October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Published 4:34 pm Saturday, October 3, 2015

From the board of Ruth’s House

“The Silent Crime,” domestic violence (DV) is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, emotional and psychological abuse, and/or other abusive behavior perpetrated by an intimate partner against another. It is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, gender, religion, nationality or educational background. Men are also abused, however the overwhelming majority of victims are women. Violence against women is often accompanied by coercion, emotionally abusive and controlling behavior, such as withholding money, failure to allow medical care (less than 20 percent of victims reporting an injury sought medical treatment), isolation from family and friends, abusing the children and other threatening behavior.

The Domestic Abuse Intervention Project of Duluth, Minnesota has described the following as helpful in identifying abusive persons: Intimidation — creating fear through looks, actions, gestures, often smashing or destroying her property, harming pets, displaying weapons; emotional abuse — verbal degradation, name calling, humiliation, convincing her she’s worthless, stupid or crazy, treats her as a servant; isolation — controls where she goes, who she sees and talks to, what she reads, who she calls, won’t allow cell phone, uses jealousy to justify his actions; denying/blaming — denies it occurred, swears it will never happen again, blames her for causing it, blames alcohol/drugs; using children — makes her feel guilty about the children, uses visitation for harassment, threatens to take children away, abuses them; economic abuse — prevents knowledge of and access to money, takes her money/paycheck, prevents her from getting/keeping a job; coercion and threats — threatens to hurt/kill her or the children or other family members, report her to welfare, coerces her to drop charges, make her commit crimes.

It also results in death. According to the FBI, almost one-third of homicide victims that are reported in police records are killed by an intimate partner. In 70-80 percent of intimate partner homicides, no matter which partner was killed, the man physically abused the woman before the murder. Last year in North Carolina, 62 homicides were committed in DV incidents.

For children who witness violence between their parents/caretakers, it is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next, and boys who witness DV are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and children when they become adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are approximately 16,800 homicides and $2.2 million medically treated injuries due to DV, costing $37 billion, and victims lost almost 8 million days of paid work, equivalent to more than 32,000 full-time jobs. Most victims keep the DV secret from those closest to them, their churches, and their workplace. Bosses will probably never know the cost to their business, and family may never know the true cause of their loved one’s death.

Annually, only 20 percent of the 1.5 million DV victims obtain civil protection orders, and approximately one-half of those orders are violated. DV is one of the most chronically underreported crimes. Only about one-quarter of physical assaults and one-fifth of all rapes involving DV are reported to law enforcement.

The next article will focus on Ruth’s House, Inc., a Beaufort County program whose mission is to break the cycle of DV. For information, call Ruth’s House at 252-940-0007.