Domestic Violence Front and Center

What domestic violence looks like today and how you can helpThough it has recently been brought to the light more, domestic violence is a long-time problem for many women—and they often never let anyone know of their pain. On Sept. 16, 2014, TMZ, a popular celebrity news website, released video that left many people outraged and in pure disbelief. Elevator video footage exposed Janay Palmer receiving a merciless blow to the face at the hands of her then fiancé and now husband, Raymell “Ray” Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back. Unconscious and motionless, Palmer’s body was then desperately dragged out of the elevator by her beau, kicked around a couple of times by his rugged black boots, dragged some more, and left half-naked on the hotel lobby floor as though she were a heavy load of morning trash awaiting pickup. What is equally disturbing is the fact that initially, the NFL suspended Ray Rice for just two games, what some would arguably call a slap on the wrist within the National Football League. To put this in perspective, former Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended an entire year for marijuana use.

Disturbing.

Reminiscent of scenes in your classic horror film, women around the world relate to Palmer’s experience far too well. In fact, an estimated one in four women experience domestic violence in her lifetime, while every year one-third of women killed by homicide are murdered at the hands of current or past lovers.

Domestic violence is very personal for the victim. Many times, the victim feels ashamed, alone, defeated and fearful, leading her to accept a life of repetitive brutal beatings over facing the truth and seeking help. Domestic violence is a real problem for women today and without the proper set of specs on, you could be entertaining a victim and not even know it. This is why it’s imperative to know how to spot a victim of domestic violence and what you can do to help before it is too late.

What Domestic Violence Looks Like Let’s excuse the white elephant in the room that suggests domestic violence doesn’t look like you. The truth is, it does. There is no size, height, weight or personality type that represents the typical appearance of a domestic violence victim. However, there are a few common signs that signal abuse. Research shows that women in abusive relationships commonly receive excessive calls from their significant others, demanding they report their whereabouts and activities, and they are hardly ever seen without their partners. In order to avoid being seen, physically abused women often miss a lot of work and school, can be found wearing sweaters in the summer, and often report unintentional accidents that leave them bruised and scarred.

How Can You Help? According to the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, having a listening ear goes a long way. This gives victims a safe sounding board, a refuge from terror at home, and a non-judgment zone where they can express themselves and be validated. As you listen, it is okay to offer help, but never pressure, judge or give any advice. Some of you may have past histories dealing with domestic violence—make a choice to voice. Help another woman become a victor by voicing your story publically or privately, and share how you were able to get out of an abusive relationship. Your courage may be just the inspiration another woman suffering needs to break the cycle of domestic violence.

Why You Should Help Although you may not be a current victim of domestic abuse, remember someone’s friend, mother, sister, aunt or daughter is. When teetering on the fence of what your role is in the fight to end domestic violence, understand that your voice matters. Current Chief Operator of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, said it best, “We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self-confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.”

Ask yourself, “Have I leaned in?”