Domestic violence has become America’s most common crime and tragically its least reported. The percentages are overwhelming, and the statistics can be “hard to swallow,” but it is important to remember that behind each statistic is face with a name. The impact of violence is far reaching. How does a mother survive, not just the blows to her body, but the terror and fear written on her child’s heart and reflected in her child’s eyes?Domestic violence is defined as abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another partner. It can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate, manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone. (USDOJ, 2009)It has been said that, “Domestic violence is America’s hidden war. And the battleground is in all our homes.” The truth of that statement is seen in the following statistics presented by Shank and Hunter (2009):Current estimates reveal that every 15 seconds an act of domestic violence occurs somewhere in the United States.
Every 6 hours a woman is battered to death.
Annually that translates into more than 2.5 million victims per year. And more than 1 million of those victims, primarily women, will have to seek medical assistance for injuries caused by battering.
It is nearly impossible to comprehend the devastation and destruction that happens with a swift punch to the face or kick in the gut. Imagine yourself fleeing from an abusive partner in the middle of the night with two children, six dollars in your purse and the clothes you’re wearing. Where will you go? And if you manage to make it out alive, how will you support yourself?Here again the statistics reveal (http://www.silentwitness.net/sub/latest_reserch.htm#half) that this crisis has reached epidemic proportions:Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15-44. Children are involved in 60% of domestic violence cases and more than three million of them will witness firsthand acts of domestic violence each year.
Up to 50% of all homeless women and children are fleeing domestic violence.
One in 10 calls made to alert police of domestic violence is placed by a child in the home.
More than 53% of male abusers beat their children.
One of every three abused children becomes an adult abuser or victim and research confirms that frequent exposure to violence not only predisposes children to social and physical problems, but also teaches them that violence is a normal way of life thus increasing their risk of becoming society’s next generation of victims and abusers.
We, as a society and as individuals simply must grapple with the reality that every incidence of domestic violence a child witnesses changes that wiring in ways that can cause problems in development: excessive irritability, sleep issues, fear of being alone, difficulty in acquiring and using language. Boys who witness domestic violence between their parents are twice as likely to become abusive toward their own spouses…and girls are at higher risk of entering and remaining in an abusive relationship. Direct service programs that will help mothers and their children as they face new and different challenges must be created. They need access to legal, financial and emotional counseling to assist in making sense of the new realities, including networking opportunities for employment and housing that will make it possible for her to turn this new safety into a new future.
According to family theory family abuse is a result of members who act by omission or commission physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, or other forms of maltreatment that hampers individual healthy development. (Olson) Coping abilities include education, training, and utilization of resources. Adaptive models of behavior affect physiological and psychological well being. Self-concept, role functions, and interdependent relations are some of the area identified as needs. Ineffective response to abuse leads to disruption in the integrity of the family, psychological trauma affects functioning by increasing stress and decreasing morale. (Pejic, 2005)The Campaign”Domestic violence is control by one partner over another in a dating, marital or live-in relationship.
Domestic violence occurs in every culture, country and age group. It affects people from all socioeconomic, educational and religious backgrounds and takes place in same sex as well as heterosexual relationships…. Children are also affected by domestic violence, even if they do not witness it directly.” (APA, 2009) Domestic violence is a global problem, and it is in need of a global solution. Statistically, children raised around domestic violence are more likely to become the next generation of abusers and victims. Therefore, a campaign directed at children, with the right message from the people who have survived it, would be the most plausible option for cutting down on domestic violence.
There are many programs available for victims of domestic abuse. There are hotlines and help centers, there are local centers, and there are financial programs to help victims get out of dangerous situations. There are very few programs targeting children specifically, and there are no programs that target children on a mass level. If a program could be launched through the school systems, from the perspective of people who were once victims, that focused on educating children about domestic violence and offered assistance for them and their families, hypothetically, the rate of domestic violence should have an immediate decrease and a dramatic decrease over time.
