Intimate Partner Violence and Co-Occurring Conditions

Jay Morse and Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Last July and August, we published several blogs about domestic violence. During that month we highlighted definitions of domestic violence, pervasiveness, warning signs, how to differentiate between different types of violence, and work with different types of family violence.

Painting of person with bruised face
[Flickr, Her face by Beth Punches, CC BY-ND 2.0] Retrieved on September 17, 2015

In today’s blog we review Tinney and Gerlock’s (2014) recent article on distinguishing between Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and violent behaviors associated with mental health issues. The researchers highlight a common combat-related mental health conditions including: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), substance use disorder (SUD), suicide, and depression.

The researchers make two important distinctions when considering the interaction between IPV and other conditions: First, domestic violence can be present in many forms including coercive violence or resistive violence for instance; and second, the context of the violence (why is it occurring, and what is the impact on the victim) should be considered when making treatment recommendations. Sometimes there are co-occurring conditions, meaning that there could be IPV in addition to a mental health issue. At times it might be difficult to distinguish between what is a mental health-related issue and what is IPV.

According to the authors, “IPV occurs when there has been an act of physical or sexual violence in an intimate relationship and the range of offender behaviors continually remind victims that violence is always a possibility” [1].Tactics might include: intimidation, coercion, threats or other forms of emotional abuse. To distinguish between tactics associated with IPV, and symptoms of co-occurring disorders, the specific symptoms of the specific disorder (e.g., PTSD, TBI, or others) should be considered in relation to the tactics used in IPV (see table below).

It is important to note that these conditions do not occur only within the military, but also occur within the civilian population. In their review, the authors discuss other research studies that relate PTSD to IPV, however, any form of IPV involving military members can occur whether co-occurring conditions such as PTSD are present or not. For instance, a service member returning from combat or a civilian with a trauma history may experience PTSD symptoms including experiencing distressing events or nightmares. It can be difficult to determine whether violent acts associated with a disorder are related to IPV, or simply reflect symptoms of the disorder. Without considering the context, motivation, and possible other symptoms related to the act, the behavior may be indistinguishable. However, the authors note that all violent acts are dangerous, and potentially lethal, so regardless of the cause it is important for family members to have plans for safety in place.

Screen Shot 2014-08-28 at 12.25.26 PM

The Department of Defense offers a wide range of support programs for victims and survivors of domestic abuse through their Family Advocacy Program. The Military Families Learning Network is available to serve military family service professionals.

Information on IPV assessment and tools are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Measuring Intimate Partner Violence Victimization and Perpetration: A Compendium of Assessment Tools [2].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *