I’ve spent the last two days in continuing education. One of our speakers was on domestic violence. I am somewhat an expert from decades of helping women escape and trying to convince them that they should escape. It is such a problem in our society that I think it is helpful to review the statistics. They shock even me. Just look at these statistics for the US:
- According to the U.S. Surgeon General, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women in the United States. 95% of the victims of domestic violence are women.
- 35% of all emergency room calls are a result of domestic violence. It is the largest single reason for ER visits by women.
- Of those who abuse their partner, well over 65% also physically and/or sexually abuse the children.
- EVERY day .....4 women and 3 children in the US die as a result of domestic abuse.
- Victimization by domestic violence is usually not a single event. If a woman is abused once, her risk of further abuse is high, and this abuse often becomes not only more frequent over time, but more severe.
- On average, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends in this country EVERY DAY. (Bureau of Justice Statistics Special Report, Intimate Partner Violence and Age of Victim 1993-9, October 2001.)
- A child's exposure to the father abusing the mother is the strongest risk factor for transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. (American Psychological Association, Report of the American Psychological Association Presidential Task Force on Violence and the Family, 1996.)
These statistics are from domesticpeace.com, which has some very good information and links to resources.
I just want to add a few things that the speaker mentioned, which I believe noteworthy:
There is a cycle to domestic violence. Women will almost universally return to their abusers at some point after “official recognition” of the abuse. The average? Nine returns before she finally leaves.
Because of this, domestic abuse counselors offer “safety plans” to try to keep women as safe as possible during these universal returns. These are chilling to me….listen to this, which is my close paraphrase to what the counselor had to say:
We tell our women not to run out into the garage or to the kitchen. There are too many sharp or heavy objects there which can be used as weapons. They are risky places to be. We believe the safest room to be the living room because there are fewer weapons there, and there is access to an escape route.
DO NOT lock yourself in the bathroom. If you have been one who has huddled behind a locked bathroom door, it is a very bad sign. The bathroom is not safe because he will eventually come in on you if he wants to, and there is usually no escape route for you. Also, you have no awareness of what is going on outside the door. If things die down out there, how do you know if he’s just sitting there waiting on you to open the door?
Now, my two-cents’ worth:
I echo the counselor: domestic violence rarely (ever?) gets better. It only gets worse in my estimation. Someone in our class asked this question, “Have you ever seen someone ‘reconcile’ with an abuser successfully, say through counseling?'” Her answer: “It’s possible—but I can honestly say that I have never seen that happen.”
Neither have I. What I have seen is abusers move on to another relationship where they did not appear to abuse, and I don’t know why that is. This is not to excuse abuse—by any means—but perhaps some relationships are just a bad mix. But if you’re in a “bad mix” relationship, you owe it to yourself to get out of it. And, if you have a child, I submit that you have no choice, whatsoever, but to leave.
Finally, here’s what I tell my Mom clients in an abusive relationship:
When you birthed a child you gave up certain rights and privileges. This life is no longer about your sole happiness—it is about the welfare of that baby you brought into the world. Do you want your little girl to grow up to suffer abuse? Do you want your little boy to grow up to disrespect women? Or would you prefer to have him grow up adjusted and be able to live a normal, happy life and make some woman happy in their marriage, providing a harmonious home for your grandchildren?
You need to think about this, because the longer you expose your little one to the fighting (yes, including verbal abuse and discord) or violence, the more engrained these patterns become to your children as norms.
And, here’s another astounding fact: If you leave your child in this stressful situation (even just hearing you scream at each other through their bedroom wall) it can have PHYSICAL effects on their brains’ development. I’m not making this up—too little space to go into this here, but if you leave your child in this situation, you are affecting the hardwiring of his brain and his development. It leads to all kinds of problems.
Remember, Mommy, your child’s fate is largely in your hands. Who else does she/he have to rely on? Please provide her/him with a peaceful home in which to grow up.
And, one last word for the women reading this who say the phrases below:
- We’re different—our relationship is not like those others (for one of a large variety of reasons given);
- I can handle this. I know when to get out and when I can deal with him;
- It’s partially my fault—I pushed his buttons.
- He’s sorry—he loves me—it won’t happen again.
Well, let me say these things: You are no different, honey. Almost every domestic victim says those things above (counselor mentioned this, too). If you have an abusive relationship, don’t wait nine times to leave. Leave NOW. You owe it to yourself, and if you have a child, you owe it to him/her ‘cause it ain’t about you and your abuser any more—it’s about that baby. C