L.Y. Marlow was the third generation of women in her family to be a victim of domestic violence. The cycle of violence continued 22 years later, when her daughter and baby granddaughter were nearly killed by the girl's boyfriend.
It's happening all the time: nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. That's more than 10 million women and men a year. But domestic violence is not just a criminal issue; it's also a public health issue. Consider these health implications:
- Only about a third of those injured by a partner receive medical care.
- Survivors are more at risk for mental health disorders, chronic diseases and infections.
- The annual financial cost of domestic violence is estimated to be in the trillions, from lost productivity, health care and law enforcement.
Children who grow up in violent homes are more vulnerable to social and physical problems. And learning that violence is a normal way of life increases the chances that they'll become the next generation of victims and abusers.
So what's the solution? Greater awareness, prevention and action.
Awareness. October is domestic violence awareness month. But we don’t talk about the problem nearly enough, in part because victims struggle to overcome their circumstances and can experience so much pain in telling their story.
We shouldn’t confuse or conflate domestic violence with the #MeToo movement’s exposure of and protest of sexual violence and harassment. Domestic violence is more common than sexual violence but is discussed less now than even four years ago, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Experts say that victims identify with the national #MeToo conversation, but often feel safer speaking confidentially.
Prevention. Marlow—determined to create a happy ending for her family’s story—founded Saving Promise to help break the cycle of intimate partner violence for at-risk adolescents and young adults. Projects include research with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which studies ways to prevent domestic violence and promote healthy, respectful and nonviolent relationships.
Action. Odds are good that the United Way in your area supports organizations and hotlines that help victims of domestic violence. Please contact your local United Way to find out which groups need your volunteer or financial support. Spread the word by checking out and sharing this video, and use the #DomesticViolence hashtag to boost awareness.
Marlow's story shows that happy endings are possible. During domestic violence awareness month and throughout the year, please join us in fighting to end the cycle of domestic violence.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, call 2-1-1 or visit 211.org.