October Is Apparently A Lot of Important Months

At the start of the month, I told you that it was LGBTQ history month, and I have tried to orient a lot of our posts this month to LGBTQ issues, but October is ALSO Breast Cancer Awareness Month AND, even more importantly, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and right now, it’s that last one that I think we should be discussing.

Statistics show that one in four women will be the victim of domestic violence over the course of her life. That statistic probably underrepresents the issue, because so many cases go unreported. In fact, the Department of Justice estimates that only about 60% of domestic violence incidents are reported to the police.  To make things a little more dramatic, 64% of women who reported being raped or sexually assaulted were victimized by an intimate partner.  About 73% of domestic violence victims are women.

And since it’s not just bad enough that women are being abused, don’t forget that domestic violence can extend to children.  In 2000, nearly 88,000 children were the victims of sexual abuse.  According to the Department of Justice, among inmates who were convicted for crimes against their children, 79% were convicted for rape or sexual assault.

I can’t even find the right words for my level of horror and disgust looking at these statistics, and I am sure anyone reading this is on the same page.  This is the reason we NEED Domestic Violence Awareness Month: because this problem is real, and it is all around us. ONE IN FOUR is too high a number.

One in four could be you.  It could be your sister, your cousin, your best friend.  Domestic violence is everyone’s problem.  It is indicative of underlying societal problems that we cannot afford to ignore.  Domestic abuse is the ultimate betrayal in a relationship, the undermining of any trust, the act of forcibly subjugating one partner to the other.  And we, as Americans, are standing on the sidelines, and not saying anything.

Part of the problem is that it so often goes unreported.  Some researchers (the report can be found here) have attributed women’s reluctance to report to a fear of retribution, dependence on men, or a distrust of a system that frequently blames them instead of the perpetrators of this crime (see my previous posts on victim-blaming and slut-shaming both here and at www.theradicalidea.tumblr.com).  Moreover, the legal system is unlikely to actually solve disputes between adversaries with close relationships, such as husbands and wives, making it unlikely that victims will actually get any justice if they report the crime.  This is particularly problematic because it further antagonizes their aggressors, making it more likely that this abuse will continue or worsen.

What is this telling us?  For starters, domestic crimes are still crimes, and Americans should be demanding that their justice system actually facilitate justice for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.  These crimes are often not one-time incidents, they are patterns of controlling and abusive behavior that are undermining our familial structures (and people want to blame gay marriage?).  Second, we need to push for changes in social norms that condemn domestic violence.  There is never a reason to hit your wife.  There is never an excuse for sexual assault.  Letting society blame and punish women, letting society tell them that they brought it on themselves, is unacceptable.

There are already great organizations working to help the victims of domestic violence, such as My Sister’s Place in Washington, D.C., but the problem is that these organizations only step in AFTER PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY BEEN ABUSED.  And while I am grateful that there are people out there helping women who have been beaten or sexually assaulted, and I am thankful that there are people giving these women a place to stay and helping them get back on their feet, the fact remains that an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.

Incentivize reporting.  Make the legal system punish those who hurt their families.  Stop blaming victims for the crimes perpetrated against them.  Enough is enough.  This is America: we have our voices and we should be screaming that things need to change.  One in four is unacceptable, and we can’t stay silent about it any longer.  Start talking.

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~ by Randi Saunders on October 26, 2011.

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