Domestic Violence Awareness month spurred cities across the country to get the word out about the topic. It’s one that many people are uncomfortable talking about even though when polled, 50% respond that they know someone who they suspect is in an abusive relationship. In fact, domestic violence is so common that 1 in 4 women will experience it during her lifetime.
As you’ve read in our other articles, domestic violence happens in all financial brackets, education levels, races and religions. It’s inaccurate to think that in your gated, groomed and wealthy community it isn’t going on. Shockingly in this day and age, even in a metropolitan city full of well-educated individuals, domestic violence in New York City is the main cause of female murders. In 2011, 54% of all murders of women were related to this type of abuse while in 2012 the numbers actually increased to 68%. The state of Texas has also released new numbers that reveal an increase in fatalities due to domestic violence. In 2011, 102 women were killed while in 2012 the number went up to 114 in that state.
Many people are afraid to get involved and help out friends, family or coworkers who are living under these conditions because they are afraid to embarrass or upset them further, or even get hurt themselves. The reality is that women and children involved in domestic abuse are usually scared for their own safety. They go along with it because they don’t want to instigate more aggression from their partner, or they believe that it’s actually their fault, or they are financially strapped and don’t feel like they have a strong enough support network to get them away and through this situation safely. The reality is that it’s not a simple task to pick up and leave when there are children, pets and security to consider.
As friends or loved ones, there are things we can do to help! Some of them include:
1. Don’t judge.
2. Start the conversation and provide a safe, honest environment for her to open up.
3. Don’t criticize her for staying in the situation, but offer concrete, realistic ideas to help her get out.
4. Encourage her to seek assistance from a local domestic violence agency.
5. Focus on her strengths to help build her self-esteem.
6. Reassure her that it’s not her fault!
7. Reassure her that you are available for support.
8. If you witness an assault, don’t overlook it. Call the police!
In order for domestic abuse deaths to decrease, we must do more to recognize the signs, educate ourselves and turn in offenders to law enforcement. The legal ramifications for the offender differ from state to state, but in general the court will at least temporarily restrain the person accused from being around family members. If the court determines there is adequate proof, they will most likely assign a permanent restraining order, issue monetary fines, require the completion of a 52 week batterer’s treatment program and even assign some prison time. In extreme cases, individuals can lose their immigration status, lose the right to possess a firearm, lose the right to collect spousal support, lose the right to child custody or visitation and lose the right to work in certain fields like childcare, education or to sell real estate. If you know someone who is hurting, you might be the one to help save a life. Reach out today.