This post was co-written by FRCC faculty members Mary Ann Grim and Amy Mann.
It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month—and although there has been substantial progress in reducing domestic violence nationally, it’s still a distressing and pervasive problem. An average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute in the US.
FRCC’s student Feminist Uprising Collective is working to raise awareness about domestic violence this month. The group is creating an art display—in coordination with folks from the local Zonta chapter, a group that works to empower women worldwide through service and advocacy.
The exhibit on campus includes life-sized silhouettes of people with real-life domestic violence stories displayed across their chests. You can read a few of these difficult stories throughout this blog post.
“In the beginning, he was sweet, complimentary, and kind. He swept me off my feet, and after a whirl wind romance, I moved in with him.
“After a few weeks, he began asking seemingly innocent questions about my schedule, who I was talking to, and requesting to look at my phone. It didn’t take long and his inquiries turned into angry accusations and he constantly said he knew I was cheating.
“He was visibly jealous of every friend, colleague, and even people on the street who he swore were ‘staring at me.’ Every day when I would come home from work, he interrogated me about where I was, who I was with and when I was coming home daily.
“He began following me to work, coffee dates, and even would sit in the parking lot of the gym while I worked out. The harsh words, screaming and aggressive physical behaviors started.
“One day as I talked to my daughter on the phone, he grabbed the receiver and smashed it on the ground. My daughter heard the shots…”
In the US
Every year, more than 10 million women and men in the US are subjected to Domestic Violence. More than 1 in 3 women (35.6%) and more than 1 in 4 men (28.5%) in the country will experience rape, physical violence and/or stalking by an intimate partner in their lifetime. On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone callsplaced to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
Our communities around FRCC’s campuses are not immune. In a report released this year by the Colorado Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board, 63 people died in Colorado in 2020 because of domestic violence—and 35 of those people were murdered by their intimate partners. Four of these deaths were bystanders, and 24 were perpetrators.
An additional 15 domestic violence cases in Colorado in 2020 involved attempted murders or near-deaths. This does not take into consideration unreported incidents.
Defining Domestic Violence
According to Safe Shelter of St. Vrain Valley in Boulder County, domestic violence is defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound someone.
Who It Impacts
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, economic class, immigration status, religion, or gender.
It can happen to couples that are married, living together, or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.
“We had our first argument last night, and he said loads of cruel things that really hurt me. I know he’s sorry and didn’t mean the things he said, because he sent me flowers today.
“Last night he threw me into a wall and started to choke me. It seemed like a nightmare, I couldn’t believe it was real. I woke up this morning sore and bruised all over.
“I know he must be sorry because he sent me flowers today. Last night, much worse than all the other times. If I leave him, what will I do? How will I take care of my kids? What about money? He sent me flowers today.”
Who’s Most at Risk?
National statistics reveal domestic violence impacts women at a much higher rate than men. Additionally, women are also more likely to be seriously hurt, or even killed, because of intimate partner violence than men.
Trans and nonbinary folks also experience higher rates of intimate partner violence, but unfortunately, there is less data for these communities and more research needs to be conducted.
The Critical Question
Why are women more likely to experience this violence—and more deadly incidents of violence—than men? We argue it’s because of institutionalized sexism in our country.
It’s not because women are inherently more compliant than men and men are stronger and therefore, more violent than women. Instead, it’s because women have historically faced societal and institutionalized inequities that create a culture where violence against women is accepted, perpetuated, and normalized.
Stereotypes Cause Real Harm
Socially constructed gender stereotypes play an outsized role in the perpetuation of domestic violence against women. When left unexamined, stereotypes lead to prejudice, discrimination, dehumanization—and then systemic inequities get layered into every aspect of society.
This affects access to economic and educational opportunities, housing, equal pay, safety from sexual harassment and violence, and much more. While we have continually made strides to equalize opportunities, the persistence of these gender stereotypes has resulted in more barriers and deeper levels of inequality.
What type of stereotypes perpetuate a culture of violence against women? One stereotype attributed to women in US culture is that women are simply more submissive than men, especially in the context of the household.
This stereotype fosters the belief that women should obey their husbands and other male family members—not to mention male coworkers, bosses, religious leaders, coaches, and other authority figures. If women do not obey, this belief promotes the idea that women should be punished.
The U.S. has created a culture where we teach men to be aggressive, powerful, and dominant in their relationships. Toxic masculinity is pervasive in our movies, music, television, and politics.
This stereotype makes it common for men, and even many women, to automatically believe men have the right to make decisions for women, control their behaviors, and thus normalize violence against them.
