“Family” is supposed to be a sanctuary; a place of safety, nurturing, healing, growing, sharing, loving, laughter and joy! But for too many, “Family” is none of these things. Instead, “Family” is a battleground, a bastion of physical and mental abuse; a place to avoid and run from, not a place to run towards. Domestic Violence is a blight on society; it is a strong indictment against our culture and our pervasive tolerance and acceptance of violence as a way of life. Domestic violence is merely a reflection of a much deeper, embedded pandemic sickness within our society.
Like with other forms of violence in our culture, our sensitivity to domestic violence has been substantially dulled, and we are no longer repulsed or grieved by it. So, let me provide a blunt reminder about the magnitude of Domestic Violence. (From www.ncadv.org)
- Twenty people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually
- One in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner
- One in five women and one in seven men have been severely physically abused by an intimate partner
- On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive approximately 20,800 calls
- The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%
- Domestic violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime
- Weapons are involved in 19% of all instances of domestic violence
- Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries because they are too afraid to report it
- Victims of domestic violence lose a total of 8 million days of paid work each year
- Twenty-five percent of women killed in the workplace is a result of domestic violence
- The cost of domestic violence exceeds $8.3 billion annually
How can we, as a Civil Society, so readily ignore and even embrace violence as a tolerable social norm? The implications are frightening. It is a race to the bottom with dire consequences – the most important of which is the destruction of the sanctity of Family! We are surrounded by violence; it’s in our streets, our media, on our highways, and in our schools and homes. Our “News” has become nothing more than a catalog of daily violent activity. We even have a presidential candidate implying that violence is an acceptable means to resolve differences.
I have worked for five decades within the Criminal Justice and Human Services fields and I can say unequivocally, domestic violence is not getting better; we are not improving. The volume of children and youth entering our systems with severe behavioral problems as a result of domestic trauma is unacceptable and preventable. Modern brain research demonstrates clearly that childhood victims of Domestic Violence can be scarred and impaired for life, plus, they will replicate what they have seen and experienced. It goes without question, “Violence begets violence.”
As with the impact of Domestic Violence, we need to be reminded about the “why” of Domestic Violence. Let’s start with what does not cause Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence is not the result of stress, drugs or alcohol, genetics, anger, domestic partner behavior, or socioeconomic status. These conditions may exacerbate or trigger familial violence, but they are not the cause of it. Domestic Violence is a result of Learned Behavior! It is behavior learned through observation and reinforcement. Like other forms of aggression, domestic violence is not caused by genetics or illness. People are not born perpetrators and for the most part there is no disease or illness that turns a non-abusive person into an abuser. Domestic violence is a behavior acquired over time through multiple observations and interactions with individuals and society at large. “Violence begets Violence!”
Domestic violence is purposeful and instrumental behavior. The abuse is directed at achieving compliance from or control over the victim. The pattern is not random or “out of control” behavior. Perpetrators who minimize or excuse their behavior by claiming they “lost it” or “were out of control” have actually made specific choices. Perpetrators follow their own internal set of rules and regulations for their use of abusive behaviors--they now need to be reprogrammed! More importantly, we need to break the “cycle of abuse” so that childhood victims of domestic trauma do not themselves become perpetrators.
Solving the problem of violence in our culture, as manifested through Domestic Violence, is an overwhelming contemplation. I wish there was a nicely packaged list of solutions to the problem, but there isn’t, nor will there be. But I do have some thoughts which could move us in the right direction.
First, we need to all say “enough is enough!” Everyone needs to evaluate the degree we have become desensitized to the issue, how much do we tolerate violence, and how we can initiate our own actions to reduce exposure to violence in our lives. We also need a grassroots effort to mitigate the promotion and permeation of violence in media, advertising and commercial enterprise, and the glorification of violence through our news media. This approach is a matter of economics--cut off the source and the message will change.
Second, our federal, state and local governments need to invest in Strengthening Families. We spend billions of dollars each year in corporate welfare to entities driven by greed, who have total disregard for humanity and our earth, or to our military-industrial complex. How much better would it be if we invested in our future by strengthening families and breaking the cycle of violence?
Third, our important social institutions, (i.e., Community-Based Organizations, the Faith Community, Service Clubs and Organizations, public and private schools, et cetera), overwhelming need to take on violence prevention and the strengthening of families as a social imperative.
And finally, if you are so inclined – Pray for Peace! As Peter Seeger so eloquently wrote in the 1950s, popularized by the Byrds in 1965, “… To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace – I pray it’s not too late!”