With October only a few days behind us, the news lit up with stories of another mass shooting in America. 26 people died, and 20 more were injured, at the hands of a coward on Sunday morning as they attended church in a small town in Texas. Sadly, our nation mourns once again. But, if you ask most people on the street if domestic violence awareness is an issue they can get behind, they give a cautious nod and uncomfortably move farther away. The sadness is not enough to elicit action.
Domestic violence is not a comfortable subject as any glance at social media will tell you. Throughout October, pink flooded our newsfeeds. Pictures of individuals donning their pink shirts to walk, run, or bike in support of breast cancer research soared, and pink ribbons garnished a myriad of food items at the local grocery store. Yet, domestic violence articles were few and far between on blogs and in women’s magazines, while purple ribbons are basically unheard of. They definitely are not the “go to” branding craze used by large companies. Afterall, domestic violence awareness is not what most are looking to take home. It isn’t as sexy as “saving the ta-tas.”
But beyond awareness, our nations also finds discomfort in facts. It’s not really the fault of individuals. Afterall, if the truth is not broadcasted through media, you have to go dig up the facts and educate yourself in order to know. With each mass shooting, our attention is whisked away to gun control.
On October 2, 2017, just one day after the Las Vegas shooting, the New York Times ran this headline: 477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress.
Just like after the Las Vegas shooting, we will hear people question why this happened. The argument for, or against, gun control will spike and accusations will fly from both sides, generously fueled by the media and talking heads. Columnists and bloggers will question what is happening in our society and people at the water cooler will say how sad it is that these things continue to happen in our country.
Theories as to easy access to guns, PTSD, mental health issues, and race will all be addressed. Is this a hate crime? Should we ban guns? How do we make it all stop? But over the coming days, this story, like others, will dwindle to a megar update on the back page of an online newspaper. Quickly forgotten and rarely addressing the real issue.
And then, in a few months, it will happen all over again. And every day between now and then, someone (or two, or three, or four) will lose their life at the hands of an abuser, but those stories will not be covered. Those stories do not touch on the hot topics of the day, cause division, or sell newspapers. Because those stories are more clear.
A mother and her three children were killed by an ex-husband, a jealous lover stabbed his girlfriend after she went to a party, a man with a history of anger issues killed his entire family before turning the gun on himself, a woman is shot in her place of work after threatening to leave her abusive husband. Those people do not warrant the same news coverage as a one brought on by easy access to guns. After all, the chose to stay with someone who abused them, right? Why didn’t they just leave? What did they do to cause their significant other to lose it? Surely there is more the the story. (Insert annoyed sarcasm here)
We are slowly, as a society, beginning to connect the dots. The question, in my mind, is when will domestic violence be deemed an issue worthy of our discussion, our support, and our time?
“The majority of mass shootings—54 percent of cases—were related to domestic or family violence.” (Everytown For Gun Safety)
Still not convinced? Let’s take a look at some of the most famous mass shootings in America in recent history.
Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, physically abused his former wife on a regular basis.
Seungh Hui Cho, who gunned down 32 people at Virginia Tech in April 2007, was accused of harassing two women at the university two years earlier. Virginia police ordered him to stop contacting the second student.
Adam Lanza, shot his mother four times before killing 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
Stephen Paddock, the Las Vegas shooter, was reported to demean his girlfriend in front of others at the local Starbucks, where they were regulars. Note: What happens in public is simply the tip of the iceberg.
Esteban Santiago, who opened fire with a handgun at the Fort Lauderdale airport, killing five people and wounding eight others, reportedly verbally assaulted his then girlfriend, through a locked bathroom door, telling her to “Get the f- out, bitch.” When she didn’t comply, he forced his way in by breaking down the door, smacked her in the head, and strangled her.
And finally, Devin Kelley, opened fire on the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday. In 2012, Kelley, was court-martialed for assault on his spouse and assault on a child. “He assaulted his stepson severely enough that he fractured his skull, and he also assaulted his wife,” Don Christensen, a former chief prosecutor for the Air Force, told the New York Times. “He pled to intentionally doing it.”
I could go on and on, but that would require a book. Is the issue becoming clearer?
The sad news in all of this is that mass shootings are just a small part of the bigger issue surrounding domestic violence.
“When asked to define what actions comprise domestic violence and abuse, 2 in 5 Americans did not mention hitting, slapping and punching (Sept. 21 study commissioned by Liz Claiborne Inc.). Over 90 percent of people failed to define repeated emotional and verbal abuse, sexual abuse or controlling behaviors as patterns of domestic violence.” (womensnews.org)
1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence each year, and 90% of these children are eyewitnesses to this violence. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). And these numbers do not include those who are emotionally, psychologically, sexually, or financially abused….or those who do not report abuse (such as myself).
I lived with abuse for 16 years, including emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. My husband pointed a gun at me and threatened my life on two occasions and his own life on several other occasions. Anyone who met him, loved him. But behind closed doors, he had an entirely different face. Yet, I am not included in those numbers. I’m sure you can do the math on what the real statistics are likely to look like.
And I’m not even addressing the effects of domestic violence on the workplace, medical community, or secondary survivors.
The point here is that domestic violence is a much bigger issue than we would like to believe. It is not a bandwagon issue, it is not a sexy issue, and it is one that is often associated with victim blaming. But no matter what you think you might know, or how uncomfortable it makes you, it is an issue that needs to be addressed. It is affecting those you love. It is affecting you.
Survivors need you, victims need you, children need you, and our society needs you. Will you step up and address the issue? It’s time we take a stand and treat domestic violence awareness as something we are proud to back. Let’s keep the conversation going!