On Tuesday May 2, there was a Capitol Hill briefing, Public Health Crisis: Solutions to Violence and Abuse focused on the impact of domestic violence over a lifetime. The briefing was cohosted by the National Health Collaborative on Violence and Abuse and Futures Without Violence. Speakers included representatives from the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic violence programs, healthcare providers and health care experts.

Dr. James Mercy, CDC, highlighted some recent CDC research and findings from the most recent National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (2013—2014):

  • One in seven or 11.2 million children were victims of child maltreatment
  • Two in five or 27 million children in the past year were assaulted, bullied or victims of dating violence
  • One in twenty or 3 .7 million children were victims of sexual victimization
  • One in four or 18 million children witnessed violence

Dr. Mercy also presented data that one in four women and one in seven men will experience intimate partner violence during their lifetime and nearly 23 million women and 1.7 million men have been victims of rape or attempted rape at some point in their lives.

In terms of age of victimization, when examining the age of first victimization for women and girls:

  • 40.4 percent of women were under age 18 for victims of completed rape
  • 16.3 percent of women were under age 18 for victims of stalking, and
  • 23.2 percent were under age 18 for victims of intimate partner violence

Dr. Mercy, along with the panel members, focused on the long-term impact of such violence using data from sources including past “ACE’s (Adverse Childhood Experiences) research.  Long term impacts included future chronic illness, substance use, mental health issues including suicides and other negative outcomes impacting into adulthood.

The CDC has recently produced a series of publications to address: Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect, Stopping Sexual Violence, Prevention of Youth Violence, Preventing Suicide, and Preventing Intimate Partner Violence.

Dr. Carol Warshaw, Director, National Center on Domestic Violence, Trauma & Mental Health, discussed survey results based on interviews of people calling into the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  The survey found:

  • 26% of callers reported using alcohol or other drugs to deal with partner or ex-partner abuse
  • 27% said that a partner or ex-partners had pressured or forced them to use alcohol or other drugs
  • 37% said that a partner or ex-partners had threatened to report their alcohol or drug use to authorities to prevent them from accessing certain things such as custody of children, job benefits or protection orders

Regarding mental health issues:

  • 85% of callers reported that a partner or ex-partner had called them crazy
  • 73% said that a partner or ex-partner had deliberately done things to make them feel they were going crazy or losing their mind
  • 50% reported that a partner or ex-partner had threatened to report to authorities that they were crazy as a way to keep them from getting certain important goals such as custody of the children, medication or protective orders

Christine Gilfilllan, Safe Berks, a domestic violence nonprofit provider based in Berks County, Pennsylvania discussed that programs work in assisting victims of domestic violence.  The nonprofit is based in Reading, Pennsylvania, one of the poorest cities in the nation.  Ms Gilifillan discussed the challenges that poverty can add in addressing domestic violence.  She also presented a video of a young woman who had been able to deal with her heroin addiction using the drug Vivitrol (a form of naltrexone) and its impact on reducing her reliance on heroin and how domestic violence services and supports can strengthen her ability to address her addiction.

One of the key messages during the briefing what the importance of access to health care and the detrimental effects a repeal of the ACA would have on these populations.  The coalition indicated that recent reform efforts and proposals to change the ACA will penalize survivors by reducing access to needed services.

In addition to the health care debate they also call for cosponsorship of new legislation, S 774, legislation to expand the use of trauma informed care for children and families.  They also urged Congress to not cut vital funding in the appropriations process including funding under the CDC and other programs including CAPTA.