As a Chicago domestic violence lawyer, my first duty is providing all citizens with their Constitutional right to a fair trial, no matter what crime they have been accused of. I am also responsible for ensuring that those who are falsely accused are given back their freedom and their good name. However, I also see the pain of domestic violence – for the victims, the perpetrators, and those who are wrongly accused – and it has made me passionate about putting an end to the problem of domestic violence.
The shocking photo of celebrity chef Nigella Lawson’s husband choking her in a restaurant began a worldwide dialogue on domestic violence in 2013. Most victims of domestic violence do not get such public attention. Instead, they feel shame and hide their abuse from family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors. Or, both the victim and the abuser make excuses, as Lawson’s husband Charles Saatchi did when he told the press“it was a playful tiff.”
The downplaying of such incidents by both perpetrators and victims is why many people are unaware of how serious and prevalent domestic violence is across the globe.Sadly, domestic violence against women is a plague in many societies. In a widely-published study from June 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated“intimate partner violence affects 30% of women worldwide.” Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of WHO, stated“These findings send a powerful message that violence against women is a global health problem of epidemic proportions.”
In her statement, Dr. Chan highlights an important fact: while men do make up a small portion of the victims of domestic violence, by far the majority of victims are women.
What Causes Domestic Violence?
Surprisingly, many people blame the victims of domestic violence, thus releasing the aggressor from the responsibility of the violence committed. Victims are either accused of directly “provoking” their abusers or simply seen as given what they deserve; most often, they even start blaming themselves for the attacks.
In reality, there are many causes of domestic violence, and often there are multiple causes for a single incident. Researchers have identified several specific factors that seem to play a role in creating episodes of domestic violence or in shaping individuals to have a greater propensity toward domestic violence. These are just a few of the primary causes:
Drugs and alcohol. According to the Tennessee Association of Alcohol, Drug & Other Addiction Services, violent men abuse drugs and alcohol at three times the rate of nonviolent men. However, the Stop Violence against Women project of The Advocates for Human Rights reminds us that nearly half of all incidents of domestic violence do not involve alcohol. Instead, “some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent.”
Jealousy. In 2012, Ohio State University researchers published findings in the Journal of Women’s Health that showed a strong correlation between a man’s sexual jealousy and incidents of domestic abuse and violence.
Low self-esteem. Many abusers suffer from low self-esteem, which not only can create the jealousy explained above, but can cause them to feel threatened by their partners. They then react with violence to try and assert their strength and sense of control.
Traditional beliefs. Many analysts argue thattraditional gender roles play a role in domestic violence, because women are socialized to be passive while men are socialized to be “hyper- masculine.” The University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center explains thatsuch gender roles create “unrealistic and strict expectations” that then give “license for the batterer to be violent.”
Learned behavior.Toby D. Goldsmith, M.D., writes on PsychCentral“children who witness or are the victims of violence may learn to believe that violence is a reasonable way to resolve conflict between people. Boys who learn that women are not to be valued or respected and who see violence directed against women are more likely to abuse women when they grow up. Girls who witness domestic violence in their families of origin are more likely to be victimized by their own husbands.”
What Should You Do If You Are A Victim of Domestic Violence?
If you are a victim of abuse or domestic violence, it’s imperative to understand that you are not alone, and there is nothing to be ashamed of. Millions of people find themselves trapped in such situations through no fault of their own. These are five things you can do right away to take back control of your life:
Call 911 and report the incident. In order to secure protection and to establish a record of incidents, you must report what happened to the police. The police can even remove the abuser from the environment to ensure your safety.
Get to a safe place away from your abuser. It may take all your strength and willpower to do this, but it is very important that you protect your own health and safety and that of your children or other dependents.
Get medical attention if necessary. Even if you think that your bruises or other injuries are minor, you may have internal injuries that can create complications later. Also, medical personnel are trained in spotting incidents of domestic violence and can document your case and connect you to important resources.
Contact a localdomestic violence shelter or advocacy group that can help you learn your legal rights, find a place to stay, and even file a protective order against your abuser.
Get support from friends and professional counselors. Support systems will help you in ways you may not anticipate.
What Should You Do If Someone You Know Is a Victim of Domestic Violence?
It is always tempting to look away from or avoid getting involved in domestic violence between others, for fear of our own safety. But if you know someone who is suffering from domestic abuse, heor she may not have the strength or courage to stop it – they may need someone to step in to help them.
In their explanation of the “Myths and Realities of Domestic Abuse”, the Center Against Domestic Violence at the University of Arizona College of Law states“domestic abuse is against the law, and that makes it everyone’s business. Assaults within the family are as much of a crime as assaults outside the family.” Therefore, intervening to stop and prevent abuse is not only the right thing to do, but it can also be regarded as a civic responsibility.
So call the police and report the crime—because that’s what domestic violence is, a crime. You don’t need to jump in between an abuser and his or her victim to do this. With a simple call, you just might save someone’s life.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.