Black Hills Center for American Indian Health

Cigarette Smoking among American Indian Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

Intimate partner violence is a significant public health problem. The most recent data, from 2011 National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS), indicate that over 10 million women and men in the United States experience physical violence each year by a current or former intimate partner.

Cigarette smoking and intimate partner violence (IPV) are preventable, major public health concerns that result in severe physical and psychological consequences.

Smoking prevalence among intimate partner violence (IPV)-victimized women is as high as 70%, which is approximately three times greater than among women nationally. IPV-victimized women are more likely to suffer from substance use, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder –all of which are risk factors for smoking. Among women who have experienced IPV, post-traumatic stress disorder severity is related to nicotine dependence. American Indian women, including Lakota Tribal women, experience IPV 30% more than women from any other racial group.

Furthermore, smoking prevalence among Lakota Tribal women is among the highest in the United States, commonly reaching and exceeding 50%. The high rates of smoking and early age of initiation among Lakota Tribal women are accompanied by rising rates of mortality from cardiovascular disease and lung cancer, which are leading causes of death among Lakota Tribal women.

Despite the high levels of IPV and smoking experienced by Lakota Tribal women, there have been no studies that have explored IPV and smoking behavior in this special population. If significant efforts are to be made to help IPV- victimized Lakota Tribal women to quit smoking, it is vital to examine and document contextual issues related to smoking and IPV in this special population.

Thus, our primary study objective is to document the viewpoints of IPV-victimized women and strategies that could be used to adapt an intervention.


Quitting smoking has many benefits for your physical and emotional health

The health benefits experienced by IPV-victimized Lakota women smokers upon quitting are significant.

These include improvements in circulation and respiratory function, decreased risk of myocardial infarction and stroke, and decrease secondhand smoke exposure to family members.

Physical Benefits of Quitting

Within 20 minutes of quitting, nicotine starts to leave your body and it begins to heal. You’ll get some of these benefits right away. Quitting also improves your health in the years ahead and greatly reduces your risk of smoking related illness. 

It’s never too late to quit—no matter your age or how long you’ve been smoking. But the earlier you quit, the better. Learn what quitting can do for your body. 

Healthier Blood, Heart, and Lungs

  • You’ll breathe easier. 
  • Your “smoker’s cough” starts to go away. 
  • Quitting can prevent permanent damage to your lungs. 
  • The oxygen in your blood rises to a normal level.
  • Your heart rate and blood pressure lower. 

Stronger Body

  • Quitting can keep your bones strong and healthy. 
  • Your immune system will become stronger. 
  • Your muscles will become stronger and healthier. 

Changes You Can See

  • Your skin will look healthier.  
  • You’ll have a cleaner mouth.  
  • Quitting can reduce belly fat and lower your risk of diabetes. 
  • Your sense of taste and smell will improve. 

Fewer Fertility Problems and Pregnancy Risks

  • Your estrogen levels will gradually return to normal. 
  • Quitting smoking will increase your chances of having a health pregnancy. 
  • Quitting now will increase your chances of having a healthy baby. 

In the long run you can lower your chance of:

  • Heart disease. 
  • Stroke. 
  • Lung cancer. 
  • Dying early. 

If you have been diagnosed with cancer it is not too late to benefit from quitting. 

  • Patients with some cancers increase their chances for survival if they quit when they are diagnosed with cancer.
  • For those having surgery, chemotherapy, or other treatments, quitting smoking helps improve the body’s ability to heal and respond to therapy. You will be less likely to develop pneumonia or respiratory failure. 
  • Quitting smoking may also reduce the chances that the cancer will recur (come back), that another cancer will develop, or that you will die from the cancer.

Emotional Benefits of Quitting

Quitting can improve your quality of life and boost your mood. After you become smoke free you will experience many positive changes. Below are some things you may experience after quitting.  

  • You’ll feel more in control of your life. Being smoke free means that you won’t have to plan your life around smoking, worry about finding places to smoke, or worry about bothering others. 
  • Your hair, clothes, home, car, and breath won’t smell like smoke anymore.
  • You will have more money.
  • You’ll have more energy to walk, play with your kids, or be active.
  • Your loved ones will be proud of you.
  • You’ll feel empowered and proud of your success.  

