Domestic Violence. It’s in the papers every single day. There is a beating or a rape or a murder, and the person committing the crime and the victim of the crime know each other. They are husband and wife, or boyfriend and girlfriend, or maybe they have a child together.
And that’s what makes this so hard to grasp for most of us. We do not expect the person we care about, the person we are married to or have a child with, to be abusive to us. We do not expect that person to yell at us, berate us, curse us, slap us, push us, insult us, demean us, or cause us injury in any way. And because we don’t expect it, we allow our minds to trick us and make up lies to protect our precious beliefs about what we think our relationships are. Plus, and this is big, we are worried about what other people will think of us if they knew. We are embarrassed.
So we minimize and make excuses and tell ourselves it’s not that bad and, even worse, that we must have done something to deserve being treated this way. I wish I had a dollar for every time I told a client, “You know, no one deserves to be treated the way he/she is treating you. YOU don’t deserve to be treated the way he/she is treating you.”
Most recently I had a client in my office who described quite an abusive situation that involved not only her but also her grown children. One child was even afraid to come home when Dad was there because he was afraid his father might shoot him. Now that’s pretty intense! This woman was so accustomed to the way she’d been treated for so many years, she really thought it was her fault, that if she just didn’t do those things that set him off (she couldn’t tell me what those things were for sure), then things would be okay. Through our conversation she was able to begin to see how this was domestic violence and how her brain had just made up stuff to keep her there. She truly wanted out of this relationship and just needed a way to do it that would keep her safe and strong.
Domestic Violence is everybody’s business. The people we love who are struggling to get free of abusive relationships need help. They need love and support and a plan that will help them end the relationship and be safe at the same time.
Here are some statistics that should get our attention and help us realize that this is indeed everybody’s business because it is happening everywhere:
• Every 9 seconds a woman is assaulted or beaten in the United States
• Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused sometime during her life. The abuser is usually a member of her own family.
• Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women – this is more than muggings, car accidents, and rapes combined.
• Up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
• One in five teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened self-harm or violence when she told him she wanted to break up.
• Each day more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in the United States.
• Over 90% of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern.
• Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
• The best estimates based on reports from 10 countries is that between 55 % and 95 % of women who had been physically abused by their partners had never contacted the police, shelters, or any other organization for help.
• Men who had witnessed domestic violence between their parents as children were twice as likely to abuse their own wives than sons of nonviolent parents.
Isn’t it time we step up and help our loved ones and neighbors stand up and get away from their abusers? Look around. Don’t ignore the signs. It’s everywhere. We must be there for each other.