One in 10 American men have experienced intimate violence in their lifetime, according to the CDC’s “Understanding Intimate Partner Violence” fact sheet, a two-page summary of domestic violence statistics put out in 2014.
Intimate violence is the perpetration of psychological, physical or sexual abuse against a romantic partner. Rape, stalking, battering and verbal assault are just a few of the numerous crimes and behaviors that qualify. Whether it be a single instance or a patterned response, these wrongdoings are classified as “IPV.”
Compared to the 3 in 10 American women assaulted over their lifetimes, a statistic provided by the same report, the number of men suffering from IPV may seem diminutive. Certainly, domestic violence prevention groups tend to favor raising awareness for female victims — earning domestic violence the distinction of being dubbed a “women’s issue” by media and officials alike.
But this should not necessarily be the case.
Rather, the prevention of domestic abuse is not just about empowering those victimized by intimate partners, but also about identifying and dissuading its potential perpetrators — primarily, men. Women, being the principal sufferers, are not necessarily exclusively responsible for its discontinuation. Rather, the burden also falls upon those at risk for being potential abusers.
All genders are responsible.
Placing the responsibility of prevention squarely on the shoulders of those already disempowered and violated is not only insensitive, but irresponsible and ineffective. It is better to first prevent the violence than it is to simply mitigate and dampen its effects. It is better to avoid the fire entirely than it is to extinguish it after a third of the building has already been burned.
Of course, there are those that fit neither of these distinct categories — female abusers and male victims. All the more reason to do away with the label denoting intimate violence as a specifically ‘female’ issue. Perpetrators, regardless of their gender demographics or economic background are equally accountable for doing away with emotionally, physically and economically taxing violence.
It is no longer in the hands of those on the receiving end alone to put an end to intimate violence. The notion that domestic violence is an exclusively female issue needs to be done away with.
Domestic violence crosses boundaries of socioeconomic class, gender, education and geography. It is not an issue that rests upon the shoulders of any singular group to solve. While these efforts to educate those most at risk are noble, they are not enough. Perpetration, as much as victimization, needs to be addressed.
All genders, all people, are responsible.