In 2020, women made 83 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the US Census Bureau. It would take some 40 extra days of work for women to earn a comparable wage. Women of color are at an even greater disadvantage.
According to the US Department of Labor, black women were paid 64%, and Hispanic women 57%, of what white non-Hispanic men were paid in 2020. The socially constructed belief that women should be paid less than their male counterparts has not only caused greater economic disparity and hardship: it devalues and dehumanizes women, thus making it easier to harm them.
Earning less money has several implications for victims of domestic violence. For example, a woman who earns less than her partner may have less bargaining power in the household. A woman who earns less than her partner, and relies on their income, is less likely to leave an abusive relationship. It’s also important to acknowledge the fact that there is no monetary value assigned to the hard work, and many hours, women put in at home.
Caring for Family
Women are disproportionately responsible for care-giving duties. They are more likely to leave their jobs, temporarily or permanently, to care for children, elderly family members, and disabled loved ones.
The pandemic revealed the disparities in this area. Schools and childcare centers all over the country were closed down, and statistics disclosed it was largely women who quit their jobs or reduced their hours at work.
Even if a woman leaves her career temporarily to provide care for her family, she may experience permanent financial consequences. Women who do leave their jobs are more likely to earn lower pay when they return to work and have fewer opportunities for future promotion. By leaving the workforce to care for children, elderly parents, or other loved ones, women sacrifice independence—both financially and socially. Without her own financial resources, women are more likely to be dependent on her partner, and as a result less likely to leave an abusive relationship.
A Look at Our History
To understand why and how domestic abuse remains prevalent the US, we need to examine our history. Here are just a few of the highlights that are important to consider:
- In 1866, The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was formed. It predates the founding of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, established in 1875. Both predate any organization aimed at preventing cruelty to women.
- The Treaty of 1868 is negotiated between General Sherman and the Navajos. Sherman insists that the Navajos select male leaders, thereby stripping women of their ability to participate in decision making. The alien law destroys traditional relationships and concentrates power in the hands of male leaders. “Anglo” paternalism and patriarchy are introduced to Navajo men who learn several “traditions” including robbing women of economic and political power, and how to beat ones wife.
- In 1871 Alabama was the first state to rescind the legal right of men to beat their wives. Massachusetts also declared wife beating illegal.
- Maryland, in 1888, was the first state to pass a law that made physically abusing ones wife an crime, punishable by 40 lashes, or a year in jail.
- Then in 1966, the state of New York passed legislation ruling beating as a cruel and inhumane treatment and grounds for divorce. However, the victim must establish that a “sufficient” number of beatings have taken place.
- The civil rights, anti-war and black liberation movements of the 1950s and 1960s laid the foundation for Second Wave Feminism in the 1970s. In June 1972 the first emergency rape crisis line opened in Washington, D.C. That same year, one of the earliest women’s shelter opens in Phoenix.
- In 1981 the first annual Domestic Violence Awareness Week was celebrated.
- Also, in the 1980s, Tracey Thurman sued the Torrington, Connecticut, police for failing to protect her from her husband’s repeated attacks. He threatened to kill her and their 22-month-old son. The last attack – 13 stab wounds and a broken neck – left her partially paralyzed after an 8-month hospitalization. The court awarded her $2 million, and the case led to Connecticut’s 1986 Family Violence Prevention and Response Act.
- October is declared Domestic Violence Awareness Month in 1989.
- It wasn’t until 1996, that marital rape was seen as a crime. Only 11 states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin and the District of Columbia) made marital rape a punishable offense.
“He was out of jail, released a few days before on bond for stalking and cyberstalking me. I had called the police because after we broke up I was afraid of what he would do to me and my son.
“I had just gotten home from work and was so tired. I had to make dinner for my three-year-old son so I went to the supermarket. What I didn’t know was that he was waiting outside my door as I carried the groceries up the stairs. He cut my throat.”
We’re Here to Help
The FRCC community can serve as resource and help our students and colleagues recognize the signs of domestic violence. Does someone in your life:
• Threaten to hurt you or other people you care about?
• Hit, kick, punch, push, choke or use physical force against you?
• Criticize or blame you for everything that goes wrong?
• Humiliate you in front of other people?
• Control your access to money?
• Control the decision-making in your relationship?
• Control your time and actions?
• Put you down, call you names, make you feel like you’re crazy?
• Destroy your property or abuse your pets?
• Threaten to hurt you or commit suicide if you leave?
• Force or coerce you to have sex when you don’t want to?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be in an abusive relationship. Please reach out for help by contacting 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE).
It is not your fault; you did not cause the violence being perpetrated against you. You are not alone, and no one has the right to hurt you.