**Warning: This article contains subject matter pertaining to domestic violence, school shootings, trauma, suicide, as well as language that may be disturbing to some readers**
Photo Source: (Intimate Partner Violence Survey, 2018)
A woman stands in the kitchen, preparing the evening meal for her family, though they do not have much food. The family’s income has been cut by half due to her partner losing his job, but this does not change the fact that her three children need to eat. She desperately searches the kitchen to find how she can make a meal out of the very few items they have available. She begins preparing food, knowing it will not be enough to fill the bellies of her already starving children, yet she does her best. Suddenly, the front door flies open and the children (twelve, seven and three) scurry to the one back bedroom the family shares. The man towering in the door frame smells of cheap liquor and cigarettes and begins his stumble towards the kitchen. He greets his partner with drunken disapproval, his unsteady motions cause the hot plate on the stove to drop to the kitchen floor. His partner stiffens, knowing what will come next. Her face is met with a painful blow, and her partner screams “WHY THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT? HOW FUCKING STUPID CAN YOU BE?!?” The children stay quiet. Watching and listening to their mother taking an excruciating beating, knowing their involvement could result in further harm. The woman is pushed to the ground, as she has been a thousand times before. She takes it, out of the knowledge that if she doesn’t let it happen, it may result in him beating and demeaning the children. Tonight, she doesn’t show the fear, she is numb to the physical and emotional pain that she has known for so long and too tired and hungry to fight back. This infuriates the man. Does he no longer have the power he so desperately needs when everything else within his life is spinning out of control? He advances to the hallway closet with fury in his eyes, and determination in his movement. He retrieves his gun, makes his way back to his cowering wife and presses it against the woman’s temple. The children peak through the crack of the door, fearing for their mother’s safety and forcing back tears. The toddler begins to whimper, shifting the attention of the father from his partner to the doorway of the bedroom. The father lunges toward the bedroom door and grabs the toddler by the hair pulling her into the living room where the mother lay in fear. The man in his drunken rage holds a gun with the safety off in one hand and a tiny child’s curly hair in the other. The father sticks the gun to the child’s head and threatens that if anyone says a word, he will “blow her fucking brains out”. The mother nods accepting the terms as silent tears stream down her face. The father releases the child’s locks from his grip and lowers the gun. He ushers the woman into the room to have his way as the children huddle in a corner of the living room around their youngest sibling. They can’t sleep tonight, like most nights, and sit in silence as they await another day.
Violence within homes does not stay there, it carries into our communities. The combination of circumstances above is a work of fiction; however, every detail is based on the truth that is happening within your community, right now. Intimate Partner Violence (IPV, previously referred to as Domestic Violence) is present not only in marriages and households with children like narrative above, but also crosses lines of sex, gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and culture. According to the Childhood Domestic Violence Association, in the United States alone 5 million children witness IPV each year and 40 million adults grew up in households with IPV (2016). With such a prominent number of adults and children facing this issue within our country, why isn’t it talked about more?
Potential Impact of Intimate Partner Violence on Communities and Our Society
Photo Source: (Power and Control Wheel, 2018)
Take the illustration above as an example, the biggest question asked by many is: why doesn’t she just leave? Well, it isn’t as simple as it may seem. Often abusive partners will psychologically break down their counterpart slowly by creating distance and isolation from friends and family, utilizing financial abuse and using children as a means to make their partner fear of leaving. The children who witness IPV within their homes, often meet criteria for Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), are six times more likely to commit suicide, 74% more likely to commit violent crimes against others, and three times more likely to repeat the cycle of violence within adulthood (Childhood Domestic Violence Association, 2016). Therefore, IPV is not merely an issue within households, but an issue that affects our communities and ultimately society.
With the increase we have seen in school shootings in recent news, bringing to light the issue is extremely important as IPV is a major contributing factor. Bullying and school violence can be an indication that children have witnessed IPV and are simply modeling behavior they have seen at home. With early intervention and support from mental health professionals and community members alike, we can decrease these instances of violence and ultimately SAVE LIVES. We often stigmatize seeking help and support from professionals, making survivors less likely to seek outside help. Combine that with the fear of potential consequences from their abusive partner, and the lack of understanding from the community, and the cycle continues.
Can you remember a time when something said to you stuck and meant something? If one small sentiment can change the way we think or act over time, think of what your contribution of kindness, advocacy and support can do to the many people experiencing IPV every day. You may not think you know anyone experiencing this, but it is extremely likely that you and/or your children know many people experiencing this. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime (2010). However, IPV has often kept a secret due to the amount of fear and potential consequences of this violence coming to light, as illustrated above. You can do your part by encouraging individuals to seek professional assistance, knowing the signs, and supporting your fellow community members with kindness. You do not have to personally experience this kind of violence, or even understand why it happens, to show support to your community. Together, and only together, we can create a healthier community and break the cycle of violence.
Please share this article and the resources it offers, because you never know who it may benefit. There is a way to end the cycle of violence, and my challenge to you is to BE A PART OF THE SOLUTION. Need more information on how you can be an ally to survivors or resources? Please contact me, and I would be happy to assist.
If you or someone you know is currently experiencing domestic violence there are resources available to you. Please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline Support, resources and advice for your safety 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) 24/7, 365 days a year. Bilingual advocates on hand.
The author, Lauren Reminger, is a domestic violence survivor and an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, AMF95143; Supervised by Naomi Cooper Martin MFC48304. Lauren specializes the treatments of trauma, like those described above, and is currently accepting new clients in Escondido at the Therapeutic Center for Anxiety and Trauma. Lauren also accepts teletherapy and coaching clients independently. Please call (760) 237-8181 for an appointment or questions. Lauren can also assist survivors in building personalized safety plans and providing resources for any stage in the process.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017, August 22). Intimate Partner Violence.
Childhood Domestic Violence Association. (2016, August 22). 10 Startling Statistics about Children of Domestic Violence. Retrieved April 15, 2018
Intimate Partner Violence Survey. (2018, February 02). Retrieved April 15, 2018
Power and Control Wheel. (2018). Retrieved April 15, 2018