We all know the basic definition of domestic violence, as well as what is classified as domestic abuse – or do we? If you think you know everything there is to know about domestic violence and abuse, I suggest altering your way of thinking for a few moments and daring to possibly learn something new by reading this article.
Many individuals are misinformed or make generalizations about domestic violence and feel it is not something that will ever have any effect on them. Unfortunately, domestic violence has a huge impact on most of the population at one point or another. The purpose of this article is to share my findings and hopefully educate other students and professors of UMaine, as well as any other readers.
I distributed a survey about domestic violence last semester. One of the questions was, “before now, had you ever heard about the query report available from Public Safety via online?” Every response I received from this question was “no.” It is clear to me that students are unaware of the local statistics that are published by UMaine’s Public Safety. While domestic violence cases are not specifically listed on the query report, other crimes that are listed, such as sexual offenses, give an idea of how many cases generally occur. See http://www.umaine. edu/publicsafety/ for the statistics.
In the process of my research for local statistics affecting college students, I sought out the help of Carey Nason, Project Coordinator of the Safe Campus Project. The Safe Campus Project is an on-campus program designed to help students and faculty members who need counseling services or advice with a wide variety of issues, such as interpersonal violence, sexual and dating violence, and stalking.
Although Nason provided me with great insight on domestic violence in a statistical sense, a discussion with a victim provided me with more valuable information. What many people do not realize about domestic violence is that it is not always classified as physical; while broken bones and bruising received from a family member or significant other are certainly classified as abuse, emotional and verbal actions can also be considered as such.
Alcohol use can play a part in domestic violence, but it is never acceptable for a batterer to blame the use of alcohol for their irresponsible actions. Batterers also blame their poor behavior on the way a person acts; parents who abuse their children often attempt to rationalize their motives by saying things like, “She deserved it. I said no more candy.”
Nason said UMaine students seek out counseling services for domestic abuse issues, but do not report the offenses to law enforcement agencies. While about nine sex offenses were reported in 2004 in the Public Safety query, Safe Campus heard from many more people than this. According to the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence, new cases of domestic violence in Maine are reported to police every 1 hour, 37 minutes, and there are more than 500,000 women battered in the state of Maine.
While women tend be the primary victims of domestic violence, it is important to keep in mind that men and children can also be victims, whether directly or indirectly. According to the NYC Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project of 1996, abuse occurs in about 25 to 33 percent of homosexual relationships.
Hopefully there will be a day when education on domestic violence helps to make a positive difference in victims’ lives. Until that day, however, I encourage all citizens, young and old, to take it upon themselves to make a difference in any way possible. While moving mountains may not be everyone’s cup of tea, we must remember that no matter how big or small our actions are, they are all a step for something much better in the long run. I believe in a day when domestic violence is an issue of the past, and I hope others feel the same way.
Julie Adams is a first-year social work major.