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  • Writer's pictureMuskaan Kapur

Unveiling Intimate Partner Violence: Exploring the Role of Media

Joan notes: “He held me hostage in that room and screamed at the top of his lungs and yelled at me and berated me and absolutely tore me apart to, you know, the deepest extent that he could. It was like one of the worse beatings I think I've ever gotten.”

(The Voices of Survivors Documentary)

In this digital age when media primarily handles perceptions among the masses, it is important to understand the role played by the information media in raising awareness and accountability.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) refers to any behavior within an intimate relationship that causes physical, psychological, or sexual harm to the partners. It differs from domestic violence, which encompasses violence within the family, including elder abuse, child abuse, and marital rape. IPV is limited to acts of aggression between intimate partners. Despite male-to-female partner violence receiving more research attention, it is crucial to acknowledge that partner violence can occur in both directions. Rates of female-to-male partner violence are comparable to male-to-female partner violence, but it often remains under-reported due to the stigma and shame associated with societal expectations of masculine behavior.

Epidemiological studies indicate that one in three ever-partnered women worldwide has experienced physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, with 42% sustaining immediate physical injuries. The incidence of IPV varies across regions, and in South Asia, it ranges between 8% and 50%. Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime. Most of this violence is intimate partner violence.

1. National Family Health Survey (NFHS): The NFHS-4 conducted in 2015-2016 revealed that 29% of ever-married women in India reported experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional violence by their current or former spouse.

2. Global Gender Gap Report: In the 2021 report published by the World Economic Forum, India ranked 142 out of 156 countries in terms of gender-based violence, indicating the existence of significant challenges related to IPV.

India has implemented several legislations to address IPV, including the Dowry Prohibition Act, Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code, and the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act. These laws aim to protect women's rights and provide legal provisions and support for victims of IPV. Screening for IPV is crucial but often underperforms.

Up to 77% of women are not screened for IPV, especially in lower-resource settings.

Proper screening can help identify victims and provide them with the necessary support and interventions.

Intimate partner violence (IPV) encompasses physical, sexual, emotional, financial, and digital abuse, as well as stalking, inflicted upon a person by their intimate partner. These forms of abuse often coexist and can have severe and lasting effects on survivors. Financial abuse, a form of IPV, can leave survivors economically vulnerable, making it challenging to seek safety or rebuild their lives after leaving an abusive relationship. The long-term impact of IPV can persist even after the violence has ended, affecting survivors' overall quality of life and their ability to form healthy relationships in the future.

There are certain factors that contribute to Intimate Partner Violence, they are:

  • Power imbalances within heterosexual relationships can contribute to the occurrence and perpetuation of IPV. These imbalances may stem from societal factors, including gender inequalities, traditional gender roles, and cultural norms that reinforce male dominance and control. These stereotypes can reinforce notions of male dominance and control.

  • Societal factors, such as patriarchal beliefs, social norms that condone violence, and rigid gender expectations, can shape power dynamics within relationships. These factors may contribute to the acceptance of violence as a means of asserting control and maintaining power.

  • Learned Behavior, growing up in an environment where violence is normalized or witnessed can increase the likelihood of perpetrating or experiencing IPV later in life.

  • Substance abuse, such as excessive alcohol consumption or drug use, can contribute to an increased risk of IPV. Substance abuse may impair judgment, lower inhibitions, and escalate conflicts within relationships, leading to violence.

  • Economic stressors, such as financial difficulties, unemployment, or economic dependency, can strain relationships and contribute to the occurrence of IPV.

  • Socialization processes, starting from childhood, can shape individuals' beliefs and attitudes about gender roles and relationships

  • In heterosexual partnerships, financial dependence on the perpetrator can limit the victim's options and resources, making it harder to escape the abusive situation.

  • Difficulty expressing emotions or resolving conflicts in a healthy manner can lead to the escalation of disagreements into abusive behavior.

  • Normalizing domestic violence, society may downplay or normalize certain forms of violence within heterosexual relationships, considering them as "private matters" or "relationship issues." This can deter victims from recognizing the severity of the abuse or seeking help.

