How many of us have gotten that phone call?
Maybe it was late at night, maybe it wasn’t. A girlfriend, a coworker, a sister in trouble. A man who, possibly right up until you got that phone call, you thought was a perfectly normal guy turns out to be a monster. Punching, kicking, violent jealous rages — or maybe just the imminent threat of those things.
If it’s happening to a loved one, you might help her move out, give her a place to stay and help her make the break. And if you’ve ever done those things, your girlfriend or your cousin or your sister was lucky. Lucky. Because she had someone to help her do those things, and that’s just not always the case. I looked up some stats on domesticviolencestatistics.org:
■ Every 9 seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
■ Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. Most often, the abuser is a member of her own family.
■ Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women — more than car accidents, muggings, and rapes combined.
■ Studies suggest that up to 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence annually.
■ Nearly 1 in 5 teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup.
■ Everyday in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.
■ Ninety-two percent of women surveyed listed reducing domestic violence and sexual assault as their top concern.
■ Domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year in the US alone—the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs.
The third bullet point really jumps out: Domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women. If that doesn’t tell you something about how pervasive it is, I don’t know what will. You don’t have to be on the receiving end of a shocking phone call to be touched by it, either. As I sat down to write this piece and started thinking about all the women I’ve personally known who have been affected by it, I was appalled to realize how many there were. I had never thought of them all at once before. And their life situations were all very different.
I’ll never forget the time a high-level supervisor came to work with a blackened eye. When I asked her what happened, this college-educated woman who was the breadwinner in her family said — and I swear I’m not making this up —
“I walked into a door.”
She said this in a monotone. She wouldn’t look me in the eye. She walked away from me before I could ask her anything else.
It was so obviously a lie, and she was so obviously ashamed, I didn’t broach the subject with her again. She quit not long after that, and since we weren’t exactly besties to begin with, I didn’t keep up with her. I don’t know if he ever hit her again. I do know she’s still with him. It’s very tempting to judge in a situation like that — why would she stay? She’s got the money to be on her own; she doesn’t need him. But judging doesn’t help. And whether the victim of domestic violence is a woman of means or a woman with nothing, she may have no idea how to get out of her situation.
For Domestic Violence Month, let’s make a pledge: no judgment, just support. Find out how you can help in your area by going to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence website, http://www.ncadv.org.