Domestic violence is a global epidemic that is silently weakening families, communities and nations. This disease has been creeping up on us for years, but we have swept it under the rug in hopes of never having to deal with it. Today, we are faced with broken families, disturbed children, and communities struggling to understand how to handle the lasting effects of abuse. Nations are spending billions of dollars on law enforcement, government benefits, medical care, and other expenses to address damages caused by abuse. There is no calm in the forecast of domestic violence; it is a growing crisis that needs to be confronted aggressively.
Today, we are faced with broken families, disturbed children, and communities struggling to understand how to handle the lasting effects of abuse. Nations are spending billions of dollars on law enforcement, government benefits, medical care, and other expenses to address damages caused by abuse. There is no calm in the forecast of domestic violence; it is a growing crisis that needs to be confronted aggressively.
Domestic violence has no specific symptoms or warning signs. This problem can affect anyone, anywhere, regardless of any social, economic, cultural or religious distinctions. For generations, domestic violence was an acceptable behavior that was typically a norm in families and society.
The problem was so acceptable, that no attention was given to the mental and physical battles faced by women. The repercussions of domestic violence have destroyed families and left lasting impacts on many generations.
The facts are astounding. According to an FBI uniform crimes report, every 15 seconds a woman is beaten. The number of women subjected to abuse at the hands of their partners comes out to roughly 4 million each year, with one in four women is likely to become a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. Domestic violence leads to more deaths among women than cancer and car accidents, killing more than three women each day. And sadly, more than three million children are witness to domestic abuse, with 40 to 60 percent partners abusing children.
My definition of Domestic Violence
We hear a lot about Domestic Violence, but what do we really know about it? My definition of domestic violence is, “one person using abusive behavior to control another, and suppress his or her identity”. The violent behavior may take the form of physical, emotional, verbal, financial, religious, sexual or social abuse.
Domestic violence starts out slowly and in many instances takes over the entire being of its victims. Many people truly forget who they are, and begin living their lives as puppets of their abuser. Some victims are lucky to survive this disease, but many die as victims of domestic violence.
Abuse can occur on a yearly basis or a daily basis. It can range from a slap on the face to broken body parts. The emotional and verbal abuse can make the strongest woman wonder, “Am I really worthless? Am I the cause of all the problems? What do I have to do to make it better?”
Victims truly believe that their abusers are the victims, and the abusers have valid reasons for their behavior. The constant threats and insults are used to melt down the self-esteem and confidence of a woman. Just imagine a woman’s mental state when she is belittled and degraded in the presence of her children. Her passion for surviving slowly dies, and eventually, she hangs from a thin rope that slowly suffocates her.
Why do Women Stay?
Despite all the advocacy and statistics, domestic violence is perhaps the most under-reported crime. Victims are reluctant to report abuse due to fear, embarrassment, or being blamed. In many cultures, women will lose their children and are disowned by their families and scorned by their communities for reporting their abusers. A woman is expected to show self-restraint and be loyal to her family and their honor.
Daily, women are reminded by their abuser; if you take my children I kill you. Many women tolerate the abuse for the sake of their children. We must understand, despite our current advancements, the majority of women are still dependent on their husbands for financial support; many have never held a job. Then, there is the factor that she truly loves her abuser and feels she cannot live without him. Since the abuse has become a routine part of her life, she will continue to cope and live with it.
What I have learned:
- Most people do not want to get involved in domestic violence issues.
- Many people are scared to confront an abuser.
- Men will blame the women, and women will blame the men.
- Some women, who escape abuse, are usually abused again by their family, the legal system and their community.
- Financial security is the main reason many women stay in an abusive relationship.
- Victims feel sorry for their abuser, and at times, genuinely believe they will change.
- There are very few resources for a large number of domestic violence survivors.
- The punishment needs to be swifter and harsher for violent abusers.
What needs to be done?
- Education and awareness programs in schools, religious arenas and in communities.
- Stricter laws and penalties for abusers need to be implemented.
- Provide easy access to housing, benefits, job training and child care for survivors.
- Child custody and visitation need to be handled on a case by case basis.
- Pre-Marital training, anger management classes and counseling need to be provided free of charge.
- The government must allocate more funding for domestic violence.
Leaving an abusive relationship is probably the most difficult decision to make. Not knowing where she will live, how she will survive and whether she and her children would be safe, is vital in the decision process. Survivors without families and support are at a huge disadvantage. When the tables are turned and the abusers are no longer in control, no one can be quite sure what the next steps will be For this reason many families live in fear, even after leaving.
Domestic violence can only be combated if everyone gets involved in preventing injustice. We need to protect the victims and make sure the abusers are fairly punished. Long term support in all aspect is necessary for success. We must fight the fight for the brave survivors of domestic violence.