There’s No Excuse…

…for domestic violence. Given that the Nobel Prize for Peace was announced today, I thought it might be nice to talk about violence.

Hey kids! Did you know that it’s domestic violence awareness month? Because it is, and since I think that domestic violence is generally not a good thing, I thought I’d take a moment to draw your attention to it. In many communities, including our own, it’s the elephant in the room that no one discusses, references, or wants to deal with. And that’s a pity, because it makes women who are dealing with abuse and violence feel like they are not important. And they are.

It’s really challenging to get statistics on domestic violence, because it’s a crime with varying levels of reporting rates. Maybe 900,00 American women a year are abused, or maybe it’s three million. Maybe one in three women around the world are abused or coerced into sexual activity, or maybe it’s one in four. Or is it one in two? It does appear that domestic violence makes up around 20% of violent crimes against women in this country annually, and two thirds of women who are shot with firearms in the United States are shot by their partners.

Domestic violence can take a lot of forms, from the classic image of a man beating his wife and kids to a lesbian who verbally abuses her partner. Domestic violence isn’t just about slapping people around, it’s about stalking, threatening, and verbally tormenting victims. All of these forms are hurtful, not just to the people involved but to their communities at large. Men, women, children, and pets are all victims of domestic violence, and several people you know are probably victims, even if you aren’t aware of it.

People who are in violent relationships often need a great deal of help, which is why there are domestic violence crisis lines and shelters all over the United States. But these shelters do not survive without help from their communities, which is why they issue funds appeals and ask people to take a stand against domestic violence. Domestic violence awareness month is a good time to publicize the issue, which is why I’m publicizing it here, even though you may have heard all of this before. The issue won’t go away if you bury your head in the sand, my dear gentle readers.

I have often said that I feel that we have a moral responsibility to speak out when we see something wrong, and I stand by that. If you know someone who is in a violent relationship, reach out to him or her, and let them know that you are available to help. You can also help by making your general distaste of domestic violence public; you don’t have to slap a cheesy bumper sticker on your car, but you can speak up when people joke about domestic violence, or when you read a story about it in the newspaper. If you can donate funds to a crisis line, great. If you can donate time, also great. If you want to do something more ambitious like organize a march or start a crisis center in a community which needs one, right on. But do something, take some small step, to let victims of domestic violence and sexual assault know that they do matter, and that you do care about them.

It’s usually fairly easy to find a local shelter or crisis line, since these organizations try to publicize themselves, and their staff are usually happy to tell you how you can help. You can sometimes even enjoy yourself while you help out a community organization. Locally, for example, Mendo Bistro is donating 17% of their sales on the 17th to Project Sanctuary, which sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me because you get to eat awesome food and feel sanctimonious about it. Lots of other community-minded businesses around the United States do similar things in October, and it doesn’t take too much work to find them. Heck, if you’re a business owner, you can join them.

Domestic violence is shitty. So let’s help stamp it out.