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“Ayo, I don’t even know you and I hate you!”
It was a random moment during a road trip in November 2020, that my connection to “Love Is Blind” by Eve featuring Faith Evans deepened. I passionately rapped the words along with Eve and began to see the connection between Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), commonly referred to as domestic violence.
The song has always been one of my favorite songs. As a child, it was because of my love for Eve and storytelling. In early adulthood, however, it was having experienced a similar situation as the one described in the song. I connected to the lyrics written about her sister/friend who she felt unable to protect from intimate partner abuse.
As a child, I sang the song not truly understanding the truth behind the lyrics. Understanding came when one of my close friends confided she was in an abusive relationship. Over the years, I stood helplessly and angry on the sidelines, watching the effects of IPV play out in each area of my sister’s life. All of my efforts and cries fell on deaf ears. As my journey in maternal and child health continued, I began to recognize and understand the impacts of intimate partner violence and domestic violence on birth outcomes and maternal and child health and also the impact that it was having on my friend’s life.
For Black women, sisterhood is an integral part of our life journey. We take pride in being able to be there for our sisters. But what do we do when our help and being there are not enough? Over the course of “Love is Blind,” Eve takes the listener on an emotional journey of sisterhood and contemplates what happens when our help is not enough. She embodies the feelings of helplessness and anger experienced when your close friend/sister is the victim of intimate partner violence with excruciating accuracy. Intimate Partner Violence, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is defined as “abuse or aggression that occurs in a romantic relationship.” (It is important to note, however, that romantic relationships can be sexual and non-sexual).
Intimate Partner Violence can be expressed in one or a combination of the four following ways—physical violence, psychological aggression, sexual violence and stalking.
Psychological aggression is the category that non-verbal and verbal abusive communication—mental and emotional abuse—falls under. Isolation and financial control are other tactics of psychological aggression.
Sexual violence encompasses control over sexual and reproductive health. Each way, minus stalking, is alluded to in the various lines throughout “Love Is Blind.”
Perinatal Intimate Partner Violence
Perinatal IPV is intimate partner violence occurring anytime within one year of pregnancy and one year after pregnancy. This distinction is critical because the majority of reported cases happen to women during reproductive ages (18-34).
Pregnancy and the overall perinatal period are a highly vulnerable time for people; hence, it is important to look closely at the impacts of abuse during that period and work to prevent it.
Nationally, one in four women experiences IPV, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). Eve captures her friend’s experience with perinatal IPV. In the final line of the first verse, she wrote: “I could have killed you when you said your seed was growin’ from his semen.” My sentiments were not exactly those of Eve’s, but my friend also experienced perinatal IPV.
Research shows that physical abuse is more intense when it occurs during pregnancy. This is extremely critical as the United States already has the worst maternal health and birth outcomes out of all developed nations. For Black pregnant women and birthing people, the outcomes are far worse. Therefore, we must be conscious of factors contributing to these reprehensible outcomes and the Black Maternal Health crisis—including violence committed against pregnant people by their intimate partners.
Intimate partner violence has been identified as one of the main causes of maternal mortality in the United States. About half of pregnancy-associated homicides and suicides are due to IPV. In addition to maternal mortality, other complications that jeopardize maternal health and birth outcomes can occur.
Bodily harm done during physical abuse can cause pregnancy loss, hemorrhaging and other negative outcomes. Psychological abuse primarily leads to the development of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, including perinatal depression and postpartum psychosis. Impacts from sexual abuse can lead to trauma on the reproductive system through forced pregnancies or abortions, absence of contraceptives, non-consensual sexual activities, a lack of proper spacing between pregnancies and increased vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections.
Sexual abuse also impacts access to care which is a major way to identify and prevent complications. This can look like a delayed start of prenatal visits or missing well-woman and postpartum check-ups. Stress is a common thread through all forms of abuse with high levels of stress potentially leading to heart problems, pre-term labor, and issues related to high blood pressure like eclampsia and preeclampsia.
Solutions and Prevention
So, what solutions are there to this issue? Advocating, education and screening are ways to help alleviate these problems. Like Eve, we can use our voices to speak up and out against them. Providers can screen for domestic violence. Most importantly, we must continue to support our sisters/friends in any way we can and never stop.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.SAFE (7233).