October is domestic violence awareness month! Yet, after decades of working to end violence against women and hold offenders accountable, our work is not yet done. We honor those harmed by, and bring awareness to, the issue of intimate partner violence—domestic violence (DV) or sexual violence because violence against women is serious!
Don’t assume you know what’s happening in your community. We need to make sure we really know by asking victims. While the total number of DV victims and offenders has trended lower over the past 10 years, the total number of African American victims and offenders has each increased, while white victims and offenders have each decreased. African American victims of DV are more likely than persons in any other racial category to sustain severe injury and have twice the rate of severe lacerations and internal injuries when compared with the entire population .
Myths and Facts of Domestic Violence:
Question: Does domestic violence affect many people?
- A woman is beaten every nine seconds
- The American Medical Association (AMA) and FBI estimate 3-4 million women are battered every year in the U.S.
- The FBI estimates violence will occur during the course of 2/3rds of all marriages.
- In 2011, black women were murdered at a rate 2.5 times higher than white women — 2.61 per 100,000 compared to 0.99 per 100,000 respectively.
- Each week, nine women are shot to death by their intimate partner or husband.
Domestic violence is best understood as a pattern of abusive behaviors — including physical, sexual, and psychological attacks as well as economic coercion — used by one intimate partner against another (adult or adolescent) to gain, maintain, or regain power and control in the relationship
However, our society does not understand that domestic violence is a choice and solely the responsibility of the batterer. Thus, most people have a difficult time thinking of battering as a choice, and describe batterers as “losing it”. But we all make decisions to meet our own needs. Battering is no different.
Dynamics of Domestic Violence:
Women describe how their partners skillfully use one tactic another to get what they want. Specifically:
- Some batterers go ‘only’ as far as emotional abuse, isolation or intimidation.
- Some will choose to control economic resources or threaten physical harm to the victim, her children, or loved ones.
- Some ultimately choose violence to get what they want, and the underlying threat of physical violence affects every aspect of a relationship.
Domestic Violence is really about power and control—by any means necessary!
Most people primarily think of DV as primarily physical abuse, however, one can be abused without being hit. And yes, she is a victim of DV even if you cannot see her bruises!
So, what can I do?
Become an Active Bystander. Understanding that a bystander is a witness – someone who sees a situation but may or may not know what to do. This person sees and does nothing, thinking others around them will act, or they may simply be afraid to act. However, an active bystander is an individual whose behavior impacts the outcome positively. An active bystander:
- Does- Interrupt demeaning language, name calling and sexist jokes.
- Does- Model healthy communication.
- Does –Serve as a positive role model to youth and teens.
- Does- Lead by example by serving on boards that support resources for domestic violence victims.
- Does- Attend trainings to become more educated on the prevention of domestic violence.
- Does- Ask the suspected victim safety questions when they are not in view of the suspected abuser:
- Do you feel safe in your relationship?
- Should I be concerned for your safety?
- Are there situations in your relationship where you have felt afraid?
- Would family or friends be able to help support you?
- Do you have a safe place to go in an emergency?
- Would you be willing to talk to a crisis line to develop an emergency safety plan?
An Active Bystander– Does not engage the abuser on behalf of the victim without proper support systems. Otherwise, your actions can result in escalated violence against the victim.
Remember, everyone has a role to play in bringing safety to our community, our homes, and our children. Our families are our foundation. It is our own cultural knowledge, in combination with our awareness of the dynamics of power and control that will hold the abuser accountable, empower the victim and unify the community.
The difference is made in the small steps we take each day, by believing the violence exists; offering support and resources to our families, friends and church or community members; and being open to learning about that which makes us uncomfortable.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-7233. Someone is willing to help!