It is important to note that these factors are not excuses for IPV but rather contributing factors that help us understand the complexity of the issue.

The cycle of violence theory

To understand IPV, it is necessary to understand the Cycle of Violence, this theory was developed by Lenore Walker, an American psychologist and expert on domestic violence. She proposed this theory to explain the repetitive pattern of abusive behavior observed in abusive relationships.

a) Tension-Building Phase: This phase is characterized by increasing tension, minor conflicts, verbal abuse, and a sense of walking on eggshells. The victim may attempt to avoid triggering the abuser's anger.

b) Acute Battering Phase: This phase involves the actual physical, emotional, or sexual violence occurring. The abuse can be intense, and the victim may fear for their safety and well-being.

c) Honeymoon Phase: After the acute violence, the abuser may exhibit remorse, apologize, and attempt to make amends. They may express love, promises to change, or gift-giving to manipulate and maintain control over the victim.

Understanding the different forms of IPV, the power dynamics involved, and the cycle of violence helps shed light on the complex nature of abusive relationships. Recognizing the impact of IPV on victims' physical and mental well-being is crucial for providing effective support, resources, and interventions to break the cycle of violence and promote healing and empowerment. The theory provides a framework for understanding the patterns of abuse within intimate relationships.

Effects of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV):

Intimate partner violence (IPV) has profound and far-reaching effects on survivors, including physical, mental, and emotional consequences. Additionally, the impact extends to children who witness IPV and may contribute to an intergenerational cycle of violence. Recognizing these effects and addressing the barriers survivors face in seeking help is crucial. Here are the key aspects to consider:

1. Immediate and Long-Term Effects on Survivors' Health:

  • Physical Health: Survivors of IPV may experience a range of physical injuries, including bruises, broken bones, internal trauma, and head injuries. They may also suffer from chronic pain, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), reproductive health issues, and other long-term health complications as a result of the abuse.

  • Mental and Emotional Health: IPV has profound effects on survivors' mental and emotional well-being. They may experience anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and suicidal ideation. Survivors often face a diminished sense of self-worth, self-blame, and a loss of autonomy. The psychological trauma can persist long after the abusive relationship has ended.

  • Emotional Regulation and Relationships: Survivors of IPV may struggle with regulating their emotions and maintaining healthy relationships. The trauma they experienced can affect their ability to trust others, form new relationships, and engage in intimate partnerships.

2. Impact on Children Who Witness IPV:

  • Emotional Trauma: Children who witness IPV experience significant emotional trauma, even if they are not directly targeted by the violence. Witnessing violence between parents can cause feelings of fear, anxiety, confusion, and a sense of responsibility for the abuse. It can impact their emotional well-being and overall development.

  • Intergenerational Cycle of Violence: Children who grow up witnessing IPV are more likely to perpetuate or experience violence in their own relationships as adults. Exposure to violence becomes normalized, and the cycle continues across generations. Breaking this cycle requires targeted interventions and support.

3. Impact on Society:

  • The impact of IPV extends beyond the individuals involved and permeates society as a whole. It places a burden on healthcare systems, legal institutions, and social support services. The costs associated with IPV include medical expenses, legal proceedings, counseling, and the provision of shelters and resources for survivors.

4. Barriers to Seeking Help and Importance of Support:

  • Fear and Safety Concerns: Fear of retaliation, escalated violence, or the belief that no help is available can prevent survivors from seeking help or leaving the abusive relationship. Safety concerns for themselves and their children can create significant barriers to reaching out for support.

  • Stigma and Shame: Survivors may experience shame, guilt, and self-blame, which can prevent them from disclosing their experiences or seeking assistance. The societal stigma around IPV can compound these feelings, leaving survivors feeling isolated and judged.

  • Lack of Resources and Support: Limited access to safe housing, financial resources, legal assistance, and support services can make it challenging for survivors to leave abusive relationships and rebuild their lives. Adequate resources and support networks are essential in empowering survivors to seek help and break free from the cycle of violence.

