There’s a good chance you know a victim of domestic violence.
Around the world, 1 in 3 women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. One third of the entire female population of the globe. That means that someone in your life – a friend, sister, neighbor, or teacher – has been assaulted at the hands of a partner.
In no country in the world are women safe from domestic violence. In the US alone, a woman is beaten or assaulted every 9 seconds. One in 5 cases of honor killings worldwide occur in India, but some organizations claim the number is 4 times higher. In Tanzania, forty-one percent of women in Dar es Salaam and 56 percent in Mbeya have experienced physical abuse at the hands of their partners in their lifetime. In China, the UN reports that 25 percent of married women suffer domestic violence, but the number may be as high as 40 percent.
Domestic violence is the number one killer of women worldwide. Children exposed to domestic violence are 3 to 4 times more likely to perpetuate the abuse as adults, creating a seemingly never ending cycle.
So a woman in a picture perfect marriage might also be a mother who needs to shield her son from his father’s blows, put makeup on bruises, smile when everything inside her feels broken. She might be desperate to leave, but can’t because her husband is controlling her every cent, her every move.
And yet her son still may grow up to treat women the same way his father treated his mother. Violence can happen even before the child is born. Miscarriage and even death are much more likely when a pregnant woman is abused, If a mother is stressed while pregnant, her unborn child will be more likely to develop emotional and mental problems, such as ADHD, anxiety, and language delay.
This is a rampant issue, but why don’t we talk about it more? Because it’s not always obvious, and most attacks go unreported.
Because of the stigma of divorce and normality of domestic violence, only about 3 percent of divorces in China are granted on the basis of domestic violence alone. Nearly 56 percent of abused women in Dar es Salaam did not seek help because they thought that such violence was “normal.”
To this day, people are more afraid of strangers than they are of those more likely to hurt them, their loved ones. You are more likely to suffer abuse from someone you know. And the people around you make those same assumptions because we are trained to look away. “It’s just marriage issues” or “they’ll figure it out on their own.” It’s somebody else’s business. Often people believe what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors.
Most abusers don’t commit violence openly, but it still seeps into their public life. Maybe he puts her down in front of friends, belittling her actions and opinions. Maybe he’s extremely possessive, never letting her out of his sight. Maybe he’s always, always angry.
And maybe she is always worried of making him angry. Maybe she makes excuses for his behavior. Maybe she has unexplained bruises she tries to hide. If you see something, say something. Be attentive to the warning signs. But before that, you must remember to not be judgmental, to be as understanding as you can. Don’t accuse her of lying, or ask her why she hasn’t left him. Abuse can come in many forms – it’s not just physical. It can even be financial, where a partner controls all the money in the house so the victim can’t support herself without him. You can’t know, and you won’t know until you ask.
Acknowledge the pain she is going through. Be supportive of her decisions. But always remember that you can’t fix it for her – she’s going to have to do that for herself.
If you feel trapped in an unsafe relationship, remember this – you are worthy of being loved. You are more this. More than your bruises and broken bones, and more than his hate and anger. There is still hope.
Reach out to a friend, a coworker. Someone you know you can trust. If you don’t know anyone, there are still many resources you can reach and hotlines you can call to find the help you need. Just know that you are stronger than this.
Watch Ahlulbayt TV’s much acclaimed documentary on this topic titled:
Abused in Silence – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2kq1WAui3N8