Author’s note: This article discusses domestic violence.
This October marks the 29th Domestic Violence Awareness Month, which works to raise awareness about domestic violence and encourage people to take a stand against it. Domestic violence has long been an ignored and less promoted problem, but arrests and accusations against high profile football players such as Ray Rice and Greg Hardy have helped bring domestic violence to the forefront of news.
But while these cases are getting are getting attention, the problem within has existed within the NFL for many years unnoticed. Since 2000, there have been 94 arrests of NFL players for domestic violence. And on an even larger scale, statistics show that 24.3% of women over 18 have been victims of domestic violence.
Not all communities are affected by domestic violence at equal levels. Studies have shown that women of color face rates of domestic violence and much higher than average levels. Native American women face victimization rates double than average, just under a third of African American women have experienced domestic violence. Still, cultural barriers can often prevent people from seeking help. Asian-Americans report and lower rates and use mental health services, with the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health finding “that Asian victims of domestic violence were at least four times less likely to use mental health services than whites, blacks, or Latinos.”
The recent incidents with the NFL have helped to bring some of these issues to light, but the focus cannot solely be on women. In 2010, the Center for Disease Control revealed in its survey that 40% of the victims of severe physical domestic violence are men, and according to the last statistics by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 835,000 are assaulted by their intimate partners each year.
However, services for men are much more limited compared to those offered by women. Many shelters accept only women and have cut offs for the age of boys they accept. In addition, men face much stronger stigmas and gender norms since they are considered the “stronger” sex. This can make it hard for men to admit to being survivors of domestic violence and is part of the reason why men and less likely than women to identify their assailant.
And men are not just assaulted by women. Two in five gay and bisexual men will experience abuse by an intimate partner. Lesbian women face similarly high rates, with 78% reporting that they had fought back against an abusive partner. Transgender survivors are nearly twice more likely to experience harassment within violence relationships, yet were also 4.4 times more likely to face police violence when interacting with police regarding an interpersonal violence incident.
Overall, 25-33% of the LGBT population reports experiencing domestic violence, yet many are often afraid to report. Some abusers threaten to out the survivor, others face homophobia, or are denigrated with gender-based insults.
Improvements are happening, such as the huge steps taken by President Obama when gender-inclusive language that mentions gay, lesbian, and transgender survivors were added to the Reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in 2013.
But the fact that these additions were added into the pre-existing Violence Against Women Act shows how narrowly both the government and the general public view the issue of domestic violence. These statistics demonstrate how large a swath of the population is affected, regardless of gender, race, or sexual orientation. So this Domestic Violence Awareness Month, make sure your work is inclusive of all survivors.
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.