What is domestic Violence? Domestic Violence is defined by Merriam-Webster as “The inflicting of physical injury by one family or household member on another; also: a repeated or habitual pattern of such behavior.” According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention more than a quarter of American women suffer from domestic violence. One area of the American culture often linked to domestic violence is the NFL or National Football League, with a good reason. According to a USA Today database, there has been over eighty-seven arrest involving eighty NFL players over the last fourteen years.(Schuppe) Although domestic violence has been a major issue for the last few decades, there has been a renewed awareness courtesy of the Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice.
Ray Rice was arrested and indicted for third-degree aggravated assault earlier last year, but the effects are still lingering and more NFL players have been accused. Rice’s arrest came in regards to an incident where Rice was seen carrying his unconscious wife out of an elevator after he had apparently physical assaulted her. The incident became very prominent after TMZ released a video of the confrontation. In an attempt to remain in public favor the Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract in September of last year. An indefinite suspension from the NFL followed the release of an additional video of the incident, showing Rice assaulting his wife inside an elevator in Atlantic City. However a high profile case like Ray Rice’s can be instrumental in bring about change for domestic violence. Prior to the Ray Rice incident there were no guidelines in place for the National Football League Management Council in regards to domestic violence. Now, according to Goodell, commissioner of the NFL, “a first offense for [“violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force”] will be punishable with a six-game suspension; a second offense will bring a lifetime ban.” (Almasy)
This case would not only initiate a change to the NFL’s policy on assault, it would spark a greater awareness of domestic violence. Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence stated that the Ray Rice scandal has “created a huge public dialogue the likes I’ve never seen in 40 years, So many people are not just revealing that they’ve been victims, but their friends and family are revealing it. That’s just been tremendous because that will make a tremendous difference.”(Ison) While there are some that may say that the media is over sensationalizing this incident, a great public outcry against domestic violence has helped victims become more willing to report the abuse.
Domestic violence moves in a cycle and affects every member of the household even if only one member is actually assaulted. The cycle of violence moves in three common phases. First is the tension phase; during this phase there is an increased amount of tension, anger, and arguing. The second phase is the abuse phase; this is when the actually physical abuse occurs. This can include battering, chocking, sexual abuse, and verbal threats. The final phase is the “Honeymoon” phase this stage may become shorter over time. At this time the abuser may deny the violence, say they were drunk or sorry and promise it will never happen again. (Koenick) This final phase is often the reason women stay in an abusive relation. There is however another domestic violence cycle that allows for the continuants of violence through the generations, this is the victim-to-victimizer’ cycle. This cycle refers to when an individual who either experienced abuse or witnessed violence between their parents, abuse their children or spouse as an adult. (Koenick) According to multiply studies men who as children witnessed their parents’ domestic violence were twice as likely to abuse their own wives as sons of nonviolent parents. (Yount) This shows that unless a link in this cycle is broken the abuse will continue through the family members.
In the United State the abuse is commonly focused toward the women in the relationship, however a man can be the one who is being abused. Yet the simple fact is that every nine seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten and most of those women will never report the abuse. (Haugen) According to the National Crime Victimization Survey 85 percent of domestic violence victims were women and that half of those females reported injuries while only 32 percent of male victims reported any injuries.(Yount) Unfortunately 72% of people that are killed by violent partners are women and even those who gain the courage to leave the relationship are still at risk for violence.(Haugen) In a recent study it was found that women who leave an abusive partner are at a 75 percent greater chance to be murder by said partner in retaliation.(Haugen) The most unfortunate aspect is that many people hold stigmas toward domestic violence similar to those who believe a girl who was raped was “asking for it” causing many women to avoid reporting incidents of abuse in fear of being disregarded. According to reports compiled from 10 countries, 55 percent to 95 percent of women who had been physically abused by their partners never contacted domestic violence protection organizations, shelters, or the police for help in fear that they would not be believed due to the public opinion on domestic violence. (Koenick) Unfortunately by remaining in this relationship any children involved will continue to suffer just as much as the physical victim.
