Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. During this time, we mourn those who we have lost to domestic violence, celebrate those who have survived, and promote those who are working to curb the scourge of violence in the home. Domestic violence is a problem that is not new to us. Indeed, stories litter the annals of history of spousal and child abuse, but in the age of digital media, stories spread faster than wildfire.

Over the past 60 years, society’s approach to domestic abuse has shifted dramatically. In a 1964 paper in The Archives of General Psychiatry, three psychiatrists observed 37 cases of domestic assault in Massachusetts and determined that the husbands were “though reasonably hard-working, and outwardly respectable, [the husbands] were in reality ‘shy, sexually, ineffectual mother’s boys.”

The papers concluded that a man beating his wife was a ‘good thing.’

“The periods of violent behavior by the husband,” the doctors observed, “served to release him momentarily from his anxiety about his ineffectiveness as a man.”

The doctors referred to this as ‘violent, temporary therapy.’

Violent. Temporary. Therapy.

It would be 30 years until the Violence Against Women Act, proposed and drafted by future Vice President Joe Biden, would pass Congress and provide funds towards fighting as well as codifying laws against domestic violence.

“The periods of violent behavior by the husband,” the doctors observed, “served to release him momentarily from his anxiety about his ineffectiveness as a man.”

Today, we still have a long way to go, but we know that the tide against domestic violence is turning. Survivors of abuse are showing tremendous bravery by coming forward to participate in public awareness campaigns. In November 2014, the hashtag #WhyIStayed trended across various social network platforms as a way to explain why spouses would stay in abusive relationships.

For men who have never been victims of abuse, the stark honesty of these victims was jarring. Many men expressed remorse at what abuse victims have had to suffer through and vowed not to stoop to the level of an abuser. Whether or not they followed through is unknown, but these stories were the first step in a national conversation about domestic abuse and how prevalent it remains in today’s society.

It would be simple for us to proclaim that we envision a world with no domestic violence, a cheery end for a bleak blog post, but the reality is not that simple. The truth is that domestic violence, like all violence, has been a part of human society since Cain slew Abel and it will be with us until the last human draws their last breath. No, we cannot rid ourselves of domestic violence. What we can hope to do, however, is to fashion a society where victims of domestic violence no longer fear shame, recrimination, or retaliation for speaking out.

Our role has to be to create a society where victims are encouraged to come to authorities or charities and tell their stories.

Today, victims of domestic violence face both veiled and open threats of shame, fear, and more violence if they come forward. Both men and women believe they appear ‘weak,’ that they are threatening their family, or that the violence is somehow their fault.

Our role has to be to create a society where victims are encouraged to come to authorities or charities and tell their stories. No mother or father should feel that they might lose their children if they come forward about abuse. It took 30 years for society to move from declaring spousal maltreatment ‘violent therapy’ to declaring it illegal. 20 years later, there was a public education campaign across social media that shone the light on how victims feel. Where can we be in 30, 40, or 50 years? Only be increasing public education and ensuring victims that no harm, physically, emotionally, personally, or professionally, will befall them if they come forward.

We stand with all victims of domestic violence, and profoundly thank the first responders and volunteers who work tirelessly with different NGOs, which save lives every single day. Domestic abuse is a blight on humanity, and it is only through the bravery of the victims who speak up that we can hope to one day defeat it.