In the Spring 2009 issue of Her Journey we touched on the issue of domestic violence with the help and wisdom of Sil Lai Abrams, a survivor of domestic violence turned woman empowerment coach. Recent events in the media have shown us that domestic violence is certainly an issue that hits closer to home. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Her Journey has accepted it as part of our responsibility to support this movement.
Domestic abuse is an issue that gets sympathy but remains insignificant until it affects you personally. However, as distant as it may seem, it is important to protect yourself and those around you from it before it has the opportunity to get too close for comfort.
First, knowing exactly how to define domestic abuse can diminish common misconceptions and better prepare you to identify it before falling victim to it.
According to helpguide.org domestic abuse “occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person [sometimes using] fear, guilt, shame, and intimidation to wear you down and gain complete power over you.”
- It’s not domestic abuse if he doesn’t hit you.
Abuse comes in many forms, including verbal (name calling), emotional and sexual, all warning signs of what could eventually become physical.
- It is only domestic abuse if you are married.
Abusive behavior in any intimate relationship, boyfriend/girlfriend, same-sex, etc., is domestic abuse and should not be tolerated. Domestic abuse can even occur after a relationship has ended.
- Only women can be victims of domestic abuse.
Although it is more common and severe for female victims, men, too, can be victims of domestic abuse.
Okay, now we know exactly what it is, but how serious is it?
The National Domestic Violence Hotline website shares several startling statistics:
- According to CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey 2005, 1 in 4 women in the U.S. are victims of domestic abuse at some point in their lives
- 1 out of 3 women around the world has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
What struck an even deeper nerve was finding out that:
- Liz Claiborne Inc. Teen Relationship Abuse Survey 2006 reported that 14% of teens said they would do almost anything to keep a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- 20% of those who have been in a serious relationship have been hit, slapped, or pushed by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
- 1 in 5 female high school students reports being physically and/or sexually abused by a dating partner. Abused girls are significantly more likely to get involved in other risky behaviors. They are 4 to 6 times more likely to get pregnant and 8 to 9 times more likely to have tried to commit suicide.
These statistics could make your heart stop:
- According to the CDC Adverse Health Conditions and Health Risk Behaviors Associated with Intimate Partner Violence - United States 2005, each year, IPV results in an estimated 1,200 deaths and 2 million injuries among women and nearly 600,000 injuries among men.
An abusive relationship can be a very difficult situation to escape, which is why it is terribly important to prevent it from onset.
- The simplest rule: if you are unhappy in a relationship, it is not for you. (I’m not implying that all unhappy situations will result in domestic abuse, but if you are unhappy, you need to reevaluate the relationship.
- Be aware of the warning signs:
- What kind of relationship did he witness? Many abusers witnessed domestic abuse among their own parents.
- How does he handle anger? Men are naturally more aggressive than women, but it is important that he know how to handle that anger properly.
- Persistence and disregard for what you say may seem like insignificant details in the beginning but are signs of someone who will do what they have to to get what they want.
Don’t making excuses for him:
- “He loves me. He just has a bad temper.” “It’s not his fault. His dad was abusive.” “He needs me. He’s hurting.” His pain is not your problem to mend, especially if he’s hurting you/not at the cost of your own well-being.
- “He’ll hurt me if I try to leave” But he’ll hurt you if you stay, repeatedly. It may be difficult and intimidating to leave but you can find support that is greater than him.
- “He promised it won’t happen again.” I would only advise considering giving him a second (and only a second, not third) chance after professional help.
- According to Allstate Foundation National Poll on Domestic Violence 2004, 3 out of 4 (74%) respondents personally know someone who is or has been a victim of domestic violence.
- 1 in 3 teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been hit, punched, slapped, choked or physically hurt by his/her partner.
If your friend is in an unhealthy situation, you need to snap her out of her blissful fantasy and encourage her to find her own strength to leave.
The relief of leaving the situation will be a victorious feeling like no other, but I do advise seeking professional assistance to help you to love yourself, your friends, loved ones and another again. Now I’m not telling you to write the next Diary of a Mad Black Woman or reenact Jennifer Lopez’s character in Enough, but I strongly encourage self-defense to keep yourself protected.
There are ample resources for information and support:
For the entire month of October, Jewish Women International blog will be sharing stories of those who have survived and overcome domestic abuse.