Common reasons why abused women may stay in abusive relationships and not report the abuse to authorities include frustration with the criminal justice system and fear of not being taken seriously, while educational and occupational factors can impact a woman's vulnerability to abuse. It emphasizes the importance of breaking the cycle of abuse, which starts with seeking shelter and includes understanding the partner's behavior patterns and rejecting a life lived in constant fear of violence.

By actively identifying and assessing IPV, implementing prevention strategies, and providing support, we can work towards addressing this pervasive issue and promoting safer, healthier relationships.

1. Identification and Assessment:

  • Mental health clinicians should remain vigilant for signs and symptoms of intimate partner violence (IPV) and practice case finding during assessments.

  • Inquire about exposure to and perpetration of violence within the diagnostic assessment, ensuring privacy and confidentiality for patients.

  • Address barriers to disclosure such as fear, shame, and cultural factors, employing sensitive and supportive communication when discussing IPV.

  • Document visible injuries, the history and chronology of IPV, and its impact on the victim accurately for monitoring, diagnosis, treatment planning, and legal proceedings.

2. Prevention Strategies:

  • Primary prevention involves educational programs that promote respectful relationships, conflict resolution strategies, and attitude changes.

  • While evidence for their effectiveness is limited, these programs can play a role in preventing IPV by addressing societal norms and promoting healthier relationship dynamics.

  • Secondary prevention interventions, such as advocacy and empowerment programs for pregnant women, have shown promise in reducing violence and improving pregnancy outcomes.

IPV is a complex issue that affects individuals differently based on various factors such as gender, culture, and specific circumstances. Tailored treatment approaches take into account these individual differences and provide interventions that are specifically designed to meet the needs of victims and perpetrators.

One Stop Centres (OSCs) are present in India. The Government of India launched the One Stop Centre Scheme as part of the Ministry of Women and Child Development initiatives to support survivors of violence and ensure their access to integrated services. The OSCs serve as a single point of contact where survivors can access medical aid, counseling, legal assistance, police support, temporary shelter, and other necessary services.

The services provided by OSCs are free of cost and available 24/7. They prioritize confidentiality, privacy, and the safety of survivors. OSCs also play a crucial role in raising awareness about violence against women, promoting gender equality, and preventing future incidents of violence through community outreach programs and awareness campaigns.

The United Nations (UN) has undertaken several initiatives to address and combat intimate partner violence (IPV). Here are some key initiatives by the UN:

1. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs):

  • Goal 5: Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls is crucial in addressing the root causes of IPV and creating a more equitable society.

2. UN Women's Initiatives:

  • UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign: This campaign plays a vital role in raising awareness, advocating for policy changes, and mobilizing resources to prevent and eliminate violence against women, including IPV.

  • Generation Equality Forum: This global gathering aims to accelerate actions and investments towards gender equality, including addressing violence against women and girls.

3. International Days and Observances:

  • International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women: This day serves as a significant platform to raise awareness about violence against women, including IPV, and advocate for actions to prevent and eliminate it.

4. UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women:

  • The UN Trust Fund's support for local, national, and regional initiatives helps in implementing effective prevention programs, supporting survivors, and promoting legal reforms related to IPV.

  • Addressing IPV requires a comprehensive and multi-faceted approach. These initiatives work collectively to raise awareness, advocate for policy changes, provide resources, and promote collaboration among stakeholders. To effectively combat IPV, it is crucial to implement a combination of prevention strategies, legal frameworks, support services, and awareness campaigns at both national and international levels.

Marginalized communities face unique challenges in relation to intimate partner violence (IPV) due to intersecting factors such as race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, immigration status, and disability. Systemic racism, language barriers, cultural differences, economic disparities, fear of deportation, limited access to support services, and disability-related obstacles can impede survivors' access to resources and support. To address these challenges, it is crucial to develop inclusive and culturally competent approaches, provide language interpretation services, collaborate with community organizations, and advocate for policies that address systemic inequalities and promote social and economic empowerment for marginalized communities. By recognizing and addressing these intersectional challenges, efforts to prevent and respond to IPV can become more inclusive, effective, and supportive for all survivors.

