Today I've decided to summarize the main findings of the "Prevalence of Domestic Violence in the lives of PSAs" study. In some places I also point out where the violence experienced by the 558 PSA study participants is distinctly different from those of the women around them.
Summary of findings
The current study sought to understand whether domestic violence is being commonly experienced by women seeking support for the impact of their partner’s sex addiction. According to the study results, the answer is a resounding “yes, it is highly prevalent” with 92% experiencing DV ever, 80% currently; 58% experiencing IPV (sexual or physical abuse) ever, 26% currently. Moreover, the findings show that a large proportion of the violence experienced is severe and frequent.
Physical vs Sexual Violence: While disturbingly high, experiences of physical violence were noticeably less common in this population (35.3%) than sexual violence (41.4%), in contrast with the results of the WHO study and other large IPV studies such as the Center for Disease Control’s “The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey”. In the latter study 18.3% of participants reported experiencing contact sexual violence with an intimate partner vs. 30.6% experiencing physical.
Emotional Abuse and Control: Emotionally abusive and controlling behaviours by the SA partner were reported to be more common yet—87.5% and 63.4% of participants, respectively, noting these. This pattern is in line with DV behaviours reported in some of the areas of the world in which the study participants resided: including New Zealand, the United States and the European Union. These studies show that coercive control, in particular, is a precursor to violence and also a behaviour that is intertwined with other forms of violence.
Children: Of the 492 participants who indicated they had children, 104 (21.1%) answered “yes” to one or both questions on the issue of violence against children. The vast majority of this subset of women, 102 (98.1%), had also experienced some form of violence themselves perpetrated by their SA partner, with 81.7% having experienced IPV.
Age and Violence: Upon examining the data from their own and others’ IPV studies, the authors of the WHO “Global and Regional Estimates of Violence against Women” report noted that violence was showing up even in the youngest demographic included in the studies, “suggesting that violence commonly starts early in women’s relationships. Prevalence then progressively rises to reach its peak in the age group of 40–44 years”. Our results told a similar story. Participants in their 20’s demonstrated a high rate of current IPV—66.7% of 20-24 year olds; 43.8% of 25-29 year olds. Likewise, those in their mid 40’s had the highest rates of “sexual violence” and combined “sexual and physical violence”.
One difference in this study’s findings, however, was that the participants in their 70’s (15 participants), not their 40’s, showed the highest rate of lifetime physical IPV. Perhaps this should be expected, given that many in this demographic would have had a larger number of years in their relationship over which they might experience violence.
Geographic Location and Violence: As already noted, the vast majority of the participants in this study were residing in the US at the time the survey was conducted. Looking at the portion of this sample who stated they lived in the US (444 participants), 57.4% reported experiencing some form of IPV. By contrast, a study published by the Center for Disease Control found that 25% of American women had experienced some form of IPV over the course of their life.
Though this study’s sample size for other nations and regions is much smaller than for the US, it is still worth noting how the IPV prevalence of PSAs in other regions compares with IPV prevalence in the broader community of women in those areas. As mentioned above, a 2014 population study estimated IPV prevalence for women in the European Union (then including the UK) at 22%. A look at the 42 PSA participants in this study who were residing in the European Union (including the UK) shows that 59.5% reported having ever experienced IPV. Of the 14 PSA participants from New Zealand, 85.7% reported ever experiencing IPV and 100% reported experiencing any form of domestic violence. By contrast Fanslow & Robinson reported—using the same measures for IPV and most of the same measures for DV as were used in this study—that 55% of their New Zealand-based sample had ever experienced some form of DV.
For some of you reading this post, this information will feel validating of your experience... but even so, it may also feel somewhat triggering. Please remember your self-care tools, or seek support if needed. Next week we will look more at what to do about relationship violence.