October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, a month that sadly, does not get as much attention as government shut-downs or Congress’s insistent circus sideshow as Ted Cruz. Domestic violence is one of the most commons forms of violence in the United States, and studies have shown that sadly, during the economic downturn, over 50% of police departments saw an increase in domestic violence reports. Domestic violence is about control, misplaced anger and blame. Unfortunately, domestic violence is often the silent killer in many people’s lives, a secret darkness that the victims live in on an everyday basis.
Here are some important and sad statistics about the state of domestic violence in America. Domestic violence is so common, and so rarely spoken of, it’s likely that somebody close to you, right now, has been effected or is currently experiencing the pain and horror of being a victim.
- Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten. Very few of those women will report the violence or leave the relationship.
- Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. It hurts more women every year than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
- Up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. These children who grow up in abusive situations are more likely to become abusers, or victims of domestic violence, as adults.
- 1 in 5 teen girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if the relationship ended. It’s unclear how many of these girls have stayed in these relationships due to their fear.
- Every day in the United States, at least 3 women are murdered by their abusers. 1500 women in are murdered by their abusers, making a total of 4000 women who die yearly due to domestic-violence related injuries. (Many women live through brutal assaults, only to die later from fatal injuries in the hospital.)
- 74% of women who are killed by domestic violence had attempted to leave their abuser. Many of these women are murdered with a restraining order still active.
- On average, a woman will attempt to leave an abuser up to 7 times before she is able to break free from her toxic relationship. Women stay in these relationships for many reasons, but none of them stay because they don’t mind the abuse. Fear, lack of financial resources, isolation from others, and low self-esteem often make it seem an insurmountable task to leave a relationship with an abuser.
- Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone. This averages out to the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs. Some abusers are so controlling, they will force their girlfriend or wife to stay home out of jealousy, making it seem financially impossible to leave their abuser.
- 4 million women are assaulted and raped by of their partner every year. Men are also victims, experiencing nearly 3 million physical assaults every year. Abuse does not discriminate, but it’s more common for women to be abused than men.
- Domestic violence affects every aspect of family life. Children who live in homes where there is domestic violence tend to experience trauma that affects them for the rest of their lives. Over 30% of these children suffer abuse or neglect throughout their childhood.
- Domestic violence makes kids sick, even if they’re not the target of the abuse. Statistics show that children who grow up in domestic violence situations are much less healthy than their peers, and often tend to have poor sleeping patterns, more headaches and stomach-aches than other kids. Yet they’re also far less likely to get seen by a doctor or therapist to help them with these symptoms.
- Over 60% of domestic violence occurs behind closed doors. Because of this, it’s easier for the victim to minimize the violence when recounting it to others, and scarier to tell others about the abuse because it’s something that isn’t witnessed by their family and friends. Abusers will often paint the victim as exaggerating or crazy when confronted about the abuse. Because the victim is often the only witness, it’s easy for the abuser to say, “It’s not that bad, we were only fighting!” When the victim goes out, they will wear clothes to hide bruises or marks. Because of this, it’s easy for the abuser to control who knows about the abuse, and label it a “private domestic matter” and tell others it’s “none of your business.”
- Domestic violence causes homelessness. Many victims have lost everything due to domestic violence, including their jobs, friendships, and ties to their families. Abusers tend to isolate their victims in very tangible ways, hoping to make it impossible for their victim to leave. Domestic violence is the third most common reason cited for homelessness in the United States.
- Domestic violence is traumatic. Survivors of domestic violence face high rates of depression, sleep disturbances, anxiety, flashbacks, and other emotional distress. Many are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Women who were abused physically as children are more likely to experience abuse as adults. Abuse and pain often “feel normal” when you’ve never experienced a healthy relationship. In fact, many abusers seek out women with past trauma for relationships because they know how to exploit the feelings of worthlessness that childhood abuse instills in its victims.
- Domestic abusers are predators. They don’t just abuse one victim. Once a victim leaves them, they move on to a new victim.
- Domestic violence cases are rarely handled in criminal court. Most abusers don’t see jail or prison time for abusing their victim. Often, the only time an abuser sees a courtroom is when the victim seeks a restraining order. Restraining orders are considered civil matters, and many family courts seal these records, making it impossible to do a background check to find out if an abuser has been in trouble for domestic violence in the past.
