Closed Doors: The Invisibility Of Domestic Violence
By Lucinda Marshall
is Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM). Coming as it does during
the same month as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM) and
Halloween, DVAM receives far less attention than the pink ribbons, ghosts
and goblins. This is ironically fitting since domestic violence (DV)
is so frequently an unseen crime. Despite being the most common type
of violence experienced by women, only 20% of rapes and sexual assaults
and 25% of physical assaults against women in the U.S. are reported
to law enforcement authorities.
Definitions of domestic violence
can include stalking and psychological abuse as well as physical and
sexual assault, such as rape. While men can also be victimized by domestic
violence, 85% of the victims are women and 95% of the perpetrators of
domestic violence against both men and women (as well as children) are
men. Domestic violence is the most common form of violence against women,
not only here in the U.S., but globally as well. A recent study by the
World Health Organization found that intimate personal violence (IPV)
rates around the world varied from 15% in Yokohama, Japan to 71% in
Ethiopia. Here in the U.S. one out of four women will be assaulted by
a partner during her lifetime.
The economic costs of intimate
personal violence are also enormous. According to the latest figures,
in 2003 dollars, IPV costs $8.3 billion annually in the U.S. alone.
Costs include the cost of physical and psychological care as well as
lost work time. It is estimated that victims of severe IPV lose 8 million
days of paid work every year.
Unfortunately domestic violence
is the crime that no one wants to talk about. Because it takes place
within the context of intimate relationships, it is often dismissed
as a personal matter, rather than the human rights violation that it
is. The extent to which DV is ignored is clear when one looks at the
media coverage it receives compared to breast cancer during October,
a time when we are urged to become more 'aware' of both issues. Of seven
popular women's magazines that had extensive coverage of NBCAM, none
had any mention of DVAM.*
While it is not clear how
much awareness impacts ending breast cancer, awareness is indeed a crucial
tool in ending domestic violence. Although we don't yet know how to
eradicate breast cancer, there are many things we can do right now to
curb DV. While personal actions are crucial, one of the most important
needs is for funding. While recognizing that, " Domestic violence
has no place in our society, and we have a moral obligation to help
prevent it.", President Bush's 2007 budget did not include full
funding for the Violence Against Women Act, even though he signed its
reauthorization only months before. And while Congress has already approved
funding for military and homeland security expenditures, final funding
for VAWA is not expected until after the election.
Unfortunately for many women,
making the homeland safer is not much use while they are being terrorized
in their own homes. We will not be able to stop domestic violence until
the personal safety of women is seen as an inalienable human right whose
defense is a top priority in our national expenditures.
* The magazines were Redbook,
Glamour, Good Housekeeping, More, Women's Day. Ladies' Home Journal
is a feminist artist, writer and activist. She is the Founder of the
Feminist Peace Network, www.feministpeacenetwork.org.
Her work has been published in numerous publications in the U.S. and
abroad including, Counterpunch, Alternet, Dissident Voice, Off Our Backs,
The Progressive, Countercurrents, Z Magazine , Common Dreams and Information
Clearinghouse. She blogs at WIMN Online.
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