Sunday, September 13, 2009

Domestic Violence: A Pre-existing Condition (by Liz)

For our recent 20 year college reunion, some old friends of mine planned a girl's night, a sleepover at a friend's home the night before the official festivities , so we could all have the chance to connect and catch up with each other in a small group. Most of the women who were invited keep in touch and are involved in each other's lives. I, however, hadn't spoken with many of them, outside of Facebook, in years.

Prior to the event, one of the friends called me. She wanted me to know, before our gathering, that another friend was going through a divorce and that this woman had been abused by her husband this woman's husband had abused her. The friend on the phone told me how shocked she had been when she first heard and how, out of all of our friends, she never expected NAMEWITHHELD to let this happen.

I was shocked to hear about NAMEWITHHELD and I was shocked by what my friend on the phone said. "She let this happen to her." I suppose none of it should have shocked me. After all, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that 1 out of every 4 women will experience domestic violence. And, was my friend's comment really that uncommon? Sadly, no.

It is so common to place the blame on victims. Even I, someone with some knowledge of abuse, have to monitor my language in order to place responsibility on the appropriate person. (Note my edit above.) In my friend's case, her husband was in jail for hitting her. He hit her. He abused her. He was arrested. He took the action.

But it will be my friend, not her soon to be ex-husband, who could be denied health insurance in nine states on the basis that domestic violence is a pre-existing condition. That's right. This from "It is still legal in nine states for insurers to reject applicants who are survivors of domestic violence, citing the history of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition."

Surely, the insurance industry is looking at data like this from the American Institute on Domestic Violence:

• The health-related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking, and homicide by intimate partners exceed $5.8 billion each year.
• Approximately $4.1 billion is for victims requiring direct medical and mental health care services.

That's a whole lot of money.

But they are also most surely looking at data like this (also from the American Institute on Domestic Violence) that tells them this is a "woman's problem":

• 85-95 percent of all domestic violence victims are female.
• Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women.

And that, pure and simple, is a whole lot of misogyny.