Some of the most important things in life do not receive the awareness that they should. Domestic violence is an ongoing epidemic and it is important to know the signs and solutions in order to help yourself and/or your loved ones. Abuse is never deserved, so do not let domestic violence, whether past or present, define your identity.
By Esther Joesph
Domestic violence is an aggressive confrontation between family or household members. These altercations involve physical injury, or the fear of physical harm, destruction of property, and sexual assault. These family units may include spouses or former spouses, current or ex-partners, relatives through blood or marriage, and those with birth or legal connections.
In 1992, The America Medical Association reported domestic violence as the leading cause of injury to women between the ages of 15 and 44. Three to four million women are beaten each year by their partner or spouse, one every 15 seconds. Thirty percent of female homicide victims are killed by their partners or ex-partners, 1,500 women are murdered as a result of domestic violence each year. A 1995 national study found that 31 percent of women surveyed admitted to having been physically assaulted by a husband or boyfriend.
Given these staggering statics, it would seem likely that almost everyone knows someone who is being physically abused in their home—they just don’t know it. Victims of domestic violence become experts at hiding their suffering and pretending as if nothing is wrong. They have to, because in most cases they are threatened with more abuse if they share their secret and expose their abusers. Since most abusers were abused themselves, they know how the cycle of abuse works and they become experts at intimidating their victims, convincing them that the abuse is their fault. As a result, abusers and victims appear friendly affable people in healthy relationships. But behind closed doors, the truth is revealed.
If you suspect someone is being abused, it is your responsibility to talk to them about your suspicions. But before you do, educate yourself on the subject, especially on the different types of abuse. And be sure to confirm your initial suspicion with more proof.
Here are some signs to look for:
Bruises—are the most obvious sign of abuse; victims usually try to hide them with makeup or clothing.
Clothing—take notice of change in clothing or unusual fashion choices that would allow marks or bruises to be hidden. For example, if they wear long sleeves during the dog days of summer.
Jealousy—victims may not say outright that they are being abused but might try telling in subtle ways. Something they may vent about issues in their relationship but stop short about talking about the abuse. Frequent talk about their partner’s temper or jealousy might be a tip-off.
Prepare yourself for the conversation because it may be unwelcomed and viewed as interfering. Know when to step back, if the person denies the allegation; simply express your concern and willingness to help. Approaching someone and bringing up the topic of abuse is difficult, but worth doing, as you might be saving a life.
Some myths and facts about domestic violence:
MYTH: Domestic violence is an epidemic only among the poor and uneducated.
FACT: Studies show that domestic violence occurs among all types of families, regardless of education, wealth, sexual orientation, and ethnicity. Lower income victims and abusers are indeed over-represented in the statistics, as they are the ones who seek public assistance and services.
MYTH: Only men are abusers.
FACT: According to the statistics and data of the Bureau of Justice, in 2003, 15 percent of reported victims of intimate partner violence were males. The Bureau believes that the number is greater since men often suffer physical abuse in silence for fear of shame and ridicule, therefore, most of the abuse might go unreported.
See how Esther answers our Identity Five Questions:
1. What have you accepted within yourself and/or within your life? Is there anything you are working on accepting?
I accept that my past does not define me. I can say with no reservation I accept who I am today, because without self acceptance there is no room for change or growth.
2. What do you appreciate about yourself or your life?
I appreciate everything about me and my life. The fact that I am here alive, sober and sane is not of my doing. I have been blessed and that is cause for daily celebration.
3. What have you achieved, or what are you working to achieve personally, physically, or mentally?
I have achieved inner peace and a life worth living.
4. What is your no-so-perfect way? We are all unique with quirks and imperfections, so why not flaunt them and embrace them!
I am perfect. I am perfect in my uniqueness. Everything God has created is perfect. Things about me are only imperfections if I see them as such; the fact that I flaunt and embrace my limitations makes them perfect.
5. How would you complete this sentence, “I Love My…” This has to be about you, physically or mentally.
I love my life, I love who God has helped me become today, I love who God is helping me become tomorrow, I love who I am!
Esther Francis Joseph was born and raised on the tiny Caribbean island of Saint Lucia. She moved to the U.S. at the age of 16 with her mother and two older bothers. She holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from New York University. Her goal is to help others still in the grips of abuse and violence to break the cycle and find a way to a place of healing. She is author of the book Memories of Hell, Visions of Heaven—A Story of Survival Transformation and Hope (www.estherfrancisjoseph.com).