Programs like D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) are around to teach children how to say no to drugs on a mass level. Schools across the nation support this program, and many schools have a “Drug Week” where drug awareness is promoted. If domestic violence awareness could be approached on the same level, more children could be reached. There are many children and adults suffering silently as they deal with domestic violence.
Children should always have an outlet for their experiences, and having a person whom handles the situations they are dealing with available through their schools can provide that outlet. School counselors may open the school year with the standard introduction to whom they are and what they do, but, when dealing with domestic violence specifically, the students may need more encouragement than that. Schools could easily devote more time to domestic violence awareness and make it known to their students that they have the ability to provide services and find providers of services for their students.
While increasing the promotion of awareness comes at an expense, all those involved are, in a sense, helping themselves. Considering that the health related costs of rape, physical assault, stalking and homicide exceed 4.1 billion dollars each year for direct medical and mental health services, and, according to a 1994 study, 37% of all emergency room visits were for violence related injuries, the cost of this type of program would be minimal for the possible benefits. Also, the former victims are able to work through their past experiences while sharing and helping the next generation. The individuals and companies that would be involved in funding would be protecting future generations; the next abuse victim could be anybody’s son, daughter, or grandchild; all abuse victims are somebody’s child, sibling, or parent.
It is in everybody’s best interest to support domestic violence awareness. “In the long run, [this] helping behavior benefits the giver as well as the receiver.” (Myers, 2009, p. 429)The cost and time of setting up the additional awareness education would be the biggest setback for those interested in launching the program. The project’s effectiveness would be a long-term consideration. The immediate and short-term benefits would still be worth the effort. If one child goes home to a safer environment and a happier family, the project has succeeded. Providing children with information on domestic violence and opening the doorway to communication gives them the chance to come forward with the situations they’re dealing with. Knowing that there is somebody available in their school with connections to various forms of assistance might make the difference in a child silently living with abuse in his or her home.
Victims and abusers are found in every social and economic class, race, religious group, and sexual orientation and without intervention, the cycle of violence will continue. That’s why it’s crucial that people work together to support women escaping the danger in their homes. For a woman escaping domestic violence to be really free, she must have a path forward.
People simply cannot be silent observers but must become passionate advocates. Society must not allow elected officials, or policy makers, or bureaucrats, or disinterested community members ignore the tragedy of domestic violence and its impact on our children and our children’s children. Society must support local and national efforts that provide direct services to those impacted by domestic violence as everybody should to be educated on how to be a source of help to those needing to flee an abusive situation.
Research indicates that domestic homicide is considered the most predictable and preventable of all homicides therefore, the ultimate goal of any intervention is to help save the lives of domestic violence victims and provide tangible hope and healing to the courageous woman who break free from the nightmare of domestic violence but need assistance in order to build a new life, one that does not resemble her previous one.
Women battle, sometimes hourly, to free themselves from the cycle of domestic violence whether physical, emotional or sexual, and may have long since abandoned her dreams of peace and safety. So the next time you hear someone say, “It’s not that bad…” Share with them this quote by Representative Mark Green of Wisconsin: “If the numbers we see in domestic violence were applied to terrorism or gang violence, the entire country would be up in arms, and it would be the lead story on the news every night.” Inaction is to condone America’s hidden war.
American Psychiatric Association (2009). Domestic Violence. Retrieved July 7, 2009 from http://healthyminds.org/Main-Topic/Domestic-Violence.aspxMyers, D. G. (2008). Social Psychology (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw−Hill.
Olson, L. (2005). A dialectical approach to theorizing about aggression between intimates. Retrieved July 5, 2009 from http://www.ncf/pdf/olsen.pdfPejic, A. (2005). Verbal abuse: a problem for pediatric nurses. Continuing Education Series. Retrieved July 5, 2009 from
http://www.pediatricnursing.netShank, S. L., & Hunter, C. (2009). Domestic Violence: Breaking the Silence. Retrieved July 9, 2009, from the National Center of Continuing Education: http://homestudyce.net/onlinecourses/9030.htmlUnited States Department of Justice (2009). About Domestic Violence.
Retrieved July 9, 2009 from http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/domviolence.htm