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Fight Against Domestic Abuse

There’s very little you can say about the issue of domestic abuse that is remotely positive in nature. Except this: there is help out there. Resources are available at the national and local levels, and with over 13,700,000 search engine hits on the keywords of “Domestic Abuse Resources,” there is plenty of education available with only a few keystrokes. One reason for this massive front-line defense against the tragedy of domestic abuse is the fact that it touches the lives of over 32 million Americans each year, which is over 10 percent of the entire population. Gaze down any tranquil street and consider what might be happening behind more than one out of every ten doors, and the magnitude of the issue clarifies. This isn’t a tide that is easily stemmed through prevention, as the causes run deep within the psyche of offenders, who may not seem otherwise likely of being abusive. The best prevention is intolerance, both by abusers as well as the community, which means the preponderance of available resources point toward victims as much or more than perpetrators.

Domestic abuse is most commonly thought of as some form of physical violence against a woman, usually at the hands of a man (in the U.S., a woman is six times more likely to suffer abuse at the hands of a partner as a man). One out of five criminal cases involving women as victims are domestic in nature. But while this is indeed the most common profile, abuse takes many forms, including verbal and emotional abuse, abuse of men at the hands of women, and the abuse of children at the hands of adults. Each dark corner of the problem is defined by separate issues, all of them complex and pervasive in a society that likes to keep its dirty little secrets hidden as much as possible. Exacerbating the problem is the tendency of victims to cover for and actually protect those who abuse them, either fearing further violence or abandonment, which in their eyes is worse than the abusive behavior itself. Abuse often comes in patterns which associate with trigger events and addictions, such as alcohol or drugs. Sometimes the abuse takes a sexual turn, which in the case of children summons the attention of law enforcement and child services without compromise or negotiation.

The response to domestic abuse is a complex issue, one that manifests in many forms. Most neighborhoods experience the occasional visit by uniformed officers in a patrol car, sometimes involving nothing more than a calming chat by officers, other times requiring an arrest to defuse the moment. If children are involved immediate action is always taken, with thorough follow-through by local child services professional counselors. But too often the abusive pattern is tolerated by the victim until something snaps, either figuratively in the form of an emotional breakdown, or literally in the form of a broken bone or injury. Counseling is a common response, one often coexisting with police intervention and a court mandate, and when chosen as a remedy one should ensure that the counselor specializes in abusive situations.

If you suspect someone you know is a victim of domestic abuse, don’t hesitate to provide support, either in the form of counsel or an offer to intervene. Victims need more than a shoulder upon which to cry, they need a voice of reason and courage. Make sure the telephone numbers of local resources are on hand, and encourage the victim to summon the courage and the means to claim their right to safety. If the abuse is emotional and therefore beyond the purview of law enforcement, the victim is nonetheless threatened and entitled to protection and counsel, which local support groups and medical professionals can supply.

If you suspect someone you know is being abused, or if you are the victim of domestic abuse, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233, which will refer you to local resources for immediate help. Or call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673. Both numbers are available 24-hours, seven days a week.

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