The last few years have witnessed a growing awareness of the
prevalence of domestic violence and a greater understanding of its devastation.
As a society, we are much more attuned to the plight of battered women than ever
before. We are beginning to understand that domestic violence cuts across all
racial, cultural, religious and socioeconomic lines.
Domestic violence includes all types of family, relationship
and intimate abuse. It is more than just physical abuse, also encompassing
verbal, emotional, economic and sexual control and abuse. Although each situation
is different, there are common patterns and warning signs of abuse. Abusive
relationships often follow a pattern called the “cycle of violence”
which involves a continuous cycle from a honeymoon stage to tension building to
an explosive incident, and then back to the honeymoon stage.
Early on in a relationship, when abusive and controlling behaviors are
typically less intense and severe, it is often difficult to clearly identify
these behaviors as part of a pattern of abuse. As a result, the first explosive
or violent incident may easily be considered by the victim, and by others, to be
an isolated incident. This, coupled with the abuser’s apologies and promises
that he will never do it again, often persuades the victim to stay and “work
it out.” Later, fear, isolation and confusion caused by the continued cycle
of abuse can keep a victim walking on eggshells, afraid to tell anyone what is
happening or to reach out for help.
Domestic violence is one of the most critical public
health issues facing women and children today, and its impact is felt by every
member of our society: In eighty-five percent of reported cases of domestic
violence, the victims are women who are battered by their husbands or boyfriends.
A woman is physically abused every 15 seconds in the United States and domestic
violence causes more injuries to women in this country between the ages of 15 and
44 than car accidents, muggings and stranger rapes combined. More than 1,400
women in the United States are murdered each year by a husband, ex-husband or
boyfriend. Fifty percent of all homeless women and children are on the streets
because of violence in the home, and nearly 25% of pregnant women seeking
prenatal care have been battered during pregnancy. It has been reported that 80%
of felons on death row came from abusive homes, and 63% of young men between the
ages of 11 and 20 who are incarcerated for homicide killed their mother’s
Given these tragic statistics, we should not be surprised to learn that
domestic violence is something that is also having a devastating impact on our
youth community. In fact, as many as one of every three teens is in an abusive
relationship during his or her adolescent years. The cycle of violence – not
just within a single relationship, but also from one relationship to the next,
and from one generation to the next – is wreaking havoc in our society and
on our children. It is a problem that requires a total community response.