There is this dirty little secret that many of us keep to ourselves because of the shame that we feel surrounding a very personal issue; the issue of domestic violence. Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and/or other abusive behavior by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. Please note that domestic violence does not have to be physical in many cases it is verbal and just as damaging.
Approximately 10 years ago I found myself in a domestic violence relationship. The abuse reared its head several months after we began dating. It did not become physical until the last few months of the relationship. It took me a few months to get the courage to leave. Prior to entering into this relationship which approximately 2 years I would ask how anyone could stay with a person that was abusive. Today I no longer ask that question for I know from my own experience that loving someone can be an intoxicating feeling and coupled with the fear and shame of having to admit to friends and loved ones that you were a victim keeps many people in the relationship and/or very silent about the abuse. While this is not the only reason some stay it is one of the reasons. After walking away I decided not to date for the next 4 years because I walked away feeling I was the inadequate one. This person who said he loved me was able on one very memorable occasion pick me up and throw me against the wall in the blink of an eye. That moment to this day is so surreal. I will forever be scarred by the emotional damage that the abusive situations left on my spirit. I am not the same Ronald that entered that relationship and that saddens me because through it all I loved him with all my heart. However, our definitions of love were polar opposites. I have since had to counsel friends and family that find themselves in similar situations and yes for many it is very hard to leave but for personal health and wealth you must leave. I have never worn the badge of victim because that is not who I am. I did wear the badge of shame however I have removed that badge and have had the courage of telling my story for my story is like many others that find themselves in unhealthy relationships. I initially spent the years trying to reclaim the me that was lost due to that relationship but I have realized that the innocence that I carried at the time is now gone forever.
We the public have make it very hard for the abused to leave for we saddle them with so much shame by saying “I would never allow anyone to abuse me” or “Why didn’t you just leave?” or “Anyone who allows a man or woman to physically or verbally abuse them is deficient in some manner”. These statements invoke within the victim a sense of shame and degradation that is incorrectly placed at their feet and actually works in the favor of the abuser. It either keeps the abused person silent and/or feel as if there is no place to turn for help. I remember not telling my family of my abuse until maybe 2 years after the relationship ended for I was so ashamed and feared how they would view me.
The next time you hear of an abusive situation please do not pass judgment but give a word of encouragement and assistance to be there. You may be their only way out.
Here are some unsettling statistics:
- One in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime.
- An estimated 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.
- Of females killed with a firearm, almost two-thirds were killed by their intimate partners.
- In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.
- Black females experienced intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. Black males experienced intimate partner violence at a rate about 62% higher than that of white males and about 22 times the rate of men of other races.
- Females who are 20-24 years of age are at the greatest risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence. African-American women experience significantly more domestic violence than White women in the age group of 20-24. Generally, Black women experience similar levels of intimate partner victimization in all other age categories as compared to White women, but experience slightly more domestic violence. The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner.
- 11% of lesbians reported violence by their female partner and 15% of gay men who had lived with a male partner reported being victimized by a male partner. Each year, between 50,000 and 100,000 Lesbian women and as many as 500,000 Gay men are battered.
- 15.4% of same-sex cohabiting men reported being raped, physically assaulted and/or stalked by a male partner, but 10.8% reported such violence by a female partner.
The prevalence of domestic violence among Gay and Lesbian couples is approximately 25 - 33%. It is as common as it is in heterosexual relationships.
- Seven states define domestic violence in a way that excludes same-sex victims; 21 states have sodomy laws that may require same-sex victims to confess to a crime in order to prove they are in a domestic relationship. Therefore, the violence may never be reported.
Same-sex batterers use forms of abuse similar to those of heterosexual batterers. They have an additional weapon in the threat of "outing" their partner to family, friends, employers or community.
- By 1994, there were over 1,500 shelters and safe houses for battered women. Many of these shelters routinely deny their services to victims of same-sex battering.