20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence)
Following last Monday’s brutal shooting at a San Bernardino elementary school that left a teacher, Ms. Karen Smith and a student dead, many are left trying to make sense of the senseless killing. Jonathan Martinez was only 8 years old and is described by his relatives as “Our family angel”. He had spent his short life living with Williams syndrome, a genetic condition characterized by a series of medical problems, including heart disease, developmental delays, learning disabilities, kidney issues and hypertension. His life was cut short at the very place where he had hoped to seek solace.
It would be nice to think of the San Bernardino shooting as an isolated incident of IPV; unfortunately as we all know it, it’s not.
Every year, thousands of individuals in the United States experience Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Too many times, American families have had to wake up to domestic violence tragedies that ‘no one saw coming’. Other times it has happened to people who ‘seemed to have it all’ or in homes that ‘seemed perfect’.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced physical violence or some form of IPV by an intimate partner, at some point in their lifetime.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) describes Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) as physical violence, sexual violence, stalking and psychological aggression (including coercive acts) by a current or former intimate partner.
Domestic violence occurs everywhere to people of all ages and from diverse socio-economic, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Between 2003 and 2012, domestic violence accounted for 21% of all violent victimization in the US. Vast majority of the cases were against women and were committed by intimate partners.
The smallest among us, children, are often the ‘silent victims’ caught up in the line of IPV fiery. In everyday lives, adults routinely assume that little children don’t have the capability to ‘detect’ when violence occurs-that as a result, they are not affected by it. Such assumptions are flawed and offer inaccurate conclusions.
The far-reaching effects of violence on children are real and can sometimes have long-term consequences that carry over into adulthood.
In “Addressing Domestic Violence Against Women: An Unfinished Agenda”, authors Ravneet and Suneela outline some of the effects of IPV on children: That children and teens who grow up with domestic violence in the household are likely to use violence at school or community in response to perceived threats, attempt suicide, use drugs, commit crimes including sexual assault, become abusers later in life and use violence to enhance their reputation and self-esteem.
In addition, IPV victims have greater risks of physical and emotional harm, diseases, mental health disorders and death. The economic losses associated with domestic violence are believed to be in billions of dollars. CDC categorizes such losses in terms of medical and mental health care costs, lost wages and loss of lives. For poor and low income victims, the ramifications extend beyond interferences with accessibility to basic human needs and may sometime result in homelessness.
The smallest among us, children, are often the ‘silent victims’ of IPV fiery
Most Americans are protected by both federal and state domestic laws that allow them to seek relief in civil and criminal courts. In 1994, US Congress passed the ‘Violence Against Women Act’ ("VAWA"). According to US Department of Justice, this Act, and the 1996, 2000 and 2005 additions to the Act, recognizes that domestic violence is a national crime and that federal laws can help an overburdened state and local criminal justice system. In 1994, 1996, and 2005, Congress also passed changes to the Gun Control Act making it a federal crime in certain situations for domestic abusers to possess guns.
Despite the laws, the rates and severity of IPV continue unabated. Underreporting of cases remains a major deterrence especially in instances where victims are in fear of unforeseeable future consequences.
Financial instability and parenthood are just a few of the reasons individuals may resort to staying in abusive homes rather than seek help elsewhere. Other times, the help seem limiting, rather temporary and unpromising. The limited resource availability for domestic violence causes means that only limited number of victims can be afforded help and support-services at any given time.
Today’s tech-savvy teens especially those actively involved in social media, are particularly at risk of dating violence and poor IPV reporting. In Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) communities where victims are afraid of ‘coming out’, in immigrant communities where fear of deportations run high and in elderly and disable demographic groups where there is fear of retribution from caregivers or family members, underreporting of cases is seen as a major challenge.
Today, VAWA can be credited for helping increase the nation’s response to domestic and sexual violence, however a lot needs to be done.
Domestic violence has no place in our 21 century. It is an anachronistic practice that bears not a whiff of resemblance to any constitutive element of a civil society. It doesn’t belong in any generation of human race-it must therefore be condemned in the strongest way possible.
Refined strategies, increased resources, guidelines and practices to improve domestic violence reporting, prioritized judicial response to IPV and collective community interventions, are all integral in preventing domestic violence.
“Silence becomes cowardice when occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly” (Mahatma Gandhi)
For Help: Call National Domestic Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)