The recent domestic violence incident involving NFL player Kareem Hunt is unfortunately one of many examples contributing to a survivor’s reluctance in coming forward. While there is now public access to a video exhibiting his abusive behavior, there have been many social media posts focusing around the minimization of his actions as well as victim blaming. Hunt has in fact lost his job with the NFL along with endorsements, solidifying that acts of domestic violence often result in significant life-altering consequences for both the survivor and the harm-doer.
Unfortunately there continue to be many misconceptions surrounding both the cause and severity of abusive actions. Often these misconceptions lead to victims being blamed, abusive behavior being minimized or excused as well as both survivors and perpetrators struggling to access the support that each desperately need. The most common negative perceptions victims face can be proven false by facing the facts surrounding domestic violence.
What is the common backlash domestic violence victims face?
- Attempting to “explain away” the actions of the perpetrator by making excuses: It doesn’t matter who or what provoked him/her, or what happened before the violence took place. There is no excuse for physical violence against another person, ever.
- Look at what he/she (the victim) did to them: The victim may have pushed or hit back as a means of defense, however this doesn’t lessen the severity of what the abuser did, nor does it discount their responsibility.
- What he/she (perpetrator) did wasn’t “that bad”: Research shows most domestic violent incidents are not stand alone occurrences. Often abusers have abused before and will likely continue to. These incidents vary in severity and often increase over time.
- They should stay together for the family: 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. These children are at significant risk of either becoming an abuser or victim of domestic violence themselves, in fact, statistics show that a child living in domestic violence is the number one predictive factor of repeating these patterns. Being exposed to domestic violence often leads to mental health challenges, substance use, problems in school and sleep issues.
- People are overreacting: Domestic violence is a public health epidemic and requires a significant reaction from all of us. Those who live with abuse often already believe the abuse is their fault or that somehow they deserve it. Outsider’s perceptions that brush it off are counter productive and can create further harm.
- DV is not as bad as rape: Any violation of a person’s body, as well as psychological harm can have life-altering effects on a survivor’s physical and emotional wellness. It can also contribute to sleep problems, mental health challenges, loss of work, inability to focus, isolation, and loss of goals/dreams.
How can you support domestic violence survivors?
- Support the survivor, believe them, encourage them to talk about their experience to minimize the shame and isolation they feel.
- Acknowledge their feelings as being valid no matter where they are in their healing process.
- Offer to accompany them to find resources.
- Remind them that in no way are they responsible for another person’s actions or behavior.
- Consistently reach out to them even when they seem removed or isolative.
- Help them to remember why offering their children an experience of safety is teaching them about their own value.
- Speak out against relationship abuse anytime you hear remarks that are condescending, minimizing or belittling.
- Immediately report any form of relationship abuse if you are witnessing it as a bystander.
Do more to end domestic violence
- Host a keynote speaker on relationship violence. Jessica Yaffa is a national domestic violence advocate committed to ending abuse globally and reducing the stigma around relationship abuse.
- Take a domestic violence workshop or a workshop for healthy relationships. These workshops raise awareness, provide education, and promote impactful conversations around relationship abuse.
- Work one on one with a relationship coach that can help break the cycle of unhealthy relationship habits.
- Support organizations that work for domestic violence survivor rights. No Silence No Violence is an organization that focuses on providing resources for survivors and educating the community to reduce relationship abuse.