Between the names of football player Ray Rice and the newly crowned Miss America, domestic violence has dominated headlines in the past month.
Rice’s assault on his then-fiancée, and now-wife, was caught on video and recently widely circulated, leading to scandal and accusations within the NFL. The new Miss America, Kira Kazantzev has chosen a platform that targets domestic violence, something which she herself has experienced.
These high-profile stories have brought domestic violence, an often-invisible problem, to the forefront of public awareness. Physical and emotional abuse in family relationships is a problem that, due to its nature and complexity, too often gets brushed under the rug. Victims may remain silent out of fear or shame. Perpetrators, meanwhile, are too often not held accountable.
Oftentimes, we try to distance ourselves from disturbing public health problems like domestic violence by claiming it’s an isolated problem, or that it only happens in other neighborhoods or to other people. But the truth is, domestic violence impacts women and men from all different places and backgrounds. In the United States alone, almost 20 people per minute are victims of domestic violence. One in three women and one in four men will experience relationship violence in their lifetimes.
What’s more, the women and men who are victims of domestic violence can experience significant physical and mental health problems that often outlast the abusive relationship. More than 40 percent of female victims are injured during the assault. Apart from physical symptoms, victims may also experience significant mental health impairments, including anxiety, depression, and suicidal behavior. Post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, also frequently occurs among those who have experienced relationship violence.
Studies have also found links between domestic violence and a myriad of physical ailments, including chronic pain, eating problems, gastrointestinal disorders, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections. Female victims are also more likely to experience symptoms of PMS and PMDD.
Across the country, people are taking notice of the damaging effects of domestic violence. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has faced significant criticism for his handling of Ray Rice’s assault, recently announced that the league will mandate training for players and staff. Recent Twitter hashtags, such as #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft, gave a platform for victims to discuss their experiences and educate the public.
Domestic violence is not a simple problem, but ignoring it will only harm victims and implicitly condone persecutors. Turning the tide on domestic violence is not an easy task, but individuals can make an important difference by educating themselves and those around them and by supporting laws and policies that seek to end domestic violence.
If you are, or suspect you may be, a victim of domestic violence, we encourage you to call the National Domestic Violence hotline at 800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org.