This month, we are exploring various issues surrounding domestic violence as part of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Today, we are tackling some basic facts about domestic violence. Share the correct information with people you know!
FACT: Domestic violence is a huge problem; it is estimated that 1 in 4 women will be affected by domestic violence in her lifetime, and that 75% of Americans know someone who has experienced domestic violence. Men are also directly impacted by domestic violence. This kind of violence is often lethal; in 2013, 158 people in Pennsylvania died as a result of domestic violence. Even where physical violence is not a factor, the emotional scars of abuse can last a lifetime.
FACT: There are many hurdles to overcome before a person may be able to leave an abusive situation. These include emotional, financial, social and spiritual issues. As a result of ongoing abuse, a victim may lack confidence and be isolated from loved ones. An individual stays in an abusive relationship for any number of reasons: because her abuser frequently has control over all of the finances to control her independence, because she has children with him and fears losing them, or even because she is afraid of what will happen to her abuser if he is arrested. There is also the chilling fact that leaving an abuser increases a woman’s risk of being killed by 75%. The fact that a victim does not leave an abusive situation has no relationship to the level of abuse being suffered.
FACT: Domestic violence can affect anybody, regardless of race, religion, economic status, sexual orientation, or age. There is no evidence that domestic violence is more common in any particular social group. It is possible that women with less money seek help more often because they do not have another place to go, but abuse is pervasive in every single strata of society.
FACT: Physically hurting another person is a criminal offense. Just because it happens in the home or between family members or intimate partners does not make it less serious or severe; in fact, some of the most severe violent crimes are committed by someone known to a victim, like a boyfriend, husband or father. Domestic violence has a significant impact on society as a whole, affecting the victim’s ability to lead a productive life and impacting children who may themselves grow up to be abusers. It also has the potential to have a direct effect on others, as a batterer may lash out at friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members as well. Simply put, domestic violence is everyone’s business – and MUST be taken seriously.
FACT: Nobody deserves to be abused, and abuse is never the victim’s fault. The notion that a victim is somehow responsible for the abuse she endured is particularly cruel and damaging to victims of domestic violence, as it shifts the blame from the abuser to the abused -- and ignores the reality that only the batterer is responsible for his/her actions.
FACT: All kinds of people commit domestic violence; it is not limited by economic status, race, religion, sexual orientation or social status. Abusers are often charming, civilized people who are held in high esteem in their communities. An abuser is often able to confine his/her behavior to the privacy of his/her own home. This can often make it even more difficult for a victim to seek help, as family and friends may not believe that the abuser could act in such a way.
FACT: Some abusers may be more violent when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but many more abuse their victims when they are entirely sober. Alcohol and drugs may increase the violence, or serve as a catalyst for violence on a particular occasion, but they do not cause domestic violence. Many people use alcohol or drugs and do not behave violently. Blaming drugs or alcohol ignores the reality that an abuser is responsible for his/her actions.
FACT: Abuse is not about sexual orientation. It is about control and power, and it can occur in any relationship, regardless of the gender of the people involved. Studies show that domestic violence occurs in LGBTQ relationships at the same rate as in heterosexual relationships.
FACT: Most batterers have no problems with violence in their interactions with people outside of their home. They don’t generally resort to violence when they have disagreements with their boss, co-workers, or people they see on the street. They choose to use violence and other forms of abuse against their partner as a way to maintain control over them. For this reason, generalized anger management counseling is not effective; the abusers do not have an anger problem, but a domestic violence problem.
FACT: It is rare that domestic violence is a one-time occurrence. More frequently, it is part of a pattern of behavior that increases in frequency and severity over time. Abuse is typically a part of an ongoing method of establishing and maintaining control over another person.
Now that you know the truth about domestic violence, it’s time to take action. If you hear someone saying something that is not factual about domestic violence — speak up! Raising awareness about domestic violence isn’t limited to talking about statistics or informing people about services available (although both are great!) — we also have to speak the truth if we ever hope to truly understand the root causes of domestic violence.