The US Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines domestic violence as a "pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner". The definition adds that domestic violence "can happen to anyone regardless of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender" and can take many forms.
Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.
According to the Center for Disease Control, there can be several health effects that linger long after someone leaves an abusive partner, including many psychological consequences. In addition to PTSD, a survivor of domestic violence may have to live with anxiety, depression, emotional detachment, low self-esteem, sleep disturbances, and fear of intimacy.
Domestic violence is a serious health issue approaching epidemic proportions.
- The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766. That’s nearly doublethe casualties of war.
- 3 women are murdered every day in the U.S. by a current or former male partner.
- 1 in 4 women will be victims of severe violence by an intimate partner in their lifetimes.
- 70% of women worldwide will experience physical and/or sexual abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetimes.
- In February 1996, the National Domestic Violence Hotline received its first call and got 4,826 calls in its first month.
- On August 2, 2003, the hotline received its millionth
- On April 28, 2009, the National Domestic Violence Hotline received its two millionth
- In July 2013, the hotline received its three millionth
- On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
Recognizing the growing prevalence of domestic violence in our society, President Bill Clinton signed The Violence Against Women Act into law on September 13, 1994. The law established The Violence Against Women Policy Office and The Violence Against Women Grants Office (now the Department of Justice Office of Violence Against Women.)
Requiring renewal every five years, the law was renewed by President George Bush. When it expired, a new bill with some new provisions was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
In January 2017, President Donald Trump signed an executive order entitled “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States." The executive order continues most of the provisions of the original act but might keep abused women who are undocumented from seeking legal protection for fear of deportation.
The Irony of This Epidemic
The irony attached to this public health crisis is that despite the 20,000 calls made to domestic violence hotlines daily, much domestic violence goes unreported and victims go untreated. The CDC reports that only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries, and only 18.3% of intimate partner violence victims received assistance from a victim service agency in 2015.
We asked case workers who work with domestic violence victims why such a small percentage of victims seek help. They said the number one reason domestic violence survivors stay or return to the abusive relationship is because the abuser controls their money supply, leaving them with no financial resources to break free.
This is tragedy masquerading as irony.