Domestic Violence: When Love Becomes Hurtful
By: Rev. Arlington Pryor, M.Div.
The Statistics on Domestic Violence Are Shocking
Domestic violence occurs in an estimated 4 million intimate relationships each year in the United States. We are now recognizing and dealing with the urgency and severity of domestic violence in cities from coast to coast. The statistics reveal that domestic violence is one of the most important public health problems in our country and it is time that we all address this issue. Consider the following findings:
- The Surgeon General of the United States reports that domestic violence causes more injury to adult women than cancers, heart attacks, or strokes.
- FBI statistics point out that a woman is battered every 15-18 seconds in the United States.
- More than three million children witness domestic violence, and more than four million women are battered to death by their husbands or boyfriends each year.
- Approximately one third of female murder victims in the United States are killed by their husband or boyfriend.
What Is Domestic Violence?
Domestic violence, partner abuse, and battering refer to the physical, emotional, sexual, and psychological abuse, performed by one person against another. The abuser and the victim are involved in or have had an intimate or romantic relationship.
Who Are The Victims?
Domestic violence, including battering, happens in all socioeconomic levels, to urban or rural women, young or old, with child and childless, single, married, divorced – and within all religious, racial, ethnic groups, and geographic locations. Councils On Family Violence has designated domestic violence battering as an “Unreported Epidemic.” It is important to note, that women initiate and carry out physical assaults on their partners as often as men do, according to a 1993 study by Straus and Gelles. However, when it comes to serious physical abuse, women are still overwhelmingly on the receiving end.
The Impact Of Domestic Violence On Women:
More women are injured through domestic violence than by rape, muggings, and car accidents combined. Many pregnant women have been and may be victims of domestic violence abuse. Forced sex or marital rape is the leading type of sexual assault. Yet marital rape or forced sex maybe the most underreported and least legally punished crime of partner abuse because many victims are reluctant to report and file charges against the abuser, for various reasons. The Justice Department’s 1994 National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) found that only about half of the women who suffered domestic violence between 1987 and 1991 reported the abuse to law enforcement authorities.
Domestic Violence and African Americans
African Americans, including African American Women suffer deadly violence from family members at rates decidedly higher than for other racial groups in the United States. However, it is observed that research concerning family violence among African Americans is inadequate.
Factors such as the breakdown of families, unemployment and underemployment, poor schools, inadequate vocational skills and training, bad housing, the influence and use of drugs, and the density of liquor stores in the inner city contribute to the problem of domestic violence. All of these ingredients may compound and coalesce into a strong undercurrent of frustration that can lead to domestic violence.
A Painful Dilemma
Many Black women may find it harder to leave a battering relationship than White women. The reasons for this are unclear, but some possible explanations include the following: (1) African American women have fewer options in their search for a marital partner than do White women; (2) African American women on average, have a lower income level than that of most White women; (3) Black women are reluctant to call the police because they see the racial injustice in the criminal justice system; (4) community support systems including women’s shelters and other service programs may be less available to them and they may view the shelter system movement as something mainly to benefit White women. Unfortunately, many Black women resort to “homicide” as an answer to the violence and battering they encounter.
What You Can Do If You (Or A Friend) Suffers Domestic Violence
- Domestic violence is a Federal crime. Call 911 immediately. This will activate the criminal justice system in regards to your domestic violence abuse and injurious claims. Experts say that women are beaten about five times before they ever dial 911.
- Try to give police all available information and make certain that the police listen and write down your statements and their observations, and direct quotes of what your abuser said while attacking you.
- Never refuse medical evaluations and medical services! Never clean up the house or location after a domestic violence attack, so that critical evidence of harm or injury is not removed. Keep a Polaroid or some type of camera and film on hand to photograph your injuries and any damage to property, etc. Remember, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” and is a good sign of evidence.
- Call domestic violence resource agencies in your community or call the National Domestic Violence hot line at (800) 799-SAFE (7233). This hotline was initiated in 1996 with cooperation from the Justice Department. Through this hotline, a woman anywhere in the United States can be connected to resources to help her get away from her violent abuser.
Consider Obtaining A Protective Order Against Your Abuser
A protective order can be issued by civil and criminal courts against anyone who is a threat to your safety. The 1994 Federal Violence Act against women specifies that protective orders are recognized and enforced from state to state and includes Indian Tribal Reservations. Call the various domestic violence organizations and agencies for information and advice about a protective order.
How Can We As A Community More Effectively Address This Problem?
We must all work together to fight against domestic violence. Churches, corporations, hospitals, and individuals in general must be vigilant about increasing the awareness that domestic violence is a major problem facing our communities. Churches should present sermons, workshops and provide information about domestic violence and sexual violence including rape, child incest and child molestation, and conjugal battery.
Churches should also keep a file of references of therapists who work with victims of domestic and sexual violence and of medical, law enforcement, social services, and other resources that offer help and support. The Church needs to be open and forthright about the reality of domestic and sexual violence and not be silent on these subjects.
Additionally, hospitals and health care providers must be more vigilant in screening for domestic violence. The American Medical Association (AMA) advises doctors and nurses to routinely observe and screen patients in the emergency rooms for signs of domestic violence, and report their findings to proper authorities.
- Domestic and sexual violence is a vicious malady that the African American community must confront, reduce, and eliminate from our lives.
- The ancient Chinese proverb says that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
- You are taking the first step by being informed and aware that domestic violence is a hard reality and no laughing matter for Black women.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 799-SAFE (7233) www.thehotline.org/
African American Domestic Violence Fact Sheet
- Institute on Domestic Violence in the African American Community, University of Minnesota, “Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the African American Community Fact Sheet”
- U.S. Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women www.usdoj.gov/vawo/
- American Bar Association, Commission on Domestic Violence www.abanet.org/domviol/home.html
- Marian Betancourt, “What To Do When Love Turns Violent“, New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers, Inc., 1997
- Maria Hong, “Family Abuse, A National Epidemic”, Springfield, NJ: Enslow Publishers, Inc., 1997
- Cynthia L. Mather, “How Long Does It Hurt?” San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1994
- Susan Murphy-Milano, “Defending Our Lives”, New York: An Anchor Book, published by Doubleday, 1996
- A.E. Sadler, book editor, “Family Violence”, San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1996
- Jan Berliner-Statman, “The Battered Woman’s Survival Guide”, Dallas, TX: Taylor Publishing Company, 1995
- Karin L. Swisher, book editor, “Domestic Violence”, San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1996
- Karin L. Swisher and Carol Wekesser, book editors, “Violence Against Women”, San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1994
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