EDITORIAL: Violent epidemic

Every day in Lee County and in the other 81 counties in Mississippi, calls to law enforcement and emergency responders report domestic violence. Almost all of the victims are women, and frequently it is not the first time a call has been made by or about a particular person.
The emphasis given to education during Domestic Violence Awareness Month – October – shines light on one of the darkest, most shameful and most frequent crimes in American society.
Domestic abuse is not confined to marriage. It is frequently reported and prosecuted in other intimate relationships, with victim and perpetrators spanning ages, economic classes, races, ethnicities, religious preferences, and geography.
U.S. Department of Justice statistics compiled earlier this decade reveal the depth and sheer volume of the issue:
• Of almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49 percent were crimes against spouses.
• 84 percent of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86 percent of victims of dating partner abuse were women.
• Men were 83 percent of spouse murderers and 75 percent of dating partner murderers
• 50 percent of offenders in state prison for spousal abuse killed their victims. Wives were 81 percent of all persons killed by their spouse.
• At least 1,006,970 women and 370,990 men are stalked annually in the United States.
• 1 in 12 women and 1 in 45 men will be stalked in their lifetime.
• 77 percent of female and 64 percent of male victims know their stalker.
• 87 percent of stalkers are men.
• 81 percent of women stalked by a current or former intimate partner are also physically assaulted by that partner.
• The average duration of stalking is 1.8 years.
• If stalking involves intimate partners, the average duration of stalking increases to 2.2 years.
• 13 percent of all college women were stalked during one six to nine month period.
• 80 percent of campus stalking victims knew their stalkers.
• 3 in 10 college women reported being injured emotionally or psychologically from being stalked.
• Statistical studies show that domestic violence is more frequent among Native Americans, African Americans and Latinos.
“This is an epidemic,” said Robert S. Thompson, M.D., senior investigator and lead author of one scholarly paper. “But it flies under the radar, because of the stigma and shame associated with it – as well as the fear that many health care providers have of opening what some call a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of difficult problems that they are unsure how to address.”
Researchers, not surprisingly, have found that both physical and emotional abuse lead to other health problems.
As Lena Mitchell reports in her insightful column on today’s op-ed page, revealing spousal, partner and/or family abuse takes courage. The obvious consequences of being found out by an abuser could be and often are worse abuse. Often, too, abuse victims still have strong bonds of affection for their abusers, even after prolonged violence.
The longer-term tragedy includes traumatizing children who witness domestic violence. Research has shown that they are more likely to become abusers and to become victims of abuse, along with other emotional and personality dysfunctions.
People who find themselves in abusive situations should report it – and seek a safe shelter, which can be provided by several non-profit organizations. Courts can and do order protection and counseling.
As for abusers, they need to be brought to justice, and often the only witnesses are their victims.

NEMS Daily Journal