Intimate Partner Violence is Preventable

Intimate partner violence (IPV) is abuse or aggression that occurs in a close relationship. “Intimate partner” refers to both current and former spouses and dating partners. IPV can vary in how often it happens and how severe it is. It can range from one episode of violence that could have lasting impact to chronic and severe episodes over multiple years. IPV includes four types of behavior:

  • Physical violence is when a person hurts or tries to hurt a partner by hitting, kicking, or using another type of physical force.
  • Sexual violence is forcing or attempting to force a partner to take part in a sex act, sexual touching, or a non-physical sexual event (e.g., sexting) when the partner does not or cannot consent.
  • Stalking is a pattern of repeated, unwanted attention and contact by a partner that causes fear or concern for one’s own safety or the safety of someone close to the victim.
  • Psychological aggression is the use of verbal and non-verbal communication with the intent to harm another person mentally or emotionally and/or to exert control over another person.

Several types of IPV behaviors can occur together. IPV is connected to other forms of violence and causes serious health issues and economic consequences. By using a public health approach that addresses risk and protective factors for multiple types of violence, IPV and other forms of violence can be prevented. 

An intimate partner is a person with whom one has a close personal relationship that may be characterized by the partners’ emotional connectedness, regular contact, ongoing physical contact and sexual behavior, identity as a couple, and familiarity and knowledge about each other’s lives.

The relationship need not involve all these dimensions.

Intimate partner relationships include current or former:

  • Spouse(s) (married spouses, common-law spouses, civil union spouses, domestic partners)
  • Boyfriend(s)/girlfriend(s)
  • Dating partner(s)
  • Ongoing sexual partner(s)

Intimate partners may or may not be cohabiting. Intimate partners can be opposite or same sex. If the victim and the perpetrator have a child in common and a previous relationship but no current relationship, then by definition they fit into the category of former intimate partner. States differ as to what constitutes a common-law marriage.

IPV is common.  It affects millions of people in the United States each year.

  • Nearly 3 out 10 women have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact.
  • Over 43 million women experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • Most female victims of intimate partner violence were previously victimized by the same offender, including 77% of females ages 18 to 24, 76% of females ages 25 to 34, and 81% of females ages 35 to 49.
  • Females ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 34 generally experienced the highest rates of intimate partner violence.
  • From 1994 to 2010, about 4 in 5 victims of intimate partner violence were female.
  • IPV is a significant risk factor for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and substance use and abuse, including cigarette smoking.
  • Among women who have experienced IPV, post-traumatic stress disorder severity is related to nicotine dependence.
  • American Indian women, including Lakota women, experience IPV 30% more than any other racial group.

When IPV starts in adolescence, it is called teen dating violence (TDV). TDV affects millions of US teens each year. About 11 million women who reported experiencing contact sexual violence, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime said that they first experienced these forms of violence before the age of 18.

·       There is a common link between domestic violence and child abuse. Among victims of child abuse, 40% report domestic violence in the home.

·       One study in North America found that children who were exposed to violence in the home were 15 times more likely to be physically and/or sexually assaulted than the national average.

·       The U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect suggests that domestic violence may be the single major precursor to child abuse and neglect fatalities in this country.

·       30 to 60% of perpetrators of intimate partner violence also abuse children in the household. 

·       One in 10 high school students has experienced physical violence from a dating partner in the past year.

·       Most female and male victims of rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner (69% of female victims, 53% of male victims) experienced some form of intimate partner violence for the first time before 25 years of age.


Healing Within

Supporting the development of healthy, respectful, and nonviolent relationships and communities has the potential to reduce the occurrence of IPV. It also can prevent the harmful and long-lasting effects of IPV on individuals, families, and communities.

Quitting smoking is the single most impactful behavior on reducing morbidity and premature mortality.

Ways to prevent IPV:

  1. Teach safe and healthy relationship skills
  2. Social-emotional learning programs for youth
  3. Healthy relationship programs for couples
  4. Engage Influential adults and peers
  5. Disrupt the developmental pathways toward partner violence
  6. Create protective environments
  7. Strengthen economic supports for families
  8. Support survivors to increase safety and lessen harm

For more information on this study, please contact the Project Coordinator, Priscilla Nez at panez@bhcaih.org.

Cigarette smoking and IPV

Need Help Now?

Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224 or visit their website to speak with a representative today.