- The female age group most prone to domestic violence is 16-24. In other words, the years where young women are struggling to seek independence and establish themselves as adults. Many undergraduates report having difficulties discerning abuse from aggressive behavior, even when hitting or punching is involved. It’s clear that more awareness and education needs to take place during these formative years.
- The poorest of the poor are the most likely to be abused. Women with family incomes less than $7,500 are five times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than women with family annual incomes between $50,000 and $74,000. These women typically don’t have a stable family to turn to for financial help or resources, they can’t just up and move, and often rely on police intervention and nonprofit services to turn to for help when they’re confronted with the prospect of leaving. Leaving without intervention or help, especially if they have children, is nearly an impossible task without vital services. If a woman does choose to leave on her own, she often has nowhere to go, and will return to the situation or end up in a worse situation.
- Domestic violence is a crime, and abusers are repeat offenders. Not only do they not respect their victim’s right to autonomy, respect, or safety, they also tend to commit other crimes that often lead to incarceration. More than 70 percent of offenders in jail for domestic violence have prior convictions for other crimes, not necessarily domestic violence.
- When domestic violence is investigated and treated like the criminal matter it is, the offenders do hard time. Offenders convicted of domestic violence account for about 25 percent of violent offenders in local jails and 7 percent of violent offenders in state prisons. While jail or prison sentences don’t necessarily prevent re-offending, they do keep dangerous, violent offenders off the street by incarcerating them.
- The most vulnerable are the most at-risk for domestic violence. Victims of domestic violence are more likely to be young, low-income, divorced or separated, a resident of rental housing, or a resident of an urban area. Victims are often dependent on their abuser for housing and everyday needs, even if they are employed. The poorer a victim is, the more difficult it is be for them to escape their abuse. Often abusers will often control household finances, making it impossible for the victim to save up money for an escape one day.
- A verbally abusive partner is one of strongest risk factors for intimate partner violence. Most abusers who threaten violence eventually follow through with violence. Threats of harm or violence in a relationship should be taken seriously and set off warning bells.
- When an abuser has access to guns, their victims are 5 times more likely to die, according to a recent study. The study showed that abusers who possess guns tend to inflict the most severe abuse on their partners. A few states, when issuing protective orders, will specify that the abuser must relinquish their firearms, but this is NOT a uniform policy.
- Romantic relationships are the most common relationships that abusers use to victimize others, but intimate partners are not the only ones targeted. Of the almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49% of these were crimes against spouses. The other 41% of family members include children, the elderly, and disabled persons, and others who have no one to turn to, and often may not even be able to speak at all about what is happening to them. These types of abuse fall between the cracks regularly.
Domestic abuse survivors often have to start their entire adult lives over from scratch. Many of them leave their furniture and other possessions behind, as well as shared bank and credit accounts, while trying to save their own life. Many pregnant women choose to leave relationships because they don’t want to raise a child in an abusive home. Survivors often struggle to get back on their own two feet, and in the interim, they rely on programs such as WIC, food stamps, and other supplemental assistance to make it through tough times.
While both Republicans and Democrats argue over the government shutdown, 9 million mothers and babies are currently left without their WIC benefits, the government program that assists struggling pregnant women and their babies stay alive without hunger and get the nutrition they need.
That’s why it’s so vital to spread awareness this month. Please join me? I’ll be writing several more articles on this topic throughout October. You can start by “Liking” the Facebook Awareness Page.
Sources: The Center for Policy-Oriented Policing (http://www.popcenter.org/problems/domestic_violence/2, accessed October 5, 2013)
American Bar Commission on Domestic Violence (http://www.americanbar.org/groups/domestic_violence/resources/statistics.html, accessed on October 5, 2013)
- What is Domestic Violence? (nataliemlewis.wordpress.com)
- October Is Domestic Violence Awarness Month (happianarky.com)
- Domestic Violence Day 6: Elder Abuse (secretangelps911.wordpress.com)
- We’re Wearing Purple to Support Domestic Violence Awareness Month (popjunkies.wordpress.com)
- Help Fight #Teen Dating #Abuse (gingerblokeblog.wordpress.com)