Domestic violence is an epidemic throughout the nation. Truly, it affects the entire world, and those here in Rochester are not immune to its effects. As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it’s crucial to take this time to discuss the seriousness of domestic violence, especially as there are so many misconceptions surrounding the issue. Domestic violence is often cloaked in shame, and in fact, this is one reason why it’s so easy for it to go unnoticed or unreported. Abusers are able to convince their victims that nobody will listen to them or that they’re exaggerating. Indeed, some relationships feature mutual domestic violence, wherein both parties are implicated in the violence itself and therefore neither feels comfortable reporting it. It’s undeniable that there are systemic issues within how law enforcement deals with domestic violence, and these have led to it becoming normalized. No matter how aware people are of the fact that domestic violence is technically wrong, this doesn’t mean that society is doing everything it can to prevent it and indeed treat the issue much like a disease would be treated. While it may be impossible to completely eliminate domestic violence, people can be made more aware of the risk factors surrounding it and what can be done when a person is the victim of domestic violence.
What Is Domestic Violence?
What defines domestic violence? Some victims of domestic violence often don’t realize that it’s happened to them until after the fact. This is because a lot of people have a very dramatic perception of what domestic violence is and don’t understand that it can escalate over time. Ultimately, domestic violence is considered a pattern of abuse, and it rarely stops with one incident. Even if there are significant stretches of time between incidents, an abuser often repeats the offense eventually, and indeed many people who are jailed over domestic violence charges re-offend after being released. While people often consider domestic violence to be purely physical, the pattern of abuse involved can also include isolation from family and friends, financial deprivation (that is, taking money away to ensure that the abused individual cannot leave), threats of physical harm to the victim or their loved ones, psychological and emotional abuse, and destruction of property and harm to pets. Sometimes, these accompanying behaviors exist as warning signs before the physical violence begins. Other times, there are few clear warning signs; but either way, these behaviors often occur in conjunction with physical abuse.
Both physical abuse and these accompanying behaviors all fall under the umbrella of domestic violence. Sexual abuse can also fall under domestic violence; unfortunately, some who are physically abused by their partners are also sexually abused by their partners. The uniting factor of domestic violence is that it is perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner.
Who Is Victimized By Domestic Violence?
A general misconception is that women are the only people who can be victimized through domestic violence. However, people of all sexes and gender identities can also be victims of domestic violence. Furthermore, domestic violence is not confined to heterosexual relationships. The issue with domestic violence committed against men, in particular, is that men often feel a lot of societally-induced shame and embarrassment around the issue, particularly when the domestic violence is perpetrated by women against men. It’s estimated that about one in four women and one in nine men are survivors of domestic violence, including not only physical abuse but sexual abuse as well.
One reason why people hear more about women being abused, of course, is not only that it’s more prevalent statistically, but that it’s often more likely to lead to severe consequences, namely murder. Homicide is actually one of the leading causes of death for women. Almost half of all female murder victims aged 44 and under were killed by a current or former male intimate partner. Unfortunately, one of the reasons why women are sometimes killed by a male intimate partner is that they are pregnant; some experts estimate that women are most at risk of being killed by a male intimate partner during pregnancy. Nonetheless, even people who escape domestic violence without being permanently disabled or killed can suffer from serious mental health consequences. These include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, long-term depression, and anxiety disorders as well. It can be incredibly difficult for someone to explore new romantic relationships or trust anyone following domestic violence, though with time and help from mental health professionals, it’s certainly possible.
Resources For Those Suffering From Domestic Violence In Rochester
Fortunately, there are multiple resources available in Rochester for those suffering from domestic violence. The most obvious, of course, would be the police. The Rochester Police Department is there to help those in fear of their partners due to domestic violence, and their Victim Assistance Unit is specially designated to handle this issue. Those within the unit can also help victims connect with agencies that will help them find counseling, legal assistance, food and clothing, and shelter.
The Willow Domestic Violence Center also offers help to those suffering from domestic violence. Adults of all genders and their dependent children are welcome at its 49-bed shelter, where they offer food and clothing, as well as assistance in finding a job or place to live. The abused party need not be residing with their abuser when they come to the Willow Domestic Violence Center, and the average length of stay there is three to four weeks, though an individual’s stay may be longer or shorter depending on their individual case.
There is no way that someone can strictly prevent themselves from being abused, as it’s the abuser that offends in the first place. If this does happen to you, it’s not your fault. But know that there are resources available to help you and those you love. You do not need to accept domestic violence.