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Is America’s Problem With Domestic Violence Actually Getting Worse?

Submitted by on September 13, 2010 – 12:06 pm5 Comments
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I’m fortunate enough to never have been directly affected by domestic violence. I don’t have anyone in my family that’s been a victim of it. I don’t have any friends or family that have ever been accused of it. And I’ve never had any acquaintances (that I know of) struggle with it.

Unfortunately, it seems I may be in the minority right now. Despite the fact domestic violence has been publicized early and often over the course of the last year—hell, the number one song in the country right now, Eminem‘s “Love The Way You Lie,” featuring Rihanna, is built around the topic of domestic violence—it would appear the issue is actually becoming an even bigger problem today than it was a few years ago.

In the last week, two major sports figures have been accused of domestic violence. Last Thursday, Los Angeles Lakers star Matt Barnes was arrested on alleged domestic violence charges (he was profiled on the last season of VH1′s Basketball Wives along with fiancee Gloria Govan). The next day, Floyd Mayweather, Jr. was also arrested on suspicion of domestic violence after he allegedly stole his ex-girlfriend’s iPhone during an altercation. And, of course, there’s always the Chris Brown/Rihanna saga from early last year to fall back on, as an example of how domestic violence is affecting people of all ages.

If these celebs are getting involved in domestic violence cases, when they have the spotlight on them and know the slightest infraction will be all over the blogs, then what’s going on in the rest of the country? If celebs can’t hold things together (again, these are alleged cases), how are the average Joes and the Plain Janes of the world coping with domestic violence? When a high percentage of domestic violence incidents stem from money-related issues, how is America as a whole coping with it in the midst of a recession? And are parents doing enough to make sure their kids know the facts about domestic violence?

The truth is that they’re probably not. Once upon a time, men weren’t allowed to hit girls. It wasn’t tolerated. But these days, in an age where fights break out on reality TV shows and females routinely scrap with men (Jersey Shore, anyone?), things have changed. So just like parents have talks with their kids about not doing drugs or not having sex before they’re old enough, they should also be talking to them about domestic violence. They should be speaking with their kids about what they should do if they’re in a violent relationship. They should be looking out for the warning signs of a violent relationship. And, sad as it might seem, they should even be talking to their sons and daughters about the fact that it’s not alright to cause any bodily harm to their significant other.

That last part might seem silly. Why, you may ask, should a parent need to tell a 14 or even a 20-year-old kid that’s it not okay to abuse their boyfriend or girlfriend? Because in today’s day and age, where celebrities are constantly getting into trouble with domestic violence and where TV shows perpetuate these types of physically and emotionally violent ways, that is what kids see. They see that fighting for love sometimes literally means fighting for love. It’s wrong—but it’s the image they’re being given right now by the public.

I don’t have a ton of stats sitting in front of me. I’m not sure if domestic violence actually is on the rise (though, if nothing else, I would venture to guess the economy has been causing it to go up , if even slightly) but I do know things aren’t even the same as they were when I was growing up. When I was younger, hitting girls wasn’t  frowned upon. It was unthinkable. The only time I ever saw it was on TV or in a movie. And those were perceived as extreme cases.

We can sing about domestic violence all we want. We can throw the phone number of a domestic violence hotline up at the end of our TV shows (again, Jersey Shore, anyone?). We can even pretend we’re outraged when we see celebrities involved in domestic violence cases (we’re not, by the way—we just know it’s one of the few situations that brings celebrities down to the average American’s level). But when it comes to actually fixing America’s problem with domestic violence, there seems to be a disconnect.

Maybe, hopefully, I’m wrong. Maybe all the celebrity cases of domestic violence just make domestic violence look like a bigger problem than it actually is. But I fear that between the celebrities and the reality shows, domestic violence is turning into the new DUI—it’s a terrible crime that no one really takes seriously until it affects them directly. And it’s a terrible crime that’s still a little bit more taboo than people actually think.

I may not have ever seen it, but I’m damn sure ready to hear about it. Next month is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but with everything that’s going on in the news right now, we should be ready to start being aware of it today. Who’s ready to start talking?

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