Domestic violence is a serious problem in the United States and around the world. One of the main reasons that this violence occurs at such a high rate is that it exists mainly in the shadows. While efforts have been made to increase awareness about domestic violence, many people still think of it as something that is rare and could never happen to them.
With over 10 million people physically abused by their intimate partner in the United States every year, domestic violence is far more common than most people think.
Domestic Violence Is Not Merely Physical
Domestic abuse takes many different forms. Not all of those who suffer abuse from a partner face physical violence. Domestic abuse includes other ways of exerting control, including:
- Emotional abuse
- Psychological abuse
- Financial abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Verbal abuse
- Technological abuse
Women Aren’t the Only Victims
While victims of domestic violence are more often women than men, there are still a large number of male victims of domestic abuse as well. One of the main reasons that many victims of abuse do not come forward is due to shame. There is societal blame that persists in which people continue to blame the victim. Not only is there societal shame, but there is often shame placed directly upon the victim from the abuser.
This shame is often felt even deeper in men as a testosterone-fueled vision of what a man is supposed to still dominate the worldview of the majority. Men make up a large minority of domestic violence victims. However, with the percentage of reported cases among abused men being even smaller than that among abused women, the number of men who speak out about what they have suffered is minuscule.
Cultural Norms Are a Major Issue
While cultural norms make it more difficult for men to speak out, they also make it more likely that women will suffer abuse in the first place. The higher occurrence of women suffering from domestic abuse is not primarily due to the fact that men are on average bigger than women and can more easily physically dominate them. The bigger reason is that we live in a society that still generally paints women in a more supplicant role.
There have been a lot of strides made towards equality between the sexes over the last 100 years. However, there still exists a strong divide in many communities suggesting that women should serve their husbands in a supporting role. Continuing to move towards a more equal society should help to erase this toxic cultural norm.
The Young Are Most Vulnerable
Domestic violence occurs in couples between the ages of 17 and 24 more than with any other age group. There are several reasons for this.
One reason is that many people don’t have the emotional maturity to guide themselves into a healthy relationship and value their self worth at this age. Many people are in their first significant relationship when the domestic abuse begins and have difficulty separating the abuse from the love and feel that they must be failing at the relationship.
They convince themselves that the abuse is part of a normal relationship because they have never known anything different.
Another reason that young people are particularly at risk is that they are not comfortable speaking with others about the bad parts of their relationships. This may be even more prevalent in today’s society, where social media dominates and everyone projects out their perfect lives one picture at a time. The need to compete can drive young people to remain in abusive situations and project them as perfect.
On the other side, one of the main reasons that domestic abuse among younger people is due to hormones. Young people are more controlled by their hormones. These hormones can cause abusive people to have higher aggression levels and attack their partners more frequently and with a higher intensity.
Leaving Is Dangerous
People often can’t understand why victims of domestic violence don’t just leave their abuser. The fact is that when a victim decides to leave, they are typically entering the most dangerous moments of their relationship. Without a clear exit strategy in place, they could find themselves hurt like never before and possibly even killed.
Abuse is all about power. By leaving a victim is taking away the power of their abuser. The abuser becomes their most dangerous when they feel their power slipping away, and they can lash out in the most terrifying of ways. Even if they know there is no way to get their power back and reestablish the old power dynamic, they will still fight.
They would often prefer to see the world burn with their victim dead and themselves in prison rather than let their victim walk away with the power to which they so desperately cling.
Anyone Can Be an Abuser
People don’t think that they could ever end up in an abusive relationship largely because they think they could spot an abuser. That is part of the reason that domestic abuse is so prevalent in our society, though. Most abusive people don’t come with a warning label. While there are some people who you might be able to immediately tell are going to be trouble, the majority of abusers are, on the contrary, quite charming.
Abusers often come in over the top with early declarations of love and fawn excessively over their new partner. They will advance the relationship quickly, and it is often not until a relationship has progressed to a point of mutual dependence that an abuser will begin to show their true nature. Once you reach that point, it can be very difficult to extract yourself from a violent situation.