Protection for the Future

domestic_violenceCarol Sanders was your typical modern American woman. She had a job as a social worker and had just married her new husband, Michael Sanders, after divorcing her last husband. Everything was going well with her new husband after their marriage and they had conceived a child together. But soon after the birth of their daughter, Carol’s husband started to change. What initially started as forbidden contact with her family, soon escalated to the sticking of a gun to her head on multiple occasions, violence laced rants and threats to harm her family. This abuse continued for 15 years before Carol decided to seek help after yet another threat made by her abuser against her life. She and her daughter got a restraining order the day she left her husband and within a week had filed divorce papers after receiving help from a domestic violence organization. When she returned to her home with her brother to collect her possessions, her husband shot and killed her, her daughter and her brother before turning the gun on himself.

Stories like Carol’s are nothing new to women who suffer from domestic violence at the hands of their intimate partners and some are unfortunate enough to have their lives ended before they can receive or seek help. In the U.S. domestic violence claims the life a woman every 6 hours and the number of women who have died at the hands of their intimate partner from the period of 2001 – 2012, was greater than the number of soldiers who have died in terror attacks in the United States or were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Studies and surveys conducted by domestic violence organizations across the nation have shown that many women are unable to get the help they need when pursuing or showing publicly visible indications of being in a violent relationship. The reduced assistance women are receiving can be attributed to the lack of services available to organizations intending to assist victims due to government spending cuts and the silence by the American public about this issue despite many having direct personal connections to people affected by it or being affected themselves.

Government spending cuts or sequestration as a result of the recent government shutdown has withheld $20 million dollars towards supporting shelters and government agencies combating domestic violence. Republicans supporting the sequestration believe that the cuts will help decrease the current national debt without having too large of an impact on the important services the government provides, but many non-essential organizations such as those pertaining to domestic violence are being affected. As a result of financial constraints, domestic violence shelters were forced to reduce staff or services such as transition housing, transportation costs to send women to other states where there was space available to shelter them and legal costs. With demand for domestic violence services increasing, it is easy to see how the current handling of this issue by our government does not adequately help women who are seeking assistance. Organizations have stated that not accepting individuals seeking help is the last resort, but the fact that organizations implemented to help domestic violence victims have reached that state is a reason to be alarmed.

Domestic abuse is classified as an occurrence between individuals in an intimate relationship where one person tries to exert control or dominance over the other. Domestic violence is a form of domestic abuse that involves an intimate partner being physically violent. Abusers in these relationships exert control of the other individual through the use of fear, shame, guilt and intimidation. Abusers may threaten to harm the abused, actually harm them or harm the people around them in order to maintain control. Domestic violence can happen to individuals in any form of romantic relationships, whether it be same-sex or heterosexual and does not discriminate against age, standards of living and ethnicities.

A study conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence, recently released their findings analyzing a random snapshot of incoming requests to domestic violence agencies around the nation. 66,581 requests were recorded on the September 17, 2013 with 9,641 requests made by women seeking to leave their partners, asking for assistance with housing, transportation, legal assistance and child care being unfulfilled. 60% of those requests involved shelters and programs denying individuals because there was a lack of space with 42% of those requests being women seeking emergency shelter for leaving their abusive partners. Studies conducted on what happens after these women are unable to receive assistance have shown that many of them become homeless possibly with their children after leaving the relationship. It is because of this result that some women are prompted to return to their violent partners and the abuse continues.

In 2013, a domestic violence organization called NoMore conducted a survey looking at the attitudes and experiences of respondent’s ages 15 and older regarding domestic violence. Their study produced significant results for how the American population views this issue nationally. They determined that 53% or 1 in 2 Americans know of a victim of domestic violence with 58% of Americans between the ages of 35 and 49 knowing someone who had been a victim. When asked whether they believed that domestic violence was a problem among their friends, only 15% of Americans believed that it was despite results showing that over half the population acknowledge to knowing a domestic violence victim. 67% or 2 out of 3 Americans confirmed that they did not talk about domestic violence with their friends and 73% or 3 in 4 American parents confirmed that they have not had a conversation with their own children about this issue in the home setting.

Despite over half of the American population knowing someone affected by domestic violence, the lack of prominence in mainstream American conversation alongside the issues of gay marriage, abortion and healthcare shows how this issue is still considered by many a “family issue” or to women an unlucky draw in life that is to be simply accepted. Children who witness violence in the home setting have been documented to suffer from emotional and psychological trauma as a result. There is also the risk that they themselves will mirror violent behavior to their own intimate partner later in the future or become another domestic violence victim. By having this vicious cycle continue through the generations, there is little to no doubt that the issue of domestic violence will persist into the future. Education is the first step into decreasing the number of women affected by this issue as an increase awareness can lead to open discussion about it, more information about what is considered a healthy relationship and greater bystander assistance for those affected. Domestic violence is an issue that affects both genders, but the means to protect women who make up a larger majority of victims is what currently needs to be improved in the US.

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