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Medicine LibreTexts

4.7: Violence in Relationships

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  • Violence is a serious public health problem in the United States. From infants to the elderly, it affects people in all stages of life. In the United States, violence accounts for approximately 51,000 deaths annually. In 2007, more than 18,000 people were victims of homicide and more than 34,000 took their own life. Estimating the size of this economic burden is helpful in understanding the resources that could be saved if cost-effective violence prevention efforts were applied. The cost of these deaths totaled to $47.2 billion ($47 billion in work loss costs and $215 million in medical treatment). The number of violent deaths tells only part of the story. Many more survive violence and are left with permanent physical and emotional scars. Violence also erodes communities by reducing productivity, decreasing property values, and disrupting social services.

    Understanding Violence

    Interpersonal violence is defined as the actual or threatened intentional use of force— physical, sexual, or emotional—against another person, group, or community. It may result in physical injury, psychological harm, or even death. Violence also includes suicide and nonfatal acts of self-harm.

    Unfortunately, violence is a part of our daily life. It exists in all corners of our nation. It affects us all regardless of our age, gender, race, ethnicity, or socio-economic status. More than 50,000 violent deaths occur each year in the United States. The deaths only tell part of the story. Millions of others are left with debilitating physical and emotional injuries. These injuries negatively affect the health of victims for the rest of their lives.

    Violence also erodes the fabric of our communities. It can threaten productivity in the workplace, decrease the value of our homes and businesses, and disrupt essential public and social services. The economic cost of violence is staggering. In 2000, the medical costs and productivity losses associated with nonfatal violence-related injuries and deaths were estimated at more than $70 billion each year. The total burden to society is far greater.

    The good news is that violence is a problem with a solution. It can be prevented by using a thoughtful and systematic approach. While the field of violence prevention is still developing, our knowledge of “what works” increases every day.

    Types of Violence

    • Child Maltreatment (e.g., child abuse and neglect)
    • Intimate Partner Violence (e.g., violence by a current or former spouse, boy/girlfriend)
    • Sexual Violence (e.g., rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment)
    • Suicide (e.g., fatal and nonfatal suicide behavior)
    • Youth Violence (e.g., bullying, gang violence, peer violence)