The Simmons School of Social Work in Boston, Massachusetts preformed a 25 year study of 400 Massachusetts residents and found that family conflict and violence took a heavier troll on the teens’ mental health than a divorce. (Yount) This is very discerning considering studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually. (Glenn) Of course experiencing violence as a child affects each child differently, there is however some common traits found among the different genders. Young boys that were exposed to domestic violence may channel their feelings into aggressive acts including fighting, hitting siblings, and engaging in high-risk behaviors such as joining gangs or using drugs. Many will also suffer from suicidal thoughts, depression, emotional and behavior problems, and show symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. While girls will usually express this stress through sexually promiscuous or drug abuse, they will also commonly have lower grade and high alcohol consumption than girls who have not experienced abuse.(Yount) Even if the children are not the one receiving the physical abuse they still suffer physiologically from the tension inside the household and which can cause problems later in life.
Violence can however be found outside of spouses, according to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center 21% of college students reported dating violence by a current partner. (Milkovich) College students face a variety of obstacles when trying to escape an abusive relationship leaving them to feel trapped with nowhere to turn. Students are often isolated from their support networks since they are away from home for the first time or they fear their parents will remove them from school if they learn of the abusive relationship. As well many student are afraid of seeking help in fear of retaliation from the abuser, according to a 2007 survey 42% of college women that were stalked were done so by either a boyfriend or former boyfriend. (Milkovich)Stalking and physical abuse are not the only issue faced by female college student, sexual assault and rape are also common in a violence relationship. Nearly a quarter of female students have experienced a sexual assault during their college career, and 60% of acquaintance rapes that occurred on a college campus where in casual or dating relationships.(Milkovich) Although students in violent relationship often struggle with finding a way out there are many law and programs that are in place to protect the victim.
Over the years there have been laws and government programs setup to assist victims of domestic violence. Laws have been created to deal with violence against women including physical violence, stalking, marital rape, and threats. In order to help protect women from physical violence the government created the Violence against Women Act in 1994. This act recognized the dangers of domestic violence and created a way to prosecute offenders. (Groban) Then in an effort to counter violence, threats and stalking the government began providing domestic protection orders for victims. In 2001 there were 13,000 restraining orders issued for domestic violence victims just in New Jersey. (Groban) Then in 2003 the federal government made it a felony for anyone named in a domestic violence protection order to own a firearm in response to the office of justice programs in the department of justices reported that 40% of women killed with a firearm was by an intimate partner. (Groban) Although there have been many advances in protecting domestic violence victims there are still many problems in the systems that need to be worked through.
Domestic violence is often one of those hushed up issues, the kind of issue that is not talked about in “mixed company”. Staying quiet however, will not solve the problem. In order to make a difference two things are necessary. First it must be understood that Domestic violence is a serious matter and it should be treated as such. There should never be jokes made about domestic violence or justification of the abuser, in that “She had it coming”. Second people must be made aware that Domestic violence is an issue that reaches every corner of society. The month of October is Domestic violence awareness month, during this month there are many events held to raise awareness for Domestic violence. One of the largest events held is “A Walk a Mile in Her Shoes.” where men wear heels and walk laps to raise money for domestic violence shelters. Late this October Chowan was host to “A Walk in Her Shoes” event sponsored by the Alpha Sigma Tau sorority, Criminal Justice club and the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity incorporated. At the event participates walked around Squirrel Park wearing donated heels while carrying signs and banners with Domestic violence statistics. In an extra effort of support of Domestic violence awareness toiletry items were collected then donated to the Roanoke Chowan SAFE program. The Roanoke Chowan SAFE Program provides Support Groups for Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Victims, a 24-Hour Crisis Line, Counseling, Emergency Transportation, Food, and Medical Assistance. There are other small ways to support Domestic violence awareness. When upgrading to a new phone donate the old one to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence takes old phones refurbish them, resell them, and then use the money to help support their domestic violence programs. Something as small as donating an old phone or some travel-size toiletries can make a big difference to someone living in an abusive home. The greatest effort we can put into preventing domestic violence is educating our youth. A better-informed generation has a more probable chance at overcoming the situation.
Domestic violence is not a sideline issue; it is a national forefront issue that needs the full attention and respect of the nation. There is no place in a civilized society for the senselessness of domestic violence to continue on an account it makes some uncomfortable or they lack an understanding of the issue. Author and Harvard professor, Steven Pinker wrote “Human nature is complex. Even if we do have inclinations toward violence, we also have inclination to empathy, to cooperation, to self-control.” Pinker is trying to tell us that even though we naturally lean toward violence we can chose to control that primitive urge and be a civilized contributing member of society. So in the fight for awareness on domestic violence do a little or do a lot just do something.
Author, Jessica Staley
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