Sunday, October 5, 2008

Domestic Violence: Terrorism at Home

Waneta Dawn is the author of "Behind the Hedge, A novel" Please visit

In the United States we expect to be safe in our homes. Terrorism doesn’t happen here, we think. But is that true? In 2003, among all female murder victims in the US, 30% were slain by their husbands or boyfriends. In 2005, 1200 women were killed by their intimate partners, and 400 men were killed by their partners. (Women who kill their male partners often do so because they are being abused and threatened by their husbands or boyfriends and are afraid for their lives--the female version of self-defense) Did these murders occur out of the blue? No, they were the end result of weeks, months, and even years of terrorism—most of it behind closed doors, in the “safety” of their homes.

Closer to home, in Iowa in 2006, domestic murders hit an all time high since 1995: 15 women, one man, and 4 children were killed. Domestic murders have decreased from what they were in the 1970’s and 1980’s since laws have been enacted and enforced, and resources made available for victims of domestic abuse. But since 2002, those resources have been cut; 9 programs to aid abused and raped women closed due to funding cuts, and female deaths in Iowa due to domestic violence have increased.

These figures are why the focus is still on male violence against their female partners, and on providing safety to women. The most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she leaves her abuser and in the two weeks following, which means it is imperative she has a safe haven to go to, resources to help her get there before her abuser catches up with her, and security and advocacy when she gets there.

This is difficult even with resources available before 2002. An abused woman has to pick a time when it is safest to leave. She often can’t leave when he is beating her and possibly maiming her for life, lest he kill her. Beaten, suffering from broken bones and internal injuries, she has to wait until he leaves or is fast asleep long enough to give her time to make a phone call to get help, to allow extra time to drag her children and her aching and broken body to the driveway or street, and if she cannot drive, to give the responding person time to arrive.

But when a woman lives 50 miles from the nearest shelter and her abuser has turned her family and friends against her so she feels she cannot ask them for help, and shelter staff has been reduced from 8 persons to 5, so she has to wait for someone to be available to drive that far to get her, what is she to do? Will the help arrive before the abuser returns? With reduced shelters, sometimes there is no room for her and her children. This is not acceptable. Any woman who is afraid of her husband or boyfriend MUST have help available. Even if he has never stooped to physical abuse, her gut is telling her she is not safe. The common denominator about DV is that it starts with verbal and emotional abuse and escalates from there. Women need continued resources to stop DV—even before it starts, instead of only intervening when she is bloody and helpless to help herself. So this October, don’t forget to do what you can to help our hurting women. Check out to see the October Domestic Violence awareness month calendar of events, and find where you can participate. Click on “where can I help?” and “handouts to print” and donate money or supplies to help those who are abused. God bless you for it!