Sunday, March 16, 2008

Domestic Violence Is Alive And Well

Unfortunately, domestic violence is very much alive and well -- and thriving. According to the National Victims Center, one woman is raped every minute, and 30% of all women murdered in this country are murdered by their boyfriends or husbands. Domestic violence is a particularly grim topic and a vicious crime, because it involves pain and suffering (even loss of life) inflicted by a friend, someone who claims to care, or a so-called loved one.

Many people ask, "Why don't the victims just leave? Why do they stay?"

The Abuse We Don't See

Usually by the time the physical abuse starts in a relationship, the emotional and psychological abuse has already destroyed all the dignity and self-esteem of the victim.

Victims feel ashamed and are embarrassed to tell others about their situations. They are fearful of leaving because of threats from their abusers and financial dependence.

In many instances, victims are manipulated to believe they deserve this treatment and it is somehow their fault. Abusers know exactly what to say and do to keep the abused in emotional captivity.

Victimizing the Victim

Victims view leaving as being more painful than staying, because of the imagined and real repercussions either from the perpetrator or from society at large.

Many people in the world still don't understand domestic violence. Therefore, they victimize the victim further by blaming the victim or making comments like: "You should have just left." "I would never be so stupid as to stay in an abusive relationship." "That would never happen to me."

People make jokes in our society about men "getting over" or using women -- men who are " Players." Even today, there are still groups of people who have the mindset that women are not equal to men and are just sexual objects.


Domestic violence is about control -- being mentally controlled by a significant other. That is the reason why, after leaving an abusive relationship, a victim will go back to her abuser an average of four times before she decides she has the mental strength to leave for good.

Now What?

I believe the remedy for domestic violence lies in building a society in which we honor ourselves. When we honor ourselves, it is difficult to dishonor someone else or to be dishonored. Yeah, easier said than done.

We can start with our children and try to stop domestic violence by educating the new generations.

Teach Our Children

Tell our children how wonderful they are. Tell our girls and our boys from the time they are born that they are glorious miracles. Teach them to love, respect, and celebrate who they are -- just because. Teach them that we all come from one wonderful source. Teach them that each of us can only be as strong as the weakest among us.

Teach our children how to honor by honoring them. Teach our children how to respect themselves by respecting them and respecting ourselves. Teach our children that to love someone -- being in love -- is to encourage each other to be free and to support each other in expressing and exploring all of the wonderful possibilities in life.

Teach them that love is not about control. Love is about wanting the very best for all concerned.

In the Meantime In the meantime, let's start by at least acknowledging that domestic violence does exist and is a major problem in our society. It knows no economic, racial, religious, gender, or educational boundaries. Let's take it out of the closet and deal with it. Talk about it. Tell somebody about it.

Support your local shelters and any programs in your community that are about helping to save the lives of victims of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and psychological and emotional abuse. They need our help. By helping them, we are helping ourselves.

The Price

According to a report from the American Medical Association, family violence costs this nation from 5 to 10 billion dollars annually in medical expenses, police and court costs, shelters and foster care, sick leave, absenteeism, and non-productivity.

Educate Yourself

Educate yourself, your loved ones, your friends, your neighbors, and, of course, your children. If you are in an abusive relationship, know that there is life after abuse.

Know the Warning Signs

• If you meet a man who says, "Yes, I've hit women in the past, but they made me do it," RUN.

• Avoid anyone who rushes you into a firm commitment very early in the relationship.

• Think twice about committing to someone who says, "I cannot live without you."

• If you're in a relationship where you feel you have to watch what you say -- you are not comfortable being yourself, because you don't want to upset him or be criticized -- know that this is not a good thing.

• If you're in a relationship with someone who wants to know what your every move is -- he interrogates you about where you were, who you were with, and what happened -- run.

• Think twice before you get into a relationship with someone who never takes the blame for anything – if according to him, it is always somebody else's fault.

• No matter how flattered you feel that someone wants you all to himself (disrupting relationships with friends and family), this is a serious warning sign.

• There are many other signs that can alert us to be cautious about continuing a relationship with a certain person.

Many times we see the writing on the wall, but for some reason, we refuse to read it until it's too late.

Don't Settle

Don't be a "settler." By this, I mean, don't just settle for any relationship for any reason. Know what you want and know especially what you don't want in a relationship, ahead of time.

Stop Domestic Violence

We are miraculous individuals. Many of us have "beat the odds" more than once. We have done what some said could not be done. We've moved forward when we thought we were stuck. We have faced challenges and walked through them with our heads held high.

Surely, together, we can end this unnecessary pain and suffering. We can move domestic violence out of our lives.

I believe we do have the power and the ability to build a society in which we honor ourselves. When we honor ourselves, it is difficult to dishonor someone else or to be dishonored.

Note: Although in this article I speak specifically of women as victims of domestic violence, please understand that many men are also victims of family and relationship violence.

By: Wambui Bahati

Wambui Bahati is a professional speaker and entertainer. She is the writer and performer of the nationally acclaimed one-woman show, "I Am Domestic Violence", in which she brings about domestic violence awareness as she personifies Domestic Violence.