Understanding Domestic Violence Part 1: Prevalence and Prevention #DVAM (Domestic Violence Awareness Month)

How prevalent is domestic violence really?

Domestic Violence (DV) and Intimate Partner Violence (IVP) are problems that affect 1.5 million teens every year (1)In fact, after women ages 18-24, children and teens ages 11-17 are most affected by this problem (2).

In order to talk to our children about DV-IVP we need to know about it first.  While it can never be fully understood, it’s important to sort fact from myth to avoid more confusion in the future.

  • No one deserves abuse.  If your partner hurts you, it’s not your fault and it is never ok or justifiable.
  • Women aren’t the only victims. Men are abused by women, too and whenever children are present, they are always affected.
  • Adults aren’t the only victims. About 33% of adolescents in America are victim to sexual, physical, verbal, or emotional dating abuse and only 1/3 of these teens confide in someone about the violence (3).
  • 1 in 3 women have experienced abuse by an intimate partner and 30% to 60% of perpetrators of IPV also abuse children in the household (4) (5) (6).
    • Children are 33% more likely to be abused when the mother is living with someone other than their biological father (7)
  • Boys exposed to domestic violence as children are twice as likely to engage in domestic violence as adults, and females are more likely to be victims as adults (6)
  • There is help

When I was younger, we sat down for family movie night to watch the 1968 movie OliverThe movie started, the songs were great, and I was enjoying it. Then Act Two started and an exchange between Nancy and Sikes changed the tone of the movie for me.  I knew there were relationships like that, but I had never heard of one specifically before, let alone seen it.  He hit her.  Then my mom paused the movie; she could probably sense me and my sister’s feelings. Other than rare appropriate spankings administered to children by their loving parents, we talked about how it is never okay for a person to hit you, especially in an intimate relationship. She told us if a boyfriend or husband ever hit us, to leave and tell someone.  

Though my mother gave my sister and I some great advice, leaving an abusive relationship is rarely easy.

One of the first things people ask when they hear about someone involved in an abusive relationship is “Why did he/she stay” and “why didn’t he/she leave?”  In the video below, Leslie Morgan Steiner explains why through her own experience.  This video discuses violence that may be disturbing to sensitive viewers.  


In the video above, Leslie covers basic information that everyone needs to know about abuse, and what it can be like as a victim. There are many legitimate reasons a victim does not leave, including the most frightening one: 75% of total DV homicides were killed as they left, or after leaving the relationship.

In addition, an abuser can have such a powerful hold on the victim that she or he comes back.  It takes an average of seven times to leave permanently (9).  For this reason especially, victims need understanding, rather than judgement, especially if the victim leaves and then returns. When victims do manage to find the courage to leave is when they need the most support and someone to remind them that abuse is never ok.

How can I prevent my child from experiencing domestic violence?

The CDC defines Intimate Partner Violence as “a serious, preventable public health problem that affects millions of Americans” (10).  Girls and young women ages of 16-24 experience the highest rate of intimate partner violence (11). The keywords here are “intimate partner.” These aren’t random strangers abusing these girls. They are being abused physically, sexually, and/or mentally by boyfriends or men saying “I love you.” 

Parents have the most power to prevent their children from ever experiencing domestic violence.

This is a scary topic, but with its prevalence among teens, abuse needs to be addressed and there are plenty of everday situations in which the topic can and should be brought up. Just like how my mom took time to talk to us during the movie, it is important that we as parents address this with our children.

Unfortunately, the research shows that dating abuse ranks dead last on a list of topics parents most commonly discuss with their teens: school/grades, money, the economy, family finances, dating relationships, alcohol, drugs, sex, then dating abuse (8).

Having regular conversations with our children about healthy relationships is the best way to prevent them from experiencing domestic violence, whether as teens or adults, is to . Those of us in healthy relationships can sometimes take it for granted and just assume our kids will pick it up. But that is not always the case. If your teen is becoming interested in dating,

  • encourage your teen to look for inner qualities that would make a good lifelong spouse,
  • ask him or her to write out a list of qualities that are important in a date or future mate, and then
  • encourage the teen to use that list in the future when deciding whether to date a certain person.

Also, talk to your teen about the keys to having a healthy relationship like mutual respect, support, and communication. Ask your teen what these relationship traits look like, the importance of being able to be yourself and how to set appropriate boundaries.

For more information on talking to your children about dating and intimate partner violence:

Click here for more resources on talking to children and teens about domestic violence, getting help and leaving violent situations.

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1) Dating Abuse Statistics. http://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/dating-violence-statistics/

2) Demographics and Domestic Violence https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/demographics-and-domestic-violence#.WWPjtY-cFYc

3) 11 Facts About Teen Dating Violence. https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-teen-dating-violence

4) Domestic Abuse Shelter of the Florida Keys. Information on Domestic Violence. http://www.domesticabuseshelter.org/infodomesticviolence.htm

5) Domestic Abuse Topline Facts and Statistics Key topline statistics related to domestic violence, abuse and intimate partner violence.https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/domestic-abuse-topline-facts-and-statistics#.WWQLgI-cFYc   

6) Children and domestic violence: Leading facts and statistics related to children and domestic violence. https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/children-and-domestic-violence#.WWPldo-cFYc  .

7) Popenoe, D & Whitehead, B. D. (2002) Should we live together?: What young adults need to know about cohabitation before marriage a comprehensive review of recent research (2nd ed.) (pp. 8). Piscataway, NJ: National Marriage Project.

8) Dating and domestic violence: leading facts and statistics related to dating and domestic violence.  https://www.domesticshelters.org/domestic-violence-articles-information/dating-and-domestic-violence#.WWQUQ4-cFYc

9) The Hotline. 50 Obstacles to Leaving: 1-10 http://www.thehotline.org/2013/06/50-obstacles-to-leaving-1-10/

10) CDC. Intimate Partner Violence.  https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/intimatepartnerviolence/index.html

11) Dating Abuse Statistics. http://www.loveisrespect.org/resources/dating-violence-statistics/

Images from https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-and-white-male-gender-rest-room-signage-134065/

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