Recent publicity surrounding celebrities involved in domestic violence incidents has brought the issue into the public consciousness. There has been much debate about what domestic violence is and why we, the public, should care.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is the perfect time to discuss this issue and work to understand how domestic violence threatens the fabric of society.
First, the definition – domestic violence is emotional, financial, mental, as well as physical and sexual; it stems from one person’s need to control another in order to feel powerful. When the one who needs to dominate is losing power (perceived or real) in other parts of life, it is the intimate partner who bears the brunt.
According to a Texas Council on Family Violence survey, Texans demonstrate a willingness to blame domestic violence on circumstances beyond an abuser’s control and on the victim, rather than acknowledge the abuser’s culpability. To be clear, violence is a choice.
Abusers prey on their partners’ weaknesses, eventually driving the victim to doubt themselves or their ability to do anything right. Abusers use mind games, threats, promises and apologies. It is a vicious cycle. Victims are often isolated from friends and family. It is not uncommon to ask why a victim stays in the relationship. The better question is “What are the barriers that prevent a victim from leaving an abusive relationship?”
There are many:
- fear of physical harm (statistics show victims face greater danger when leaving a relationship),
- fear of being found and killed,
- fear of economic instability,
- fear of the court system or the possibility of losing custody of children,
- fear of leaving the family pet,
- fear of the unknown.
Many victims also suffer from guilt, embarrassment and low self-esteem and feel they don’t have a support system or a place to go to. And, still many victims love their abusers – there are periods of calm, nurturing and love between incidents of violence.
Then there are the many children who witness family violence. Research has shown that many of them are likely to abuse their partners or become victims after reaching adulthood, and their children also will be affected, and so on and so on. The cycle can continue for generations.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. No one is immune.
That includes all members of a community.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cost of intimate partner violence exceeds $5.8 billion each year in victims’ health care costs and lost work productivity. This estimate does not include the costs incurred by law enforcement agencies responding to and investigating domestic violence calls, nor does it factor in the amount of time and money spent in other branches of the civil and criminal legal system. All paid for with taxpayer dollars.
You can get involved by changing how you look at and think about family violence. Ask why someone abuses, not why someone stays in an abusive relationship. Speak out against those things that allow violence to happen – strict gender roles, social disparities, classism, racism and homophobia. Understand and model what healthy relationships look like. Reach out to your family, friends and neighbors and find out what is going on in their relationships; it’s not nosiness, it’s caring.
Family violence is not a woman’s issue. It is a societal issue that needs attention from all of us. It will take all of us working together to end domestic violence.
Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center has a 24-hour hotline. Call 940-626-5855 if you or someone you know needs help.
Wise Hope Shelter and Crisis Center