--not just a private tragedy, but a societal problem
What is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence occurs between intimate partners, in both current and former romantic relationships, whether cohabiting or not, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation of the couple. Women are significantly more likely to be the victims of partner abuse than men in heterosexual relationships. Domestic violence is characterized by patterned, repetitive acts of dominance and coercion, utilizing various tactics (threats and intimidation, social isolation, controlling behavior, economic and sleep deprivation, imprisonment; and physical, sexual, emotional, economic, verbal, and psychological abuse) to demonstrate power and control over the other partner.
How common is it?
A study published by Johns Hopkins School of Public Health undertook the task of documenting the international prevalence of domestic violence. In roughly 50 population-based surveys from around the world, the Center for Health and Gender Equity found:
- 1 in every 3 women worldwide has been beaten, raped, or otherwise physically abused.
- between 10% and 50% of women report having been physically assaulted by an intimate male partner at some point in their lives.
- These are not isolated events, however; 60% of the women sampled had been repeatedly abused.
- physical violence was often combined with psychological and sexual abuse in one-third to over one-half of the cases. (Heise, Ellsberg & Goettemoeller, 1999).
Morbidity attributed to interpersonal violence is appallingly high:
- An estimated 4 million women per year seriously assaulted by an intimate partner during an average year (American Psychological Association, 1996).
- Victims of domestic violence suffer broken bones, bruises, miscarriages, still births, unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, paralysis, deafness, and blindness from the abuse they’ve endured.
- Domestic violence injuries result in 21,000 hospitalizations, 99,800 inpatient treatment days, 28,700 emergency room visits, and 39,000 medical office visits (Loring & Smith, 1994).
Mortality of intimate abuse is even more distressing:
- In 1994, over 1300 women were murdered by their husbands or boyfriends (U.S. Department of Justice, 1995).
- 6 out of every 10 female murder victims in America are killed by someone they know—about half of them by a spouse or an intimate (Kellerman & Mercy, 1992).
- Among all female murder victims in 1997, 29% were killed by husbands or boyfriends (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1997).
Domestic violence in the gay/lesbian community
- half a million gay men are battered annually, according to conservative estimates (Island & Lettelier, 1991).
- the severity and prevalence of abuse among lesbians mirrors that in heterosexual relationships (Coleman, 1997).
Domestic violence affects all of society, not just the victims
Costs to society from domestic violence are phenomenal:
- total medical costs for treatment of injuries directly attributable to domestic violence exceeds $44 million (Loring and Smith, 1994).
- Domestic violence is a major cause of homelessness: 50% of homeless women and children in one county were fleeing their abusive homes (Burstein & Woodsmall, 1987).
- Lifetime costs paid by society for assault victims is estimated at $96 billion. (Miller, Cohen & Rossman, 1993).
Domestic violence costs employers, too:
- estimates state average long-term productivity losses at $476 per victim for each physical assault.
- Workplace productivity losses per homicide average $610,000. (Miller, Cohen & Rossman, 1993).
- Employers can be found liable for negligence if they do not take proactive steps to protect the victim of domestic violence as well as the co-workers who are endangered if the perpetrator comes to the worksite
What can you do to help a victim of domestic violence?
If you see someone being abused,
- Don’t ignore it—but don’t get physically involved, either. You could get hurt.
- Instead, call 911. Let the police handle it safely.
If someone you care about (a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor) is a victim of domestic violence,
- Don’t give advice, like telling them to leave (it’s not nearly as simple an undertaking as it sounds); instead, tell them that you care about them and are concerned about their safety.
- Link the victim to services. He or she may or may not want to use them right away, but knowing what resources are available gives them options to act when they are ready.
- Remind them that they are not at fault. Usually the abuser will try to blame it on the victim—but no one deserves to be abused, regardless of their behavior.
If you don’t know what services are available in your community, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE.