October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. For too many families, awareness of behind-closed-doors abuse is not an issue; they are all too intimately aware of violence at the hands of family members, spouses or intimate partners. They know its pain, its fear, its humiliation and the irrational shame victims often feel. For too many others, it’s somebody else’s business and somebody else’s problem. …
Georgia … is sixth worst in the nation in domestic violence fatalities, and absolute worst in teen dating violence. In 2008, the latest year for which complete statistics are available, there were more than 57,000 documented cases of criminal family violence, 53 of them fatal.
But of course, the problem is more pervasive than that.
“Those are just the ones police get called to,” said Dianne Hett, director of the Columbus Alliance for Battered Women, which operates the Hope Harbour shelter. “Most cases of domestic violence are not even reported, but the research doesn’t change: One in four women will be abused in her lifetime by a boyfriend or husband. It’s a problem people keep behind closed doors, and that’s why it doesn’t get better.”
Another reason it doesn’t get better is that abuse becomes a family tradition. Some children absorb the idea that it’s normal behavior; others are so traumatized by living in abusive homes that they grow up to abuse their own partners or children.
According to the Georgia Commission on Family Violence, almost half (43 percent) of the documented family violence fatalities occur when children are present. But it doesn’t take a death to leave lasting scars and bruises – visible or otherwise – on a child.
Hett said there is no simple explanation for why Georgia’s domestic violence problem is so dismal, but it should be a “call to action” for donors, volunteers, policy makers and the rest of us. ...