In Which It Becomes Really Obvious We Need to Discuss DV

I’m just going to start you off with a list of things people I know were told about domestic violence this weekend:

“People can just work through it in therapy”

“Sometimes it’s better to be abused than to lose someone”

“If it were really that bad, they would just make it stop”

Take a look at those statements.  The fact that people are still saying things like that makes me think that we need to have a serious conversation about domestic violence.  A couple things to keep in mind: 1) domestic violence is a systemic problem based on power dynamics and the ways in which they play out, often along gendered lines and 2) though I may often refer to the male-abuser-female-victim model because it is the most common, men CAN and ARE victims of abuse in many cases and abuse can also occur in same-sex couples.  The experiences of these groups are not meant to be discounted by the fact that some of my examples are based on the more generalized power dynamic.

That said, according to the Bureau of Justice Statisticseighty-five percent of domestic violence survivors are women. The Commonwealth Fund reports that one in three women will be the victim of some form of domestic or intimate partner violence at some point in her life.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics also reports that women age 20-24 are at the greatest risk for nonfatal intimate partner violence.  Intimate partner violence is one of the primary sources of violence against women, and one of the largest contributors to homicides in which women are the victim.  In 2011, 70% of fatal intimate partner violence were women (source: US Centers for Disease Control).

At the same time, domestic violence is one of the most under-reported crimes in the country.  While this makes it difficult to collect accurate information about its incidence, the reasons for non-reporting are pretty important.  First, victims of domestic violence may be afraid that speaking up or reporting their perpetrator could put them in danger.  They may be afraid of retaliation by their partner if they draw attention to the situation, or may have been issued death threats if they tell anyone what is going on.  Second, victims of domestic violence may be afraid to lose their perpetrator, as their perpetrator may be a source of financial support or perceived protection against other threats.  Recognize that domestic violence and intimate partner violence are unique in that a special relationship exists between the victim and the perpetrator, and that relationship may present a barrier to reporting in and of itself.  Third, people may fear the way that people will perceive them if they report domestic violence.  They may be afraid to admit that their marriage has failed or to present themselves as a victim.  This is particularly true of male victims of domestic violence, who fear being emasculated or who worry that they will not be taken seriously due to our cultural norms surrounding masculinity.

While the prevalence of this issue is often underestimated, so is its severity.  I already mentioned that there are a number of fatalities involved with intimate partner violence, but I think that’s an issue that deserves to be discussed a little further.  Domestic violence advocates are trained to ask victims whether or not there is a gun in their home, because a domestic violence victim is seven times more likely to be murdered if his/her abuser has access to a gun.  In fact, the Violence Policy Center reports that women killed by their intimate partners are more likely to be killed by a gun than any other means.  (If you’re at all interested in this issue, definitely follow the VPC link and read the report, it’s all online.)  Even when it’s not fatal, however, domestic violence can have serious repercussions: the Commonwealth Fund reported that more women are injured due to domestic violence than any other cause, and DV is one of the primary reasons for emergency room visits by women in the United States.  Survivors of DV often suffer from conditions such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

My point?  Domestic violence is a pretty freaking serious issue.  It can’t “just be worked through”, and people living in conditions where they are afraid for their lives can’t “put their foot down” or “just make the abuse stop”.  It is a complicated and sometimes delicate issue, yes, but it is a serious issue nevertheless.  Thousands of men and women are injured, psychologically traumatized, and/or killed every year in the United States, and it’s time that we as a society started asking some serious questions about why this is the case and how we can fix it.

I don’t want to go off on another political rant about VAWA, but that law is one of the few things that our country has done that HAS made a difference, so please, if you haven’t done so already (heck, even if you have done so already), contact your representative and remind him/her that VAWA needs to be reauthorized.

But laws and programmatic funding aside, we as a society need to have a real conversation about what domestic violence is, why it is so common, and how we can start to have meaningful change.  The US has the highest incidence of violence against women of any industrialized country.  This is a systemic problem, and quite frankly, the men and women of this country-~-and of this world-~-deserve better than to be battered, beaten and broken by those they love and trust.


~ by Randi Saunders on February 17, 2013.

2 Responses to “In Which It Becomes Really Obvious We Need to Discuss DV”

  1. This is fantastic and I am excited to reblog. I am a survivor and I remember some things about being in court with my abuser.
    1-DYFS (ie child “protective services”) blamed me for not leaving
    2-The WOMAN judge removed my no contact order given to me by a previous MALE judge
    3- How my abuser was told he just needs some anger management-which I tried to explain to the WOMAN judge that he manages his anger quite well-he just manages it towards ME!
    Every day I was with him, I thought it would be my last on earth. I have been safe since he is incarcerated but when he gets out, I know all those fears will be back.
    DV is a serious issue and it is not to be taken lightly. Thank you for writing such a true and informative post.

  2. Reblogged this on The left side and commented:
    Please share with everyone and anyone

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