By AMANDA BEAM
— Just last week on Valentine’s Day, thousands of women took to the streets of more than 200 countries in a show of solidarity against violence toward females. The new movement is called One Billion Rising, a name which reflects that approximately one in three women worldwide will be beaten or sexually assaulted in their lifetime.
How did they stand up to this type of widespread brutality? Those gathering performed the most peaceful of protests, the very antithesis of what they strove to end. They danced.
Change takes a while to happen, especially when this type of aggression has become so commonplace in our society. Women, children, and yes, men, continue to be beaten and abused even while anti-violence slogans are shouted and signs denouncing the acts are carried down busy roads. On the very same day that droves of women took a stand against such abuse, Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was arrested in South Africa for allegedly murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.
It’s easy to think this type of behavior is confined to one part of the world, to a particular social class of the economically downtrodden. It’s not. Domestic abuse occurs in both grand mansions and one room shanties; among day laborers in Asia as well as with businessmen and women here in America.
Not even Southern Indiana has been spared. Only recently, Edward “Dale” Bagshaw was convicted in a Clark County courtroom for the stabbing death of his estranged wife. And as I write this column, an alert from WDRB News has flashed across my phone. It reports a Clarksville woman has been shot and killed, presumably, it said, by an ex-boyfriend.
Of course, not all cases of this type of abuse are so easily reported by the news. It’s a secret crime, perpetuated in the quiet confines of millions of homes daily. The difficulty lies in knowing the true number. Either from fear, shame or sometimes even a misplaced love, many victims decide not to come forward to report the abuse.
Yet some records do exist.
According to the Indiana Coalition against Domestic Violence, 64 people died in Indiana due to domestic abuse during the one-year period from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2012. During that same time, 6,186 women, 4,724 children and 18 men, all victims of domestic violence, were served by emergency shelters throughout the Hoosier state. Close to 22,000 survivors were aided by nonresidential programs and 63,138 calls were made to the organization’s crisis phone line.
This is Indiana, folks.
Although predominantly women are affected by this type of abuse, we can’t ignore that men suffer too. A 2011 paper from the Centers for Disease Control stated that almost 3 million men are victims of physical assault from their partners.
While this type of cruelty can happen to anyone regardless of gender, age or income, studies have shown that children witnessing the abuse suffer documented cognitive, developmental and emotional distress. Youth who have observed such behavior have an increased risk of depression, anxiety and aggression. The likelihood of physical illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder, gastrointestinal issues, asthma and headaches also escalate. Likewise, these onlookers are more apt to continue the cycle of abuse either become victims of domestic violence themselves, or become perpetrators later on in life.
So what can we do about this centuries old problem? We can educate ourselves and others about the signs and symptoms of domestic violence. Women and men also need to realize they have a voice and that law enforcement and other local agencies are there to hear it.
Most importantly, the cycle of abuse must be broken. Children who witness the acts need counseling and guidance so they won’t repeat them later in life.
Just last week, the United States Senate reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act by an overwhelming 78-22 margin. Since 1994, the bill has provided increased funding to organizations that aid domestic violence victims as well as helped to train law enforcement agencies on how to handle abuse cases.
And don’t let the name fool you. The gender neutral language of the act also covers men too.
Not without its controversy, the bill now heads to the House for approval. In next week’s column, we’ll examine some of these disputed portions in more detail.
In that week, statistics indicate that approximately 21 people will have been murdered by a spouse or a partner. Those lives haven’t been taken yet. The future remains unwritten.
Working together, we can help end these travesties by creating awareness and taking a stand. It’s time to stop the cycle from turning once more.
— Amanda Beam is a Floyd County resident and Jeffersonville native. Contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org