Domestic violence is everyone’s problem

We need to talk about the abusers in addition to the abused.

by Bronwyn Miller

he results of the first comprehensive global analysis of violence against women reveal that about a third of all women have been physically or sexually assaulted by a partner.

Looking at studies from 1983 to 2010 in 81 countries, the World Health Organization warned that domestic violence is “a global health problem of epidemic proportions.”

In covering the WHO’s newly released data, the media has overwhelmingly focused on the resources and support systems that exist to assist women who need to leave problematic relationships. Even the WHO report’s authors say that the “first step” to combat the epidemic is “equipping health care professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to provide the necessary care to victims of violence.”

While it is important to provide hope and options for people currently suffering from domestic violence, the media’s treatment of WHO’s new data seems to have forgotten about the role of the abusers in breaking the cycle of violence. Reports indicate that as many as 95 percent of domestic violence perpetrators are male. Instead of discussing the boys and men responsible for these acts of violence, though, media coverage appears to treat the issue as so prominent that it is inevitable, as if the only worthwhile discussions of “solutions” are those that identify resources for women to get out of abusive relationships.

But this one-dimensional focus unduly puts the onus solely on those who are afflicted by domestic violence, opening the door for victim blaming and shaming while failing to actually get to the root of the issue. Data addressing numbers of victims and survivors flourish, while dialogue regarding the perpetrators is curiously absent, allowing for domestic violence to be isolated as a “women’s issue.” Since violence against women is largely committed by men, wouldn’t it be equally accurate to label it a “men’s issue”?

But rather than continue polarizing the problem, let’s meet halfway: We’re not only discussing “women’s rights” and the right to not be abused, but human rights in general. Above any gender-based categorization, domestic violence is a “people’s issue,” and change is the responsibility of everyone.