Domestic Violence Awareness Month
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is also known as intimate partner violence. It is important to understand the frequency, the why, and the how of this pervasive issue to fight against it.
Statistically, the most dangerous place a woman can be is in her home. The most dangerous people
they can be around are intimate partners. Intimate partner violence impacts twice as many women as breast cancer, with 25-35% of couples engaging in some sort of violence. Domestic violence can include physical, sexual, or emotional and mental harm inflicted on someone by a current or former intimate partner. National domestic violence hotlines receive an average of 20,000 calls a day.
Intimate partner violence does not just affect women. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience a severe level of violence. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. A typical victim is young, unemployed, has minimal education, and cohabitates with their partner, however, this type of violence impacts people across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Common risk factors in abusers are gun ownership, verbally threatening a partner’s life, choking during fights, excessive jealousy, cruelty to animals, rigid views of gender roles, and a history of abuse in the perpetrator’s life. Abusers often try take control of various aspects of the victims’ lives, for example: with whom they communicate, how they dress, and finances. Intimate partner violence is often cyclical. Lenore E. Walker, founder of the Domestic Violence Institute, described the cycle theory of violence as having the following steps: the tension building phase (in which the abuser begins to escalate their behaviors), the explosion or acute battering phase, and the loving respite phase (sometimes referred to as love bombing).
A prevalent question in conversations about intimate partner violence is why do victims stay? Why don’t they just leave the abusive situation? The answer, much like the abuse itself, is multifaceted. First, leaving an abuser is the most dangerous and potentially fatal time for a victim. Studies of men who have killed their wives found either separations or threats of separation were the events that lead to the murder. Second, things are more complicated when children are involved. Victims are aware of the difficulties of single parenthood or may fear losing custody of their children – they may even fear the abuser will hurt their children if they try to leave. Finally, a lack of resources will hinder the ability to leave the situation. Victims are often drained of any financial resources and may be isolated from support systems that would be able to help. They may not have anywhere to go and face homelessness if they leave. Reader, please keep in mind this is by no means a comprehensive list.
If you would like to help fight domestic violence, a great place to start is your local domestic violence shelter. You can find a directory of shelters in Wisconsin at this link: https://www.domesticshelters.org/help/wi. You have the option of volunteering, donating, or providing financial support. For education and to offer financial support, the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence is a great resource (https://ncadv.org). If you cannot volunteer or donate, simply educating yourself and being vocal about these issues is helpful. You never know who may be listening and needs the support.
If you are being abused: you are not alone and there is help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline can be reached at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). You can also dial 2-1-1 to be connected with the United Way, or visit 211unitedway.org. They will ask for your age, gender, and what support you are seeking. They can connect you with resources in the community. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (https://ncadv.org) has an excellent list of resources to set up a comprehensive safety plan to leave your situation.
Sources National Coalition Against Domestic Violence Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology by Andrew Karmen (2016)