Last year the World Health Organization (WHO) published the results of the first major global review of violence against women. The study found that about a third of women have been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner. The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, called it “a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” and other experts said screening for domestic violence should be added to all levels of health care.
Among the findings: 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by an intimate partner, and being assaulted by a partner was the most common kind of violence experienced by women.
Yet did anyone outside of WHO and other government/academic institutions notice?
Now fast forward to this past week when surveillance tapes surfaced showing Ray Rice, a football player for the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens, assaulting his then-fiance, knocking her unconscious. Not surprisingly, having actual video evidence of a famous person attacking a loved one has caused a media frenzy and much debate about the topic of domestic violence. As is often the case, an event involving a celebrity brings much more attention to a major social issue than stacks of scientific studies.
The dedicated people who work to reduce domestic violence and help its victims are no doubt horrified over what happened to Ray Rice’s fiance. But there may be a sense in which they are thankful that people are finally paying attention to this issue.
And what about the couples who are currently in abusive relationships? Will this story finally give the victim the courage to seek help? Will this story finally make the abusers wake up and change their abusive ways? Will this story finally give people who think this issue does not apply to them since they are not in an abusive relationship the willingness to help those who are?
The domestic violence statistics for Minnesota are quite sobering. Minnesota’s Coalition for Battered Women 2013 report on domestic violence counted at least 37 fatalities. Twenty-four were women and seven were men whose killer or suspected killer was a current or past intimate partner. The remaining six were men who were friends or family members killed in domestic violence situations. Once a person decides to leave an abusive relationship they are by no means safe. The Coalition found that 67 percent of the women who died had left or were attempting to leave the relationship. (Source: http://www.twincities.com/crime/ci_25008486/minnesota-domestic-abuse-death-toll-2013-37, accessed on Sept. 13, 2014)