Unfortunately, the topic of domestic violence has once again been thrust into the media spotlight. More than likely, our readers will push the issue to the back of their minds and think "that's terrible but it will never happen to me or anyone I know." You may be surprised at just how many men and women are victims in this day and age. The following statistics come via SafeHorizon.org:
· 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime.
· Women experience more than 4 million physical assaults and rapes because of their partners, and men are victims of nearly 3 million physical assaults.
· Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men
· Women ages 20 to 24 are at greatest risk of becoming victims of domestic violence.
· Every year, 1 in 3 women who is a victim of homicide is murdered by her current or former partner.
Domestic violence not only affects its victims, but destroys families as well. Every year more than 3 million children will bear witness to domestic violence in their very own homes. These same children are also 30 to 60% more likely to become victims of abuse as well. There are also outcomes of domestic violence that aren't as obvious, such as violence in the home being the third leading cause of homelessness in the United States.
Many victims choose to stay quiet about their abuse. In fact, most instances are never reported. Victims are often so terrified of their partners that they believe trying to leave will end up with them dead. Money issues are also a reason; the batterer might be in total control of the victim's financial affairs, and he or she will have no money and no place to go if they decide to flee. In other instances, the batterer has systematically destroyed all of the victim's other friendships, so that they are the victim's only psychological support system.
If you suspect that someone you know is a victim, there are steps you can take to help. The most important one is to believe them if they confide in you, even if you know the abuser personally and can't imagine them to be capable of such things. Many abusers are gracious and charming to outsiders.
Remember also to acknowledge and support the victim for talking to you. It can be extremely difficult to open up to someone else about a significant trauma such as domestic abuse. Make sure you let them know that you find their feelings reasonable and normal. Also, listen more than talk and let them lead the conversation.
Liz Smith spoke with "R" (name withheld to protect identity) who has dedicated most of her life to helping victims of domestic abuse and was a victim herself. Her story focused on her now-ex-husband who had an addiction to gambling. When he was winning, he was affectionate, stable and the relationship was great. But when he was on a losing streak, he would violently lash out in both physically and emotionally-abusive ways.
It wasn't until "R" got a package from her coworkers that she realized she had to leave. It included a baseball bat and a link to an 1-800 number for victims of domestic abuse. It was then that "R" realized that she needed to get out. This shows the impact that an outsider can have in helping a victim leave the situation.
When Liz asked "R" for her advice to people in an abusive situation, she said: "It's difficult, but you can get out of it. Getting out is the first step to your future." She also suggested to always keep an eye out for anyone who may look like they are being abused. Oftentimes, there is no one else to help them.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, here are some valuable resources:
The National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-72331-800-799-7233 www.thehotline.org/
The Children's Aid Society (212) 503-6842(212) 503-6842 www.childrensaidsociety.org
The Domestic Abuse Helpline for Men and Women: 1-888-7HELPLINE1-888-7HELPLINE http://www.dahmw.org
Elizabeth Smith collaborated on this article. She is the Social Media Consultant to Kates Nussman Rapone Ellis & Farhi, LLP and received her BA in English from Montclair State University.