October Is Domestic Violence Awareness Month
One in three women in the United States have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV). This fact is posted on Virginia Social Services web site as an effort to build public awareness. But what does it mean to be aware of domestic violence?
NCADV publishes other statistics related to what is called domestic violence or sexual violence: 499 gun-related fatalities so far this year in the U.S. That's about fifty per month. That's just gun fatalities. Twenty percent of women in the United States have been raped. One in seven women have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point where they feared that they would be harmed or killed.
Although men and boys can experience domestic violence, the overwhelming majority of victims are women. And women's unequal status in our society magnifies its effects. And the corona pandemic has made it even worse, trapping victims at home with their abusers.
And although we know that domestic and sexual violence cuts across all socioeconomic levels, we also know that women of color and poor women are less likely to be taken seriously by law enforcement, or to have the means to escape their abuser. Because of these and other effects of systemic racism, black women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white women, and about 2.5 times the rate of women of other races.
To realize these facts is to be aware that physical violence -- and its threat -- against women is pervasive in our culture. It affects all of our lives, but is spoken about rarely. We don't seem to have gotten past the notion that it is something individual, unrelated to other forms of violence and inequality.
Consider, then, that the same white supremacists who openly stalk our communities with military weapons also openly proclaim their misogynistic views. Consider that at least half of mass shootings in recent decades began with domestic violence. And consider a recent study in which 40% of police officers (anonymously) reported having committed domestic violence in the previous year.
The Violence Against Women Act, passed by Congress in 1994, for the first time provided funding for local communities to address domestic violence in all of its aspects. The law requires reauthorization every five years, and it expired in 2019, after passing in the House of Representatives but not the Senate. The sticking point was opposition to broadening the legislation’s gun restrictions.
Violence against women joins with the many other race- and class-based reasons to vote this year. And beyond this year's elections, it must be in everyone's awareness as we look to restructure our communities for equity and inclusiveness across our populations.
Virginia Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-838-8238 (available 24/7)
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233 or text LOVEIS to 22522
Sources for this blog are:
National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (ncadv.org)
No Visible Bruises by Rachel Louise Snyder (Bloomsbury, 2019)
Virginia Dept. of Social Services (www.dss.virginia.gov/family/domestic_violence)
Women of Color Network Facts &Stats: Domestic Violence in Communities of Color (June 2006)