A recent survey by the Avon Foundation, an initiative designed to expose and shed light on the realities of domestic violence in the U.S. while increasing education, awareness, and prevention, shows that a staggering 60% of Americans know a victim of domestic violence. The survey, titled No More Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, Survey of Attitudes and Experiences of Teens and Adults, was intended to highlight the lack of conversation surrounding the subject of domestic violence. One of every two Americans knows a victim of domestic violence, according to the survey, and yet two out of three Americans have not discussed domestic violence with those in their inner circle of family and friends.
According to this survey and confirmed by preexisting data, one in every four women and one in seven men are, or have been, subjected to domestic violence. Compared with other problems that are often cast as an exclusively woman’s issue, the lack of education and dialogue about domestic violence is puzzling. For example, breast cancer has an enormous degree of national awareness, but only 1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer. Americans are not divided on the subject of whether or not domestic violence is bad, so it is not a lack of consensus on our part—80% of Americans think domestic violence is a societal problem, according to the survey—but perhaps Americans are not aware of how close this problem is to home. Only 15% think that domestic violence is a problem among their friends. A visit to the American Bar Association shows that an estimated 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are assaulted physically by a partner each year, so these numbers in the survey are not representative of hype; if one in two Americans knows a victim of domestic violence, then awareness of 15% is a very low number.
There are many reasons that we do not like to discuss domestic violence. It is very distasteful, and we prefer not to think that our friends are capable of being abusers. Often, friend and family do not know what to do when someone reaches out for help. The survey also reports that more than half of the women who reached out and reported their plight did not receive any help, and of the small percentage of men who reached out, 87% did not receive any help. And yet, as the survey states, 75% of Americans claim they would help if they saw that someone was being abused.
How can we keep from contributing to the percentage of victims who reached out for help only to be ignored? Here is a short, but crucial checklist:
- Know what abuse is, and teach your family and friends.
- Be able to direct victims to an organization that can help, such as the The National Network to End Domestic Violence, or find a local organization such as the Colorado Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
- If you are a victim of abuse, learn more about your rights and what the law has to say – a good website to start with is Women’s Law.org.
There is, however, a flip side to domestic violence awareness, and that is the alarming frequency with which false accusations are used as weapon against a partner or former partner in order to garner sympathy, for purposes of slander, to exact revenge, and in cases where children are involved, to jeopardize one’s standing with regard to child custody. If you are falsely accused of domestic violence, there are options. Resources such as Save and A Voice for Men offer information and advice about what to do. As a side note, though this information is aimed at men, it applies to women who are falsely accused, as well. Also, for both genders, be aware of what “domestic abuse” means – it can be applied to a former partner, and the legal implications can be devastating.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.