Gilman ’15: Why Domestic Violence Awareness Month matters

Trigger Warning: This article discusses forms of domestic violence that may be triggering for some readers. Read at your discretion.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, so it’s important for the Wheaton community to learn about this issue and work to end partner violence on our campus and beyond. Domestic violence is defined by the Department of Justice “as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner.” There are many ways in which a partner can abuse his/her partner, including but not limited to: physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Most batterers use more than one form of abuse against their partners to gain power and control.

Domestic violence can occur regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, or religion. Accoring to statistics provided by The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men over 18 years of age have experienced severe physical violence from an intimate partner during her/his lifetime. As reported by the Center for Disease Control, physical intimate partner violence amounts to about 8.3 billion dollars in healthcare costs each year and victims/survivors of intimate partner violence lose a total of 8 million days of work each year as a result of the violence. It is a serious problem in our society that has historically been viewed as a private matter- something that happens behind closed doors and should not be discussed or handled outside of the relationship. However, it’s important to see this issue as a community-wide problem in which everyone is affected when a member is harmful toward his/her partner. 

Members of the Wheaton community, just like every other area of the world, do experience domestic violence and members of our community perpetrate that violence. It’s important to be aware that this problem exists, and it’s equally important to do something about it. Be careful in how you speak about any form of violence, particularly domestic violence. You never know who might have experienced intimate partner violence or who is currently experiencing said abuse and your words can be triggering (for example, notice the trigger warning at the head of this article). 

Hold others accountable for their words and actions, as we should all be working toward ending domestic violence by educating ourselves and helping others who we may suspect to be in an abusive situation. Please stop victim blaming, and ask why batterers batter rather than why the person doesn’t leave. Also, understand that while we use the terms “domestic violence” or “intimate partner violence,” abusers don’t always abuse in physical ways. Psychological and emotional abuse are as detrimental, but cannot be measured or noticed in the way tangible, visible marks left by physical violence are. 

So I ask you Wheaton, please take the time to care about this issue because it undoubtedly affects ,or has affected, many members of our community as well as all of our communities at home. Looking for ways you can help? Looking for resources? Check out the boards in Balfour all month long or go to Call 1-800-799-7233 for the National Domestic Violence helpline if you or someone you know is experiencing abuse. Call 911 if you or someone you know is in immediate danger. And always remember that abuse of any kind is never okay.