Though DV is not always characterized by physical or sexual violence, if you are now in a desperate situation, feel completely isolated from the world, are experiencing extreme duress, are voluntarily or forcibly confined to a room or small space, and/or have cause to fear for your life, please call 911.
Domestic Violence is its own disease just like alcoholism, gambling addiction, or drug addiction. Contrary to popular belief, DV does not require the presence of physical or sexual abuse. The psychopathology and repetitive behavior patterns seen in a bitter divorce are similar to those of DV.
According to Dr. Paul B. Beeson, “Diseases do not always present themselves in pure culture, and in fact the perspective of the clinical scientist can sometimes be skewed”. Just as diseases by definition present in complicated clinical spectrums, such as the spectrum of autism, so is the case in the disease of domestic violence.
On the DV spectrum of disease, DV presents with many different variations (ie. physical abuse in one person and financial abuse in another). Also of importance is that just as in PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), there is a wide spectrum of variations in the severity or acuity of a victim’s response to the psychological trauma of domestic violence.
If DV were to be recognized as a disease, this would allow for earlier detection rates of DV, the ability to more effectively target treatment at the distinct pathophysiology of the disease of DV, which is separate and distinct from the treatment of a similar and sometimes overlapping diseases such as alcoholism, gambling addiction, or substance abuse/addiction.
Because alcoholism was recognized as a psychological disease of addiction in 1956 by the AMA, courts have the ability to divert alcoholics to rehab instead of jail. If victims of any disease process do not get treatment, the condition worsens and chronic complications arise. Because more alcoholics are now being sent to rehab, we have seen markedly improved outcomes in this patient population in recent years!
In the case of domestic violence, if courts had the ability to divert domestic violence offenders to rehab, then instead of only accumulating more bad habits and suffering trauma with long term consequences in jail leading people to fall victim to repeat offenses, victims of the disease of DV could get the necessary help for their addiction to being needed, codependency, and abusive behavioral patterns. If domestic violence were to be formally recognized as a disease by the AMA, just as alcoholism was acknowledged as a disease in 1956, then victims of the disease of DV could receive help to learn the skills to one day reintegrate with the world and become functioning, contributing, and loving members of society.
Bindu Fernandes, executive director of Narika, a domestic violence organization for South Asian women in my hometown of Fremont, California, reported that in Silicon Valley, her organization was used to helping immigrants who spoke little English and had no family or friends in the United States, leaving them completely dependent on their partner. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, Fernandes reported that a surge of survivors contacted Narika that included a new demographic: affluent tech workers. “Now, the abuse is related to smart homes and smart TVs and smart recording,” Fernandes said. “The sophistication is almost scary to see.”
Despite the prevalence within our community, Asian-American women are the least likely group to report abuse, because in this culture, domestic violence is often viewed as a deeply stigmatizing and intensely private matter. According to the article entitled, “Why Domestic Violence Calls Are Surging for Asian American Women During the Pandemic” by Katherine Kam published by NBC news on October 1, 2020, in many Asian American communities, “gender-based violence showed lifetime prevalence rates as high as 55 percent”.
If domestic violence was formally recognized as a disease by the AMA, just as alcoholism was acknowledged as a disease in 1956, then victims of the disease of DV could be sent to rehab instead of jail and receive the psychological help that they need and deserve. Have we as a society not failed her enough already?
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