Domestic Violence in Iowa
As the transition from Summer to Fall continues and we enter the month of October, the Family Planning Council of Iowa recognizes the issue of domestic violence as one that personally affects many of our staff and clients across Iowa. October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, so we are taking the opportunity to both acknowledge the health crisis that domestic violence creates, highlight the work that our partners at the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence continue to perform, and offer resources to shed light on the topic.
Domestic violence impacts people from all backgrounds and communities; it can impact anyone at any time regardless of age, race, gender, or social status. The Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ICADV) works with a network of 22 victim service providers and assists thousands of survivors, families, and communities impacted by this violence.
How Can a Victim of Abuse Get Help Through Title X?
While Iowa Title X clinics do not specialize in supporting victims of domestic violence, the way each clinic operates is designed to give patients a safe space to discuss and seek support for their circumstances without the worry of a partner, parent, or unwanted party finding out. Your clinician at your local clinic will never share your personal information with anyone outside of your permission, and will not alert anyone that you are receiving services. Our clinics are committed to and bound to confidential services.
FPCI clinics and sexual health care providers can connect victims and survivors of domestic abuse to local and state resources and organizations for further support.
Myths & Truths About Domestic Violence
Myth: Victims are partially or fully at fault for provoking their partners’ violence
Truth: No matter the circumstances of a relationship, using violence is never an acceptable response or excuse. Remember that no matter what, you have value and nobody has the right to treat you violently.
Myth: Domestic violence isn’t that big of a deal unless it is physical violence
Truth: While physical violence is often most easily seen, other forms of domestic violence like emotional, spiritual, psychological, and even financial abuse can leave long-lasting harmful effects on someone.
Myth: It is easy for someone who is abused to leave that person and therefore get out of the situation quickly
Truth: Oftentimes, the way out of an abusive relationship can feel near impossible depending on the circumstances. Not only does a survivor have to cope with the fear of what their partner may or may not do if they try to leave, but survivors also must weigh the risks of safety to themselves or any children and any financial risks they would be taking if they leave. In many cases, abusive partners may even threaten harm or death to a victim, leaving them feeling trapped.
Myth: Domestic violence always happens to women at the hands of men
Truth: Many people wrongly assume that victims of domestic abuse are usually women and their abusers are almost always men. However, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that one in nine men also experience severe violence from an intimate partner, be that partner a man or a woman.
Myth: Abuse just happens when somebody ‘snaps’ or loses control of their temper
Truth: Patterns of abusive behavior or not just unintentional moments of snapping or losing control of a temper. Abusers exhibit patterns of abusive or violent behavior because they are acting deliberately and often having thought about their actions ahead of time. It becomes especially clear that abuse is calculated and purposeful when considering that an abuser chooses who they abuse; they will lash out consistently at an intimate partner rather than their boss at work, for example.
What Should I Do If I Think My Friend is Being Abused by their Partner?
Domestic violence and abuse is not a problem that is easily solved, and it can be really hard to know how to help someone you care about. When thinking about how to help your friend, it is important to realize that every situation of abuse is unique and often complicated, but the following are some ways you may be able to support someone.
Listen & Show Your Care
A simple way to support someone and let them know you are on their side is to tell them you are available and willing to listen. You can let your friend know that you are concerned first and foremost about their safety. After that, be sure to listen and honor your friend’s feelings and decisions. Assure them that abuse is something that is never their fault and that they do not deserve it.
Work Together on Safety Plans
If your friend is willing and desires it, you can work together to create plans for physical safety and emotional safety. Allow your friend to call the shots and listen to how they prefer you to help. A safety plan might include preferences on who you should contact for them, when you should get extra help, if/when you should call law enforcement, and a plan for what to do if their phone, ID, or other personal items are stolen. It can be helpful to come up with unique code words so you can safely communicate with your friend as they enter a crisis.
Sometimes a friend may want a plan to help avoid situations of abuse rather than a plan to deal with the abuse in a crisis. Something such as an emotional safety plan may be helpful in thinking of situations where an abuser is less likely to act. For example, it may mean that you try to hang out in groups with your friend while they are with their partner if it will keep the partner from acting out.
Provide Helpful Resources
Escaping and recovering from domestic violence often requires help from more than one support person. Research and locate service in your area that may be good resources for your friend to pursue, or that you could help them to pursue without their partner knowing. As a start, consider looking through different resources across Iowa on the ICADV website.