Domestic Violence Awareness & Chronic Illness

  • This past month has been national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a difficult topic, one there isn't much talk about, so having an entire month dedicated to raising awareness about domestic violence has been important. There is a group that is very vulnerable to domestic violence and abuse and this is a group that often falls between the cracks of conversations and programs. People who live with chronic illnesses and disability are more vulnerable and are therefore victims of violence and abuse at higher rates than the able-bodied healthy population.


    This month, we started the conversation about chronic illness, disability and domestic violence and abuse and did so by connecting both outside and within the HealthCentral family. You may already have read some of these posts and looked through our special Domestic Violence and Chronic Illness/Disability Awareness page. In case you haven't read all of them yet, I'd like to tell you about the great work done by the project team. Many of these posts are anchored in personal experiences of violence and abuse, making it clear just how pervasive the problem is and how many forms it can take.

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    What It Is and Where to Get Help

    Several of our project participants wrote about the different kinds of abuse, both obvious and more subtle and also offered resources that can help make you safe. On our Schizophrenia site, Christina Bruni defines different kinds of abuse. On our Breast Cancer site, PJ Hamel writes about the different kinds of abuse and explains the subtle - and sometimes not-so-subtle - ways in which having an illness can make you more vulnerable to control and abuse. Merely Me offer three posts in this area on our Depression and Sexual Health sites: men can be abused, too, how and when to leave an emotionally abusive relationship and where to get help, a great list of resources. We also have a fantastic slideshow about signs of an emotionally abusive relationship.


    Brad, a Contributor for MyRACentral, wrote about domestic violence from a man's perspective, including the White Ribbon Campaign and offering suggestions on how to get out of a bad situation. Also included on our special Domestic Violence page was one of my previous posts written during last year's Sexual Assault Awareness Month on how to protect yourself when you have a chronic illness or disability.


    Relationship Dynamics: During and After

    Why do women stay? It's a question that people who have not experienced abuse or violence often can't quite wrap their head around and some of our posts explore that topic. We were very excited that Karen Ager, author of Enemy Within, agreed to write a post for MyRACentral about her own personal experience with domestic violence, in which she explains how it was prolonged in part due to her RA. Eileen Bailey also wrote about why women stay in a post for Sexual Health site. This post explains how the process of abuse is a gradual one and can make it difficult for the person being abused to realize what's going on and to get out. Further elaboration of this topic can be found in merely Me's interview with Eileen about obessessive love.


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    What happens after you leave an abusive relationship? Is it possible to find healthy love? Lisa Emrich interviewed Jackie, a community member from the MS site who got out of an abusive situation and is now in a very happy and supportive relationship. Eileen Bailey also wrote about the aftereffects of abuse in her post on domestic violence and posttraumatic stress disorder for our Anxiety site.


    Caregiving and Abuse

    Sometimes when you live with chronic illness and disability, you receive care from another person, either a spouse or member of your family or from someone who gets paid to provide this service. This situation can fraught with potential for abuse.


    On our Bipolar site, John McManamy wrote about the possibility of someone with a mental illness to be abusive towards their loved ones. On our Alzheimer's site, Carol Bursack writes about the people who have dementia who are abusive towards their caregivers.


    Most commonly, however, it's the other way around. The person receiving care is much more vulnerable and frequently a target of abuse. Carol Bursack also wrote about the dynamics of elder abuse within a family relationship. Pam Flores from our Osteoporosis site wrote how osteoporosis make it more likely that someone will spend time in a care facility, either temporarily or as a permanent resident, and about the shocking conditions in nursing homes that can lead to abuse of residents. This post also includes a helpful list of red flags that can indicate elder abuse. Also on the topic of abuse within a caregiving, I wrote about living with a disability, how it increases our ability to violence and abuse and how to get out.


    I'd like to thank everyone who participated for their willingness to start a conversation about a difficult topic. And to those of you who so generously shared your own stories, thank you for your courage.


    If anyone reading this is being controlled, neglected or abused, please seek help. Please get safe.



    Lene is the author of the award-winning blog The Seated View.

Published On: October 30, 2011