What is domestic violence?
Domestic violence (DV), also known as intimate partner violence (IPV), is the willful intimidation, physical assault, battery, sexual assault, and other abusive behavior as part of a system of power and control perpetrated by one intimate partner against another. DV is considered a public health problem in the United States and affects individuals in every community regardless of age, race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, and economic status. The overall impact of DV on an individual or a family can be devastating, and many victims suffer in silence. DV is vastly underreported, and many struggle to get out of their abusive situations.
Why don’t people experiencing domestic violence just report it or leave?
Many factors contribute to the reluctance a victim feels to report their abuse. Some reasons may be unique to the individual and their circumstances. The following are only a handful of the many factors that keep an individual from reporting the abuse they experience:
Victim Blaming or Fear of Not Being Believed:
- Victim-blaming, or the fear that one will not be believed, dramatically contributes to the reluctance a victim feels in reporting. The burden of responsibility is immediately pushed onto the victim with questions such as, “Well, what did you do to make them angry?” and, “If they are abusing you, why haven’t you reported it yet?”. Questions such as these question the victim’s reliability and shift the focus and responsibility away from the perpetrator.
Shame is a common emotion associated with domestic violence. Victims are generally sensitive to the judgment of other people, and reporting involves revealing embarrassing and personal details of one’s intimate relationship and the abuse they endured, sometimes for many years. Many are ashamed that they stayed with or went back to abusive partners and believe that they should have been able to recognize the pattern of abuse. Victims with children often fear being labeled as a “bad parent” for staying with their partner while continually being abused.
Fear of being treated differently:
- Some victims, after finally collecting the courage to report the abuse, find themselves in situations in which they are treated differently by those around them. While this difference in treatment is usually well-intended, it is a misguided attempt to be helpful and can harm the victim. This shift in treatment often comes up in the workplace. After reporting the abuse, an individual may return to their workplace and find that their workload has been reduced to “give them a break.” This action can accomplish the opposite by singling out the victim and making them feel more shame and embarrassment. The impact on one’s job that may come as a result of reporting the abuse is a typical delay in reporting. One study found that between 20-60% of victims of domestic violence lose their jobs due to reasons stemming from the abuse.
Fear of Violence or Retaliation:
- Another significant contributing factor to the reluctance a victim feels to report their abuse, specifically for victims who are women, is the fear that violence or retaliation will transpire. This fear is not an improbable one. 50-75% of abused women who are murdered are killed after they leave their partners. For many, not reporting and staying with their partner is simply a means of survival.
If you or a loved one are struggling and in need of support and are NOT in immediate danger, reach out to us at (816) 287-0252 to schedule an appointment with one of our counselors today.
There are resources available to you:
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-(800)-799-7233 (SAFE) www.ndvh.org
The National Dating Abuse Helpline: 1-(866)-331-9474 www.loveisrespect.org
The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence: 1-(800)-537-2238 www.nrcdv.org