The statistics are alarming. One in three American women have experienced, or will experience physical or sexual abuse within her lifetime; Forty to sixty percent of abusing men abuse children as well. One in five women will experience sexual violence throughout the course of her life, and sexual violence is the most costly crime in the United States, totaling $127 billion a year to cover expenses such as medical costs and costs associated with lost earnings, pain, suffering, and quality of life.
North Carolina has ranked in the top ten states for homicide rates from domestic violence in females murdered by males in recent years. In 2013, the number of violence related homicides dropped from 122 to 108. There have been16 domestic violence murders in North Carolina between January 1 and March 31 of 2014. These statistics are as astonishing as they seem to reflect the reality of the impact of sexual and domestic violence within our culture. This is a situation which we all must take seriously to protect ourselves and our loved ones.
Victims of sexual violence usually know the perpetrator (i.e. family member, boyfriend), and this makes managing the challenges all the more difficult. While domestic and sexual violence can happen to anyone, there are a few things that one can do in order to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of sexual violence:
One: practice the buddy system. Try not to go places by yourself, or if you do, let someone know where you are going.
Two: when staying out late at night, try to park in a well-lit area. Be sure not to be distracted by things such as music or a cell phone; these objects might interfere with your awareness of your surroundings. Instead, make sure you have your cell phone in hand (in case you need to make an emergency call) and car/house keys in hand, (so as not to delay time once you arrive at your destination).
Three: in social gatherings, NEVER EVER leave a drink unattended. Even if you go to the bathroom, take your drink with you, or drink it before going to the bathroom. It does not take a lot of time to slip a drug in a drink, and when this happens, the woman is almost always rendered incapable of protecting herself.
Four: most importantly, walk and talk with confidence. Even if you are unsure, act as if you are certain of yourself because confidence is a major turn off for predators. Those looking for victims usually seek out women who walk with their head low and seemingly feel unsure of themselves.
There are also ways to reduce one’s potential for domestic violence. Certain behaviors to be cautious of are extreme jealousy, verbal abuse, and controlling behaviors. At the beginning of relationships, domestic violence perpetrators are unusually quick to express their love for their significant other. Soon the perpetrator begins secluding their partner from other important people in their lives such as family and friends. Seclusion is one of the biggest indicators of impending domestic violence and abuse. When embarking on a new relationship one should ask questions about their partner’s previous relationships and most importantly relationships with other significant women, such as their mother and/or grandmother. If the partner fails to indicate respect for either of these relationships, it is usually a clue that this man does not respect women overall and will have a hard time respecting you. Be mindful of substance abuse that almost always makes such matters worse. If your partner struggles with substance abuse it should be a sign for extreme concern. Other red flags to watch out for include financial abuse, frequent episodes of intentional embarrassment, and undermining your authority or your feelings.
In order to combat the issue of sexual and domestic violence, everyone must take the issue seriously and be vigilant of the signs. Here are a few ways to do so. First, one should be conscious of the everyday messages that we send which support a culture that supports sexual/domestic violence. For instance, recklessly using degrading names to refer to a woman normalizes the behavior and invites it to be an acceptable way to insult and disrespect women. Blaming victims by indicating that they shouldn’t have worn what they were wearing or they shouldn’t have stayed in the relationship as long as they did is also problematic. These thoughts hold the victim liable for a crime that has been committed against them and is one of the reasons that women are often unlikely to speak out against their abuse, further giving their abusers an opportunity to abuse again. And last, but certainly not least, one should become educated on the matter and the issues at hand. The tough reality is that if not you then certainly someone you know has experienced one or both of these forms of abuse. Using a nonjudgmental, firm, and unconditional approach can make all the difference as to whether a person is able to get out of such a frightening situation. You wouldn’t want to miss your opportunity to make a difference in the life of someone else because of your lack of knowledge on the subject material. As you can see from the opening statistics, not helping someone in need could be fatal.
Abuse is NEVER okay. If you, or anyone you know is being abused and needs help, please contact the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence (http://www.nccadv.org/) or the North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual violence ( http://www.nccasa.org/).
Connie Omari is a psychotherapist, blogger, and author of Sacred Journey to Ladyhood: A Woman’s Guide Through Her Write of Passage. Connie uses her spiritual, educational, professional, and international experiences to uplift women around the world. For more information on Connie and her empowerment resources, please visit her at www.blog.connieomari.com or www.connieomari.com.