In Craig Gillespie’s “I, Tonya” (2017), as figure skater Tonya Harding rises in the skating world, the apparent domestic abuse from her mother and her husband weigh on her conscious. Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room” (2015) follows a woman and her son as they attempt to make do under their abusive captor. A film called “The Breakfast Club” (John Hughes, 1985) dives into the psyche of John Bender, a rebellious teen who is physically, verbally, and psychologically abused by his father. The list of portrayals of this major issue in the media only goes on; nevertheless, the issue is as common on the big screen as it is in actuality.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the U.S., and by the time you finish reading this essay, about 80 people will have been physically abused. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men, according to The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. If we do nothing to change the current situation, these staggering statistics will not improve, but instead worsen. By taking a look at society today, it is clear that an improvement in these statistics can be made through awareness and education about the subject.
The first step that is needed to decrease the frequency of domestic violence is education. In primary school education system for most states, a mandatory puberty lesson is taught in which the boys and the girls are separated to discuss changes in their bodies. In order to improve the domestic abuse situation we currently see, domestic abuse (whether it be physical or mental) should be addressed within this talk.
If a child has been abused their entire life, they have learned to equate abuse with love; they do not understand that the trials they are facing are wrong. Many children, even those who are not abused, do not understand what abuse is and certain red flags that would signal it. By educating children at a young age and teaching them that abuse is not to be tolerated, they will more easily be able to speak up and seek help. Though the material should be discussed in fifth grade, it should not stop there: sexual education is taught in ninth grade once again. In four years, children will have gone through puberty and matured greatly. Because of this, to refresh them on what exactly domestic abuse is is critically important. It will only further promote awareness for the subject and one’s ability to recognize if it is happening to them so that they can speak up.
The next step that needs to be taken is the promotion of resources available to victims of domestic abuse. Many in a situation of domestic abuse do not know where to turn — they are able to recognize that there is a problem, but they don’t know who to turn to. Though there is a domestic abuse hotline at 800-799-7233, it is not nearly promoted as much as it should be. On public transportation (i.e. buses, metros, trains), billboards, and everything in between, resources to help victims should be promoted. For instance, one billboard with the domestic abuse hotline is placed right off the side of a freeway. On average, 379,000 cars drive on a given freeway daily (Eve Bachrach). This means that 379,000 cars would be made aware of the hotline — this could potentially be life changing.
Lastly, we must remove the stigma that is associated with reporting domestic abuse. Though many things stand in the way of victims speaking out, the great psychological barrier that stands in their way is the shame that is associated with being a victim. The society that we live in today tends to delegitimize one’s emotions/trauma. The sooner we remove this stigma, the sooner more people will find the courage to speak out against their abusers.
Now, one may argue that discussing domestic abuse with children will almost promote abuse and plant the idea in their minds, thus causing them to eventually take part in it one day. The same argument against sexual education is also made — if we educate children on sex, then they will start to have sex. But like sex education, education on domestic violence is needed. If children are unaware of how to deal with sex, then when they do encounter it, they will be unequipped with the proper knowledge and precautions needed to be safe.
If they are unaware of how to deal with domestic abuse, then when they do encounter it, they will be unequipped with prerequisites and resources needed to stand up for themselves. Because of this, it is clear that education on abuse truly benefits the one being taught and is needed to stop the trends we see today.
The epidemic of domestic abuse we see today is staggering. In a nationwide survey, 9.4 percent of high school students report being hit, slapped, or physically hurt on purpose by their boyfriend or girlfriend in the 12 months prior to the survey (National Domestic Violence Hotline). Through the education of domestic abuse, promotion of resources at victims’ disposal, and removal of the stigma that surrounds victims, we can move one step closer to saying goodbye to a world where 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence and/or intimate partner contact sexual violence, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.