Domestic violence is considered by the World Health Organization as a worldwide epidemic. Defined as the violent abuse of spouses or partners either emotionally, sexually, financially, psychologically, or physically, this crime is estimated to affect 30% or almost 1 in 3 women worldwide. Women are the primary victims of domestic violence, making up 4 in 5 or 80% of the total victim population according to the United Nations. Of all the female homicides worldwide, half were said to be killed by an intimate partner in the supposed safety of their homes.
Most people view domestic violence as an exclusive problem to certain racial communities or economic classes. The research says otherwise, however, and the numbers confirm that abuse happens to women of all ages, races, economic classes, and family backgrounds. “Domestic violence isn’t limited to poor families and happens more commonly than we think,” says Samantha Greene, a domestic violence attorney. “The fact that it happens behind closed doors can often lead us to underestimate just how big of a social problem it is worldwide.”
For women between ages 16 and 44, domestic violence is considered as the number one cause of death in Europe. In the United Kingdom alone, over 1.3 million women experienced domestic abuse in the last year and 2 women die every week at the hands of their intimate partner. Domestic violence tallies to 10% of all violent crimes in the UK and the cost of domestic abuse is estimated at £23 billion per year, broken down into health and social care, housing, and criminal justice costs. Furthermore, domestic abuse is considered as a significant contributor to suicide statistics with over 400 people taking their own lives within six months of a reported abuse incident.
Experts believe that the statistics are a strong underestimation however as many cases of abuse can go unreported. Research estimates that on average, a woman will go through 35 events of domestic abuse before seeking out help. Less than 10% of women who seek to end the cycle of abuse go to the police and most look to the help of family and friends rather than formal institutions. Of cases that are reported to the authorities, approximately half does not result into an arrest due to difficulties in providing evidence.
Affected women often report that domestic violence can be kept hidden for years with abusers becoming a completely different person to other people than they are at home. Physical abuse can be targeted to obscure areas of the body and carried out only in private occasions. In some cases, abuse may sometimes continue outside of the home. In 2003, 42% of people from 1000 UK households surveyed said that they have witnessed another person being abused by a partner in a social event. However, witnesses often admit to turn a blind eye as many people still view domestic violence as a private issue.
In severe cases, domestic violence can eventually prove to be fatal. There are many factors that contribute to domestic homicide but experts believe that it can be predicted and therefore stopped. “The best indicator of whether a woman will be killed by her partner is prior domestic violence,” shares Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell, an expert in the field of domestic violence. “Seventy percent of women killed in a domestic violence dispute have been abused prior to their deaths and abusers who have access to a gun are 20 times more likely to commit homicide.”
Although at least 140 countries have laws on domestic violence, the fact is that many of these legislations go without proper implementation. Without a strong community-level program to address intimate partner violence, women are often silenced and left to endure domestic abuse.