Let’s talk about a serious issue that I bring up to Patients on a daily basis. It is domestic and intimate partner violence. What do these words mean to you? It is a matter that I feel is important and essential to knowing you as Patient to best take care of you. The fact is, you don’t know if someone is being abused if don’t ask. If one is a victim, it is hard for her to bring it up herself. By asking, it is a means to let you know that your Health care provider’s office is a safe place to start. Domestic and intimate partner violence occurs when someone threatens or controls you, physically, emotionally or financially. It can be an intimate partner or friend, or even a family member. It occurs without regard to a woman’s rights, feelings, body and health.
Have you or do you know someone who has been abused or is being abused? How do you know for sure?
Women and children are the prime targets for this kind of abuse; their faces take many shapes. Domestic or intimate partner violence does not discriminate against age, race, social class or level of education. IT AFFECTS US ALL. You may know someone who is currently being abused and are not even aware. The patterns of abuse vary and may be physical, emotional, financial or even of the reproductive nature where a woman is forced to have a child. Approximately 324,000 pregnant women are abused each year in the United States. This is a crime against mother and child in their most vulnerable state. And speaking of vulnerability, there is another prime target – our elderly. It is estimated that somewhere between 1-2 million are abused each year. People who are abused do not necessarily have bumps or bruises and the signs may be confused and attributed to common ailments. People who are abused complain of often seek medical attention for other reasons, reporting Stress, Depression, Anxiety, Chronic pain or other recurrent illness and may even show poor work habits or have difficulty in their social life. The point is abuse is not always obvious to the person being abused or those around her!
There is another type of abuse to be aware of, and is even an issue right here in Pitt County. It is Human trafficking. Human trafficking is defined as “the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.” It is estimated that there are around 14,000 to 50,000 victims’ right here in the United States under this abuse. Worldwide, it is estimated that over one million girls are taken into this life of abuse and never to be seen again by their families.
You may be thinking, how? With all our law enforcement, governmental regulations and protection agencies, how can this be an issue in this day and age? Why can we not stop this madness? Human trafficking will not be found unless you are looking for it. Many of those who are victims fear being found as their perpetrators have threatened not only their life, but also the lives of their family and friends. You may have seen the movie, Taken with Liam Neeson. This movie depicts beautiful young girls who are sold to the very wealthy in a presumed sex trade, however this is but one shadow of the many shadows that lurk with human trafficking. When one is a victim of human trafficking it involves not only the commercial sex industry, but also agriculture, factories, hotel and restaurant businesses, domestic help, marriage brokers, and some adoption agencies. Who is the driving force behind it all? It can be any operated by organized crime circles, individuals, or both.
I ask you to stop and always be aware of your surroundings and be an advocate if you ever are suspicious of Domestic or Intimate Partner Violence and Human trafficking. If you are a victim or know someone who might be, the first step if to tell someone – your pastor, your doctor, a family friend or even emergency department and local police. Never place yourself in danger to start the process. Many do not come forward for reasons of shame or fear of retribution. The fact it, this will not stop unless we take action. No one deserves to be abused. Once you start the process to stop this abuse, healing will start. By allowing someone to help you or be helped, you can develop a safety plan to leave the situation and especially if an urgent situation.
For more information about resources in your area, call the 24–hour, toll–free National Domestic Violence Hotline: 800–799–SAFE (7233) and 800–787–3224 (TDD).