SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

October 22, 2012

Column: Domestic violence is more than personal

Domestic violence is not a personal concern, but rather a social problem that requires a community response if we are to change the dynamics of abuse relationships. It is commonly defined as the use of power to control another person and — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Justice — an estimated 24 percent of all women in the United States have been victims at some point in their lifetimes. The Bureau of Justice Statistics further reports that on average more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in the United States every day.

The health-related costs are equally staggering. Nearly $6 billion is spent annually on health care costs related to domestic violence. Adults, unfortunately, are not the only victims, for children are also heavily affected. Some studies suggest that as many as 10 million children witness some form of domestic violence each year; approximately 50 percent of perpetrators who abuse their partners also abuse their children.

Since the beginning of the battered women’s movement in the 1970s, domestic violence advocates have recognized that the “personal is political,” and have worked diligently for a response that acknowledges the disparity in power that exists in many relationships. Social activist Ellen Pence and social worker Michael Paymar have clearly identified domestic violence as a community problem. Their understanding that domestic violence is the manifestation of cultural systems of power and control within a relationship have, in fact, changed the way service providers respond to the problem.

The development of the coordinated community response intervention and the Duluth Model are culturally relevant and effective interventions that have changed the ways in which we respond to domestic violence. It has also helped us shift our thinking from simply providing resources to victims to figuring out how — as communities — we can hold abusers accountable. The coordinated community response intervention has also changed our perceptions about who bears the responsibility for responding to problems of domestic violence by inviting everyone to the table to be part of ending it.

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