More than 70 percent of domestic violence cases go unreported. You know why? Because it is simply not what the public thinks about in terms of crime. We regularly hear people speaking of the need to have more police officers on the street to protect them from harm. But what about the harm being suffered by people in their own homes?
Domestic violence is a pattern of behavior in any relationship used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. The abuse can be physical, sexual, emotional or psychological actions. Domestic violence can be against a man, woman or child — though women are much more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence. Women make up 85 percent of domestic abuse victims.
Here are some statistics: A woman is assaulted or beaten every nine seconds. One in three women and one in four men have been in abusive relationships. Twenty people are abused by an intimate partner every minute, adding up to 10 million victims each year. More than 200,000 phone calls are placed to domestic violence hotlines every year.
According to a Psychology Today article, abuse is common and about a generation ago, many victims were often terrified of coming forward, worried they would appear weak and be blamed for their abuse. Thanks to the growth of the women’s and victim’s rights movements, this is changing.
My aunt was a victim of domestic violence for more than 13 years. I watched her husband, the father of her three children and whom she loved, hit her on several occasions. She couldn’t and didn’t do anything for so long. Why? Because he was afraid of the unknown. Living in Africa was completely different from living in the United States, although the country you live in shouldn’t be make a difference. But I know what she was afraid of. She was afraid of people judging her. She worried about who was going to take care of her kids if she left. She was scared of getting a divorce and how her family would react to it. All this made her stay married to a monster for 13 years.
My little sister and I lived with her and her family for eight years and even after we came to the United States the abuse continued. But she finally escaped. The last time he hit her and pushed her down the stairs, she was rushed to the hospital with a broken left leg. It was then she made up her mind never to go back to that house. Instead, she was determined to start her life all over again with her kids. I wish I had been there to give my aunt a big hug and tell her she didn’t deserve a life like that and I am glad she left.
As I sit here typing this, I worry about the men, women and children been abused right now and how it will affect them in the long run. I think of how I could have helped my aunt, but I was only a kid and there is really nothing I could do to help in a country like Nigeria.
So what can we do to help here in the United States? It’s not easy to know what to do when someone you love is in an abusive relationship. You can offer your loved ones a safe place to stay, or help them get to a shelter. You can be there for them emotionally, and if childcare or finances are a concern, try offering financial assistance or help them to find some.
Most importantly we should be aware that domestic violence is a crime and we should do everything we can to combat it.