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Silenced. Domestic violence proves under reported

Silenced. Domestic violence proves under reported

It is estimated that only 23 percent of domestic violence cases are reported.  These statistics fall tremendously short of the actual instances of abuse every year.

Domestic victimization is often under reported for reasons such as intimidation, embarrassment, lack of resources and isolation to the world, making victims feel almost incapable of leaving.

Within the past 50 years, protection for victims of domestic violence has increased, especially for women.

The Violence Against Women Act, passed in 1994 and updated in 2000, helps protect women and victims that have been silent about abusive attacks from their partners. Although the Violence Against Women Act protected women, the act leaves out the protection of same gender relationships that are subjected to violence.

Many victims have grown accustomed to “Walker’s Cycle of Violence” that has kept victims from leaving their abusive partners.

The three stages of Walker’s Cycle of Violence include the tension building stage, the acute battering incident stage and the honeymoon stage.  In the first stage, victims cover up for the partner’s abuse toward family and friends.  This leads to the second stage, which consists of the abusive partner acting out of control by taking their emotions and anger out on the victim.  Finally the honeymoon stage brings the cycle full circle in which the abusive partner is loving, gentle and usually begging for forgiveness.

Juanita Ortiz, UIS criminal justice professor, said, “Oftentimes, the victim feels scared to leave a relationship because they know what the abuser is capable of, and they fear even further harm based on threats about what would happen if they attempt to leave. Such threats can involve harm against the victims, their children, family members, friends or even pets.  Abusers can even threaten to kill or hurt themselves and blame it on the victim’s attempts to leave.”

However, within recent years the victimization of women is starting to gain attention, even though reports on same gender relationships are almost non-existent.

Victims from abusive same-sex relationships feel almost powerless to tell the law when a partner abuses them, they are already looked down upon and a majority may have not opened up to anyone about their sexual orientation.

“It is also important to discuss concerns specific to LGBTQ domestic violence situations.  First, there does not tend to be a huge awareness of public support for victims of LGBTQ domestic violence,” Ortiz said.  “This translates into many people, including professionals dealing with domestic violence, who are not prepared to consider domestic violence as possible between LGBTQ couples.”

Society and media give the impression that domestic victimization is acceptable for victims to be victimized in any sexual, physical or emotional way.  Society blames the victim for the abuse and assaults, making the victim feel at fault.

“I think people blame victims for their domestic violence victimization, or any victimization, in order to distance themselves from such traumatic experiences.  Their reactions fit the ‘just-world hypothesis’ that people only get what they deserve,” Ortiz said.  “They might convince themselves that if victims did something to deserve their victimization, they themselves will never experience such victimization because they would not make the same mistakes that such victims made.”

There are options for victims of domestic violence, such as shelters, the justice system and hotlines.

Springfield Sojourn Shelter’s services play an important role for domestic violence victims in Springfield, Ill.  The shelter allows victims to separate themselves from an abusive partner.

The Sojourn Shelter also provides the victims with therapy and education, and provides assistance in finding a job and a new home so the victim can start a new life without the abusive partner.

The majority of shelters, including the Sojourn Shelter, have a hotline that victims can call any time of the day for assistance. The Sojourn Shelter hotline is 217-726-5200, and is available 24 hours a day.

In some cases, shelters can become over-occupied and cannot accept new residents, but in this case, the victim will be referred to another shelter.

Victims can also involve the justice system to obtain restraining orders, which legally prevent the abusive partner from coming within a certain space of the victim.

There are ways to stop domestic violence in all kinds of relationships. No longer should victims be silent about the pain and harm they receive from their abusers.  With the help of agencies, therapists and the legal system, victims have the choice to put a stop to the violence.

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