You probably know some of the warning signs of an abusive partner: he is easily angered or tries to isolate you from friends and family. But did you know the neighbors arguing upstairs might put your own life at risk? Or that your chances of getting slapped can be increased by your favorite reality show?
The 2013 Domestic Violence Summit hosted by Verizon explored the impact of domestic violence in our lives and offered prevention tactics, as one in four women experiences Intimate Partner Violence (IPV). Along with discussing teen dating violence and incidents in the military, the event had a panel moderated by CBS Sports commentator James Brown that shared the role men and boys have to curb violence.
“If a person cannot be safe in their own home, then their community is not safe,” shares Rose Stuckey Kirk, President of the Verizon Foundation. “We have to empower each other as African-American women to say here is what your value is. Having a man to have a man is not valuable to your life.”
Neil Irvin, executive director of Men Can Stop Rape, spoke on what we can do as a community to curtail violence. “We have to get involved and find a way back to our community,” he says. “Black people have always understood extended family. We have to fight for the love that will create a community where any of us seeing violence would be appalled.”
6 Common Myths About Domestic Violence
It’s between the couple.
Next time you hear your neighbors physically fighting or your cousin says her man shoved her again, don’t just tweet about it but offer support. “We have to ask two questions: how can I help you and what is preventing you from leaving,” Kirk says. “Sometimes they say, because if I leave he will kill me. Help her understand there are resources to help her get safe and remind her all technology may be monitored by an abuser, so be careful. Don’t be judgmental if they never leave.”
Women stay because they want to.
“We have to understand that just packing up and leaving is not always the answer,” Kirk says. “There is a tendency to think she’s staying because she likes it or wants to stay. Very often when you ask a woman to go, you are asking her to walk right into poverty. You are asking her to uproot her children and walk away from everything she knows. That is not easy.”
Domestic violence isn’t just a personal problem.
Violence inside the home is a social issue and impacts our entire community. Dan Mead, President and CEO of Verizon Wireless, also points out that it is a business issue impacting companies. “The hardest thing to talk about is abuse,” he says. “We have trainers to help people understand abuse and offer relocation for those that need it. We also have an employee assistance program that our employees can contact and their team or boss aren’t told anything about it.”
Your past abuse doesn’t affect the present.
Along with the emotional impact, an abusive relationship can have long-term side effects on your health. “We worked with a woman in her 50s. For a very brief time in college, she was in an abusive situation,” Kirk says. “He hit her in the head and she broke it off. But now she has some serious medical issues. From screening, we were able to connect those health issues in her 50s to what happened when she was 20.”
Abuse happens to a certain kind of woman. I’m too smart for that.
Any woman, child or man can be abused. Along with dating habits, images can also predispose us to abuse. “We have to turn off some of the shows that do not demonstrate healthy relationships,” Kirk says. “I always tell my friends I don’t watch any of these housewives. I am not going to put myself in a position where that kind of behavior is acceptable. We owe it to ourselves when we look at entertainment to ask why is it ok to slap her?”
I could get hurt if I get involved.
“There are a range of interventions to keep everyone as safe as possible,” Irvin says. “We teach youth in our program many ways to de-escalate violence whether alerting other people at a party a woman is being pumped drinks or asking an arguing couple if everything is ok from the other side of the street. You don’t have to work at a hotline to intervene.” You can also donate old cellphones to Verizon’s Hopeline program, which are given to domestic violence victims for support.
If you are in danger, please use a safer computer, or call 911, your local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233(SAFE) and TTY 1-800-787-3224.