By Juliette Schultz
Recent national events have, once again, heightened our awareness about domestic violence. In the eight years that I have been working at the Women’s Resource Center, I have noticed a repeated pattern: a story of domestic violence makes national news and people are outraged. For a while. And then we all return to our daily lives, forgetting about what we at the WRC consider a public health crisis.
Until the next time.
Domestic violence is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault and/or other abusive behavior as part of a systematic pattern of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. It includes physical violence, sexual violence, psychological violence and emotional abuse. The frequency and severity of domestic violence can vary dramatically; however, the one constant component of domestic violence is one partner’s consistent efforts to maintain power and control over the other.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, an average of three women every day are murdered by an intimate partner. And African American and Native American women face much higher rates of domestic violence; Native American women are victimized at a rate more than double that of other races.
At the WRC, we are very aware of how pervasive domestic violence is. In the last several months, we have watched calls to our 24-hour crisis line increase 30-70 percent. Survivors of domestic and sexual violence, from all walks of life, are calling for help.
So, as a community, how can we help? We can begin by switching our paradigm from “why doesn’t she leave?” to “why did he do that?” Research proves that the risk of domestic homicide becomes highest during a period of separation, and that intensity of violence can escalate when the abused person decides to leave. Abuse is about power and control. And it’s a conscious choice on the part of the abuser. Let’s instead begin asking “why did he do that?” and begin holding perpetrators of abuse accountable for their actions.
Here some questions that anyone who thinks they may be in an unhealthy relationship should ask. Is your intimate partner:
Isolating: Keeping you away from friends, family or other people?
Belittling: Saying things to make you feel bad about yourself? Name calling, rude remarks in front of other people?
Possessive: Jealous to the point that they are trying to control who you spend time with and what you do?
Manipulating: Trying to convince you to do things you aren’t comfortable doing?
At the WRC, we believe every person has the right to live without fear. We are here to help survivors of any race, social-economic status, gender, culture, education level or religious belief. If you need our help, or you know someone who does, call us today at 800-554-4972.
About the author: Juliette Schultz is executive director of the Women’s Resource Center for the Grand Traverse Area.