October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month – a time to learn more about an epidemic that affects at least one out of every three women in the United States.
We often think of domestic violence as something that happens somewhere else, to someone else. We know that abuse is wrong, but we often know very little about what causes it, how it happens, or what we can do to stop it. To help dispel the many myths about this epidemic, here are ten surprising facts about domestic violence.
- Domestic violence causes more than broken bones and black eyes – it is a very serious, and often deadly, crime. In the United States, more than three women are murdered by a current or former boyfriend or husband every day. And in just one year, more than 1,600 women were murdered by men.
- Have you ever passed by a woman and children on the street and wondered how they ended up there? More than likely, it is because of domestic violence. Overall, domestic violence is the third leading cause of homelessness in the United States. And almost half of U.S. cities cited domestic violence as the primary cause of family homelessness in their city.
- Our first response when we find out someone is being abused is often to tell her to “just leave.” Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Leaving an abuser is often incredibly dangerous. In fact, women are 70 times more likely to be killed in the two weeks after leaving than at any other time during the relationship. Of course, this does not mean that we should encourage women to stay. But, it does mean that we should be supportive and understand why leaving may take some time.
- Another reason it is difficult for a woman to leave an abuser is because of fear for the children. People often tell victims they need to leave to protect their children. But, the fact is that many victims stay to protect the children. Abusers often threaten to hurt or take the children if the victims leave. And unfortunately, these may be valid threats. At least 70% of abusers who fight for sole custody of the children will win – often because they have more financial resources and are able to manipulate family court judges.
- A woman’s home is often the most dangerous place for her to be. Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women—more than automobile accidents or any other violent crime.
- Abuse often begins very early. At least one out of every five high school girls will be abused by a boyfriend. And at least forty percent of teenage girls age 14 to 17 report knowing someone their age who has been hit or beaten by a boyfriend. So, it’s critical that we talk with our children – early and often – about abuse.
- While the impact of our conflicts overseas has been staggering, we have an even more deadly war happening right here in the United States. The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by a current or former intimate partner during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly double the amount of casualties due to war.
- Women are much more likely to be victims of domestic violence, with at least 85 percent of victims being women, and at least 90 percent of perpetrators being men. However, abuse also happens in same sex relationships. And, though much less common, men may also be victims of abuse by female partners.
- A woman is physically abused by an intimate partner every nine seconds in the United States. So, in the time it took you to read this article, at least 20 women have been beaten.
- Domestic violence can be prevented. By educating children, holding abusers accountable, and supporting victims, we can all work to an finally put an end to this senseless epidemic.
If you or someone you know is being abused, you do not have to face it alone. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day, and can provide free and confidential assistance: 800-799-SAFE (7233).