The amount of domestic violence is increasing, yet the amount of awareness is not.
Domestic Violence: n. violent or aggressive behavior within the home, esp. violent abuse of a partner. (Source: oed.com)
Flat, emotionless words to describe what victims of domestic violence have described as an act that is “egregious,” “hideous,” and “atrocious.”
Whether you realize it or not, the fact is you have probably known someone affected by domestic violence. This person could even be you.
Forget your preconceived notions of who is affected by family violence. The truth is these crimes affect everyone. From 1-day-old babies to the elderly and infirm, males and females, gay, lesbian, straight, black, white, Hispanic, or Asian violence, especially family violence does not discriminate. Even the amount of money a person has in a bank account has no bearing on the status or severity of abuse.
For many years, abusive relationships were swept under the rug, ignored, and went unspoken. Times have changed, and it is getting better, but it is not enough. As long as there is a single person who dies due to this issue, more can, and must, be done.
The question, then, is what do we do about it?
Talk about it. Don’t be afraid to broach the subject for fear of offending someone. Learn what the signs of abuse are and pay attention. In the case of domestic violence, it is better to err on the side of caution. The victim may not thank you today, but once they have broken free of the abuse, they will appreciate that you cared enough to do it.
Help educate the community. Talk about it often, and be serious about it. Find out ways to help someone break free from the abuse, and share that information with others. Recognize the signs of violence, and do not be afraid to share with others what you have learned. Promote domestic violence awareness, and participate in events that attempt to raise awareness. More voices mean the cycle of violence can be disrupted for someone. Organize fundraising events to support domestic violence prevention and awareness.
Call the police, child welfare agency, or other advocacy groups for help if you suspect domestic violence. Despite the efforts of many, this crime continues to be under-reported and is often a matter of shame for the victims. Remember, not all victims have the strength to get out of the situation on their own.
Lobby your congressman to make laws that protect the victims and punish the perpetrators. Don’t accept district attorneys that treat these crimes as unimportant. Write letters, make phone calls, become informed and vote. Make it very difficult for abusers to get away with what they have done; make victims feel safe and secure in reporting crimes. Demand that law enforcement be trained to handle domestic violence issues regardless of race, social class, or sexual orientation.
Volunteer time and money to organizations that support victims. They are often underfunded and understaffed. They can use the help, and you will be giving back to someone who needs it.
Finally, do not participate in entertainment that trivializes the violence. These are serious crimes and not appropriate for comic relief.