Grand Rounds lecture series discusses how healthcare system can prevent sexual violence

Photo by Nate Harold
Photo by Nate Harold

The University of Maryland’s School of Public Health hosted a lecture Wednesday to educate students and faculty members on intimate partner violence issues from a public health standpoint.

Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell’s lecture, titled “Intimate Partner Violence as a Public Health Problem: Healing from Trauma as Secondary Prevention,” focused on studies of domestic violence and raised the question of how well our preventative healthcare system is doing to help stop it.

Campbell, the Anna D. Wolf Chair and Professor in the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing as well as the National Program Director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Nurse Faculty Scholars program, delivered the lecture to a group of about 70 students and faculty members in the Friedgen Family Student Lounge at the School of Public Health

“One of the things we do fairly well in this country … Is aggregate women killed versus men killed,” Campbell said.“But the dynamics and risk factors for when a man is killed are very different from when a woman is killed.”

Campbell noted that 72 percent of women who are killed in the U.S. experienced some form of intimate partner violence, which Campbell defined as a pattern of repeated physical and/or sexual assault within a context of coercive control, prior to their death.

She also said that a majority of these women “had visited a healthcare service center” at some point before their death, which raises the question of whether the healthcare system is correctly identifying and aiding cases of intimate partner violence.

Intimate partner/domestic violence can be experienced by anyone, and often at a young age, said Campbell.

“People from all backgrounds experience [intimate partner violence], all ages, there’s a lot of risk factors … that play into your future as a victim or as someone who uses abuse as a form of control,” senior family science major Morgan Jefferson said.

An Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) study of children in San Diego County showed that 95 percent of children who witnessed a battered mother experienced some other form of abuse or trauma in their childhood household.

Additionally, the study also showed that the more ACEs a child experiences, the higher the probability that he or she has of developing major depression, obesity and/or cardiovascular disease in his or her lifetime, as well as a higher risk of suicide.

Other studies referenced by Campbell showed that women who experienced ACEs were twice as likely to become smokers and almost three times more likely than men to experience domestic violence.

In order to improve at both identifying and treating victims of ACEs and intimate partner violence, society first needs to achieve gender and health equity, Campbell said.

“We have to pay attention to the violence and injustice in our communities,” Campbell said, encouraging public health organizations to team with communities to better understand local health issues and needs.

Campbell also suggested that existing violence prevention programs develop approaches “that heal as well as teach,” and that everyone has a responsibility to educate young men and boys on violence and sexual assault.

The lecture was a part of the School of Public Health’s Grand Rounds speaker series and was presented by the Department of Family Science.

“[The Department of Family Science] were very familiar with [Campbell’s] work … I think our thought was that we wanted to get the focus on domestic violence brought to the School of Public Health,” said Leigh Leslie, associate professor of family science.

Both Leslie and Jefferson agreed that issues of intimate partner violence and sexual assault should be discussed from not only a family science viewpoint, but from a public health stance as well.

“I think all [public health] classes should have a requirement that we learn about intimate partner violence and abuse because, even if it’s not us right now … it could happen in the future and I think everyone should just be aware that it’s something that happens and we shouldn’t be quiet about it,” Jefferson said.

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