October marks Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an effort to bring more awareness to an issue that will affect an estimated one in four women living in the United States. Alarmingly, domestic violence — defined as “the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another” — has a profoundly negative impact on women’s long-term health. A recent study by the Verizon Foundation and More Magazine shows that domestic violence is closely linked to chronic health problems. Over 80 percent of female victims of domestic violence also struggle from chronic health diseases, such as “asthma, diabetes, [and] digestive disease.”
However, what is often missing from the broader discussion is the fact that a residual effect of domestic violence disproportionately impacts the long-term health of women of color.
Domestic violence in communities of color is a common trend. Shocking statistics from the Department of Justice show that almost 50 percent of Native American females “have been raped, beaten, or stalked by an intimate partner.” Moreover, 30 percent African American women have been subjected to domestic abuse. The National Institute of Justice also found that Hispanic women “are more likely than non-Hispanic women to be raped by a current or former intimate partner.” Drawing on the findings by More Magazine and the Verizon Foundation, it is safe to conclude that chronic health problems related to domestic violence is, therefore, a prevalent problem among women of color.
But racial and ethnic minorities also face particularly high rates of uninsurance. The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) estimates that nearly one-third of all Hispanics living in the United States lack health insurance. According to the U.S. Census, African Americans are two times more likely to be uninsured than their white counterparts. Thirty percent of Native Americans also lack coverage.
To worsen matters, many states with large black and Hispanic populations are refusing to adopt key aspects of the Affordable Care Act, like the optional Medicaid expansion. That ensures discrepancies in health coverage will undoubtedly persist. Altogether, many women of color who fall victim to domestic violence may be prevented from accessing the necessary medical attention afterwards — especially with regard to chronic illness.
One-third of women subjected to domestic violence seek the help of health professionals, and almost 100 percent of women agreed that domestic violence should be a focal point of medical examinations. Nevertheless, due to inequalities in the national healthcare system, a significant number of female victims will neither be informed of chronic illnesses as they pertain to domestic abuse, nor have the opportunity to receive proper care.