October is Domestic Violence Awareness month across the nation. This offers a platform for discussing a widespread problem that affects millions of men and women each year. It is a serious problem that knows no prejudice; it happens in all types of relationships including all socioeconomic levels, cultural, religions and genders. It is estimated that the financial cost exceeds 58 billion dollars per year and the emotional costs spans generations.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics Office of Justice Programs, 1 in 4 women during their life will experience some form of domestic violence in their lifetime and every 1 in 3 women who are a victim of homicide is murdered by their partner. Every year over 4 million women experience assault and/or rape by their partner 3 million children witness the abuse happening. Men are also victims of domestic violence but women are more likely to be hospitalized due to physical damage and are more likely to report the abuse. While these numbers are alarming, all forms of domestic violence and assault are largely under reported.
Domestic violence is not an issue of poor anger management skills, it is really a crime about power and control. Most people relate it to physical abuse which is often present but the psychological, emotional and sexual abuses that are also present are just as damaging.
Those who are abusers have a high need for control and want to feel in charge. They tend to dominate their partner through fear, guilt, shame and intimidation. These include name calling, threatening to hurt children, animals or other family members. They often yell, smash things, or put weapons on display. They may control the finances, are generally jealous and keep their partner isolated from family and friends. The abusers tend to blame others for their emotions and mistakes. Abusers tend to be jealous and possessive; viewing their partner as a possession.
This emotional abuse continuously chips away at the victim’s self-worth and independence. Survivors of domestic violent relationships often suffer with anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, flash backs and emotional distress. Victims feel trapped and helpless. They are generally financially dependent, have little support and fear for their own lives as well as the lives of their children.
If you suspect someone you know is living in an abusive relationship do ask them if something is wrong, express concern, listen and validate their feelings and concerns. Do not wait for them to ask for help. Do not judge or blame the victim for remaining in the relationship or place conditions on them. Support their decisions and offer help.
If you are a victim of any form of abuse, there is help available. There are places that can help you and your children. Friends and family will often support you if you tell them the truth of the situation. Do not feel guilty or blame yourself for the situation. It is not your fault. Counselors can help make you make a plan, recover from the negative effects and begin healing. You don’t have to do it alone.
National Domestic Violence Hot Line 1-800-799-SAFE