling, intimidation, and humiliation; physical assault, such as hitting, slapping, kicking, and beating; and coercive sex and/or sexual assault. It frequently includes isolation from family and friends, stalking, and restricting access to finances.

“The effects of IPV can be devastating both emotionally and physically,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Leslie M. Beitsch. “Persons who suffer from IPV often seek medical care for various chronic complaints as well as for injuries sustained in a violent episode.”

From July 1, 2000, through June 30, 2001, 776 persons were treated in Oklahoma City Metropolitan Statistical Area hospitals for IPV injuries. Ninety-one percent of those injured were female. The average age of persons was 32 years of age, ranging from 15 to 82 years of age; 60 percent of persons were between the ages of 25 to 44 years of age. The rate of IPV injuries among African Americans (212 per 100,000 population) was twice the rate among Native Americans (106) and 2.9 times higher than the rate among whites (72) and Hispanics (72). The majority of injuries occurred in a home.

“Healthy communities begin with healthy families and this service offers health care providers another way to begin reaching out to improve the health status of our families,” Beitsch said.

Making a decision to leave an abusive relationship can be very difficult for victims of intimate partner violence, Beitsch acknowledged. He suggested having a safety plan developed so persons are prepared when the time is right. The following are tips in developing a safety plan.

  • Identify one or more neighbors you can tell about the violence and ask them to call the police if they hear a disturbance coming from your home.
  • Devise a code word to use with your children, family, friends, and neighbors so they will know when to call the police for you.
  • Pack a bag in advance and leave it at a friend or relative’s house. Include cash or credit cards, extra clothes for you and your children, and any important papers you may need.
  • Hide an extra set of car keys and house keys outside of your house in case you have to leave quickly.
  • Practice getting out of your home safely. Identify which doors, windows, stairwell, or elevator to use.
  • Decide and plan where you will go if you ever have to leave home.
  • If there is an argument, try to be in a place that has an exit and not in the bathroom, kitchen, or room that may contain weapons.
  • If possible, keep a cell phone with you to call for help.
  • Use your instincts and judgment. In a dangerous situation, placate the abuser if possible, to calm him or her.

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