By Kristine Thomason
March 8, 2017
March 8 is International Women’s Day, which honors the social, economic, political, and cultural achievements of women worldwide. But the day isn’t only about celebration. It also marks a call to action for advancing gender equality, bringing attention to the injustices many women still face: lower wages, discrimination, job insecurity, harassment, and violence.
85% of domestic violence victims are women, but anyone can be a survivor
Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are most commonly abused by a sexual partner. But anyone can be a victim of domestic violence—male, female, gay, straight, says Bryan Pacheco, director of public relations for Safe Horizon. One in three women and one in four men will be victims of physical violence by an intimate partner in within their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Many people struggle with identifying themselves as survivors, and may internalize what has happened as a result, says Pacheco. That’s why it’s crucial to get the word out that domestic violence “doesn’t discriminate based on age, gender or socioeconomic status,” he says. “We’ve worked with professional wrestlers, CEOs, men. It can really happen to anyone.”
Anyone can be an abuser
“Often abusers are very charming individuals, well-liked in the community, and seen as people who could never do something like that,” says Pacheco. However, these well-liked people can be very controlling and manipulative behind the scenes, says Ray-Jones. This is often referred to as the Jekyll-and-Hyde effect.
Leaving doesn’t always solve the problem
One common misconception about domestic violence is that if a victim leaves the situation, the problem is automatically solved. But it’s not that simple, says Pacheco. In fact, the week right after a survivor leaves her abuser is the most dangerous week, since “a recent separation is one of the strongest indicators of lethality,” Pacheco says. “An abuser may act in extremely violent ways to get control over that person and keep them from leaving.”
And even if the survivor does successfully leave the relationship, there’s a high volume of stalking that occurs after the fact. According to the CDC, 10.7% of women and 2.1% of men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime, and 60.8% of female stalking victims and 43.5% men reported being stalked by a current or former intimate partner.
Being in an abusive relationship can take a long-term toll on your health
Survivors are rarely free of trauma. “This is a journey of survival and healing that certainly doesn’t stop the minute the relationship ends,” says Ray-Jones.
According to the World Health Organization, physical, mental, and sexual and reproductive health effects have been linked with intimate partner violence.
It can cause anxiety, trouble sleeping, PTSD, depression, or lead to alcohol or drug abuse as a coping mechanism, says Pacheco. A survivor may also suffer from chronic pain or health issues as a result of physical abuse. Plus, if there’s a child involved, the survivor may even still need to interact with their abuser, which could potentially impact psychological recovery.