October is the month of frights. We spend time decorating our homes with caution tape, webs, and danger signs, surround ourselves with scary movies, and finding the perfect costume to disguise ourselves. The mysticism that surrounds us this month is reminiscent of a wide scale problem we often shy away from talking about. This October, as we recognize Relationship Violence Awareness Month, I ask you to take the mask off of domestic and interpersonal violence, so we can have an honest conversation about something that is truly terrifying.
The Centers for Disease Control reported that with every minute that goes by, 24 people are victims to sexual assault, domestic violence, and stalking. Unfortunately, most of these cases are not reported. As a society we have formed a collective silence over domestic abuse and intimate partner violence. High profile cases, like that of NFL’s Ray Rice, paint a single view of relationship violence and put further blame on the victim. Instead of asking why he hit her, much of the focus shifted to why his partner, Janay Palmer, didn’t leave.
Each year more than twelve million women and men are affected by interpersonal violence in the United States. This begs us to view domestic violence outside of the private sphere, and instead, as a larger problem in our society. Domestic violence is often a cycle of abuse and manipulation from someone seeking power. The abuse can be physical, mental, and/or sexual, and each type can be equally as damaging to the person involved. Furthermore, domestic abuse can happen to anyone from any race, age, gender, and socioeconomic background.
It’s important to realize that most abusive relationships do not start out that way. In fact, abuse hides in subtly belittling jokes, unequal distribution of assets, and control feigned as concern. If physical violence is involved, it is often used to reinforce the emotional abuse the perpetrator has already employed, and in most cases the victim is often isolated by their own “unique” situation. It’s also important to realize that “just leaving” is usually not as simple as that. Many people trapped in abusive relationships have very compelling reasons for staying, as Huffington Post recently explored in a series called “Why Didn’t You Just Leave?”.
Let’s be clear that no one deserves to be controlled or treated poorly in any relationship. You are worthy of kindness and fairness, no matter who you are. If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic abuse, you are not alone. You can seek help from the National Domestic Abuse Hotline or by calling our 24-Hour Help Line, where one of our trained companions is always primed to listen and refer you to appropriate resources.
Gentry Hodnett is a UNC graduate with a major in Psychology and a minor in Music. Gentry has been volunteering with the Center since January 2014 as an Office Volunteer and Intern, and she is now training to be a Start Strong Educator. Gentry remains committed to creating a world free of oppression and carries with her a passion for all women’s rights.