By: Amanda Hansen
Domestic abuse, as defined on the Safe Horizon statistics page, is a pattern of behavior used to establish power and control over another person through fear and intimidation. This behavior doesn’t necessarily have to be physical abuse or violence. Examples of non-violent abusive behavior toward the victim include controlling the money, who is acceptable to visit or talk to, threatening to hurt themselves, children, or pets, the destruction of property, and harming others as a “warning” of what “could” happen.
“Domestic abuse is emotional or physical abuse or sometimes things that cause distress to one or more victims, that are dependent on the power dynamic among everyone involved,” said Attleboro High School (AHS) senior Eric Barrese.
Safe Horizon is the nation’s largest victim assistance organization. They work with victims of rape, domestic and child abuse, human trafficking and much more. Their website contains many helpful links and information, including what is considered abuse.
“I would define domestic abuse as repetitive verbal or physical behavior by one person, often in marriage or cohabitation, that makes another feel in danger, threatened and/or inferior,” said AHS freshman Haleigh Robinson.
Safe Horizon reports that one in four American women will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their life, and 20 to 50 percent of women worldwide will be victims. In addition, 30 to 60 percent of children who live in homes where domestic violence occurs will also be abused or otherwise neglected.
“I think victims of domestic abuse don’t leave the violent relationship because their abuser might be their only source of financial support,” said AHS senior Avianna Cascio.
According to Safe Horizon, if these children don’t receive help, they are reported to be at greater risk of becoming either a victim or offender. This is because when children aren’t told a behavior is wrong, they tend to normalize it.
Those who are at the highest risk to be victims are women ages 16 to 24, according to the Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF). According to Women Thrive Worldwide (WTW), 60 percent of women whose first sexual experience was forced will go on to experience further violence.
WTW is an organization that works to help women and girls worldwide. They aim to stop poverty, hunger, violence, and inequality against women.
A Huffington Post article posted on Oct. 2014 reports that domestic abuse is a crime against women, with 85 percent of victims being female. Of those women, 40 to 50 percent will be physically injured in a domestic assault, but only one in five will seek medical treatment for their injuries.
That same article and FMF both report that most abusers are male, and most victims are female, however neither source provides an explanation as to why.
“I think most abusers are male and most victims are female because men are often taught from a young age that masculinity is superior. I believe that’s the same reason why we haven’t had a female president,” said Robinson.
Although no one is sure why domestic violence occurs in the first place, it’s important to stop the cycle of abuse. Generally, boys who are abused or witness abuse as children tend to grow up to be an abuser, and the cycle of abuse repeats.
“I believe, above all, domestic abuse occurs because we let it happen. I also think it has a lot to do with traditional gender roles and the preservation of power within these roles,” said Barrese.
Youth programs work to break this cycle. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that youth programs that teach young people problem solving, communication skills, and that promote respectful and healthy behaviors are at the frontline of breaking the cycle.
“I believe that the best way to prevent domestic violence is to start teaching gender roles, sexuality, gender, and violence among these aspects at an early age,” said Barrese.
If the violence can’t be prevented, it’s essential to stop it. To seek help for domestic violence, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.