Media's Crucial Role in Shaping Understanding and Responses to Intimate Partner Violence

The role of media in cases like the one involving Shraddha Walkar and Aaftab Poonawala is crucial in shaping public understanding and perception of intimate partner violence (IPV). Media coverage can play a significant role in bringing attention to such incidents and shedding light on the complexities and consequences of IPV. Responsible reporting by the media can help raise awareness, challenge harmful stereotypes, and encourage a broader dialogue on the issue. It is essential for media professionals to prioritize accuracy, empathy, and sensitivity when covering cases of IPV, avoiding sensationalism and victim-blaming tendencies. By providing accurate information, promoting survivor empowerment, and holding perpetrators accountable, the media can contribute to a more informed and compassionate society that actively works towards preventing and addressing IPV.

Moreover, it is important to acknowledge that high-profile cases like the Johnny Depp and Amber Heard trial have brought attention to the complexities and challenges surrounding IPV. The media coverage of this trial sparked intense public debate and highlighted the need for responsible reporting. Such cases serve as reminders that IPV can occur in any relationship, regardless of gender or celebrity status. It is crucial to approach these cases with sensitivity, recognizing that they involve real individuals and their experiences. The media has a responsibility to prioritize accurate reporting, avoid sensationalism, and promote understanding of the broader issue of IPV beyond individual cases.

The media holds significant power in shaping public understanding, attitudes, and responses to IPV. Its extensive reach and influence can either perpetuate harmful stereotypes or act as a catalyst for change. The way in which the media portrays and reports on IPV has a significant impact on public perception, victim-blaming tendencies, and the willingness of survivors to seek help.

Media portrayals of IPV can perpetuate harmful stereotypes, such as romanticizing violence in relationships. Responsible reporting can help challenge these misconceptions and promote empathy and understanding. Survivor empowerment is crucial, and the media can play a role in amplifying survivor voices, sharing their stories of resilience, and providing platforms for survivor-led advocacy.

To promote responsible media coverage, it is important to avoid victim-blaming and instead focus on holding perpetrators accountable for their actions. Respecting survivor privacy, obtaining informed consent, and avoiding retraumatization are essential ethical considerations for media professionals. Holding media organizations accountable for their role in shaping public understanding of IPV can be achieved through transparency, public discussions, and high ethical standards.

Addressing limitations in media coverage, such as misrepresentation, overlooking marginalized communities, and lack of follow-up reporting, is vital. Engaging with media outlets, promoting diversity in storytelling, and supporting independent reporting can contribute to a more accurate, empathetic, and comprehensive understanding of IPV.

By leveraging media platforms to disseminate accurate information, collaborating with relevant organizations, and promoting survivor-centered reporting, the media can play a significant role in raising awareness, challenging harmful norms, and fostering a society that actively works towards preventing and addressing IPV.

Modern Challenges in Intimate Partner Violence

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on intimate partner violence. Lockdown measures and social isolation have trapped victims with their abusers, increasing the risk of violence. Economic and psychological stressors, along with limited access to health and social services, have further exacerbated the issue. School closures have also heightened the risk of violence for children, exposing them to abuse and exploitation at home.

  • Teen dating violence is a specific form of intimate partner violence that occurs among individuals aged 10-24 years. It encompasses physical, sexual, and psychological abuse within dating relationships. Risk factors for perpetration include a history of abuse, childhood trauma, exposure to sexism and gender roles, bullying, ineffective interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills, substance use, and attachment insecurities. Technology and social media have also given rise to cyber teen dating violence.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced IPV, It is advised to seek help from trained professionals, such as domestic violence hotlines, counselors, or legal experts, who can offer the necessary direction and aid.


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1 Comment

Jul 25, 2023

Very well expressed. I agree with you I think every Indian women has faced some kind of trauma in their lives. Well done Muskaan. You have done a great job 👍🏻

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