On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. There are more than 20,000 phone calls a day placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide about these incidents. Even more, when a gun is in the home of domestic violence situations it increases the risk of homicide by 500%. Seventy-two percent of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder-suicides are female.
One in five women and one in 71 men in the United States have been raped in their lifetime. Nearly half of those women and almost 40% of males were raped by intimate partners.
Over 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime;1 60.8 percent of female stalking victims and 43.5 percent men reported being stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
And if these facts aren’t terrorizing enough, one in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. Many of these children go on to be abusers themselves, or victims of the very hateful crimes they once witnessed.
While these numbers may seem alarming, they don’t yet reflect the effects of covid-19, where many people were stuck at home and living in abusive climates. What’s worse, is that our state isn’t immune to domestic violence crimes, in fact Vermont Business Magazine shared that, “for the past 25 years, half of all of the most violent crimes in Vermont—homicides—have been related to domestic violence. In some years, Vermont has ranked in the top 10 states in the nation for our rate of domestic violence homicide. Tragically, the COVID-19 pandemic and the much-needed Stay at Home orders have exacerbated the issues of domestic and sexual violence in Vermont,” making domestic violence not only an issue but a crisis in our communities.
In 2020, Karen Tronsgard-Scott, Executive Director of the Vermont Network, who’s tagline is, “For a violence-free Vermont,” was quoted on this very topic. She said, “Last year, 19,000 hotline calls were made by Vermonters seeking support and resources due to domestic violence or sexual abuse, and almost 9,000 people sought out in-person help. With thousands of Vermonters experiencing DSV each year, too many of our family members, friends, neighbors, and colleagues are not safe. Every Vermonter has the right to live their life free from violence, and this violence is preventable. We can and must do more.” Pile this onto a pandemic and coming out from the “stay home, stay safe” orders, many more of our neighbors may have been subjected to this at home terror. For them the last place to stay safe was at home.
Unfortunately, some people believe domestic abuse can only mean being “beaten up,” or ‘hit” at home. They also think this is mostly something that happens in the movies or in extreme situations. As stated above, that’s not the case. While physical abuse is a part of this, it also includes verbal abuse like threats and intimidation. Domestic abuse can be stalking or tracking a spouse without them knowing or even showing up at their workplace to cause fear or show dominance. It can be jealousy that becomes a danger, it can be emotional abuse, harassment, and terrorizing. Domestic abuse can look and sound very different from situation to situation, and it’s not always as obvious as a black eye or broken arm. Yet, your best way to support a person who is being abused is to simply believe them.
Domestic abuse is not just “being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” or “things that happen in other places.” These are events that happen in homes all around the U.S. including in our own community. Abuse can start at any time in a relationship as well. What may seem like a perfect marriage with no violence or abuse can quickly turn, even after many years of no abuse. Although there are no proven triggers, stress, mental health illness and drug and alcohol abuse are all contributing factors. Many people who have been abused will go on to abuse others, and yet those who have never been abused may as well. There is no perfect box to check when it comes to who will be an abuser. The same goes for the abused, both men and women of all ages, races and economic status are at risk of being abused. Each domestic violence situation is different. Many of them are kept hidden for fear of embarrassment or even abandonment from their family or friends. No one chooses to be abused. No one wants to lose their life to the hands of someone else who acts in dangerous criminal behavior.
Domestic abuse can be fatal and has a lasting effect on everyone who lives in that home. Therefore if you or someone you know, love or even just suspect may be in harm’s way, it’s important to speak up. Many people living in abusive situations will be quick to deny their circumstance but that doesn’t mean they don’t hear you. Offer support, or to be a safe space and lending ear whenever or wherever they need it. There are also hotlines for individuals who are being abused or suspect others of being abused to help, such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-787-3224 or National Sexual Assault Online Hotline 1-800-656-HOPE (4673). It may just save someone’s life.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. One of the best ways you can help to raise awareness about domestic abuse is to just be aware and to be an ally. If you see something, look for a safe way of saying something. If someone shares something with you, let them know you believe them. If you are in an abusive relationship know that you are not alone, you deserve to be safe, and you matter. There are people who will not only believe you but help and support you through this. There are many great resources on the Vermont Network Page: https://www.vtnetwork.org/ We agree with their mission to help educate, support, and give resources to those in need. Together we can make our state a safe place for everyone, or as they put it, work together “for a violence free Vermont!”
Director of The Wellness Center