Domestic violence and abuse is a world-wide epidemic that affects people in every community regardless of economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. It is a blight on society that results in serious physical, emotional and mental health problems with far-reaching consequences for all concerned.
The never-ending cycle of abuse is a threat to the health of every man, woman and child and should be considered a national health emergency. Consider the following facts:
- Studies show that 88 percent of women who have experienced domestic violence and abuse suffer from a chronic health condition.
- It is estimated that 10 million children witness some form or domestic violence every year. Witnessing can mean seeing incidents of physical and sexual abuse, hearing fighting and threats, observing the aftermath of incidents, and living in a constant state of fear and tension. These children suffer emotional and physical trauma and may experience frequent illnesses, developmental delays in speech and cognitive skills, and even may become self-injuring and use aggression with other kids, or even their mothers. As they grow older, they have a higher risk of alcohol and drug abuse, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and serious, chronic health conditions.
- Boys who witness their mothers’ abuse are more likely to batter their female partners, and girls may believe that threats and violence are the norm in relationships, thus enabling the cycle of violence and abuse, shame and sickness.
Domestic violence and abuse is NEVER OK, for any reason, under any circumstance. It is criminal behavior, and a symptom of the sickness in society.
I speak about this from first-hand experience. In my book – True North, The Shocking Truth About “Yours, Mine and Ours” – I chronicle the story of surviving a childhood of domestic violence and child abuse. Growing up in the famous Beardsley family in Carmel, California, my siblings and I were victims of violence or the threat of violence on a daily basis.
The result was that every one of us carried into adulthood the burden of traumas we suffered as children. I have spent my entire adult life unwinding these stresses and rewriting the misperceptions and just poor mental programming I brought with me from my early years of suffering from anxiety, fear and depression.
The recent release of the shocking video showing NFL football player Ray Rice knocking his fiancé out in the elevator was not only a wake-up call to the NFL, but to the world. We do need a national effort to bring attention to this shameful epidemic of abuse that plagues humankind. This is a necessary step in dealing with this epidemic. The more awareness we can bring to bear, the greater the opportunity to educate parents about how to manage their stress, their own violent past, and teach children to speak up when they are being abused.
Having survived a childhood of domestic violence and child abuse, I have developed a keen awareness of the presence of this problem. I know when I am talking with someone who has been abused and I know when it exists in a household. In my case, it needn’t have been so if the adults in my environment at the time had been more attuned to the signs of abuse and had intervened.
Tom North is the author of True North, The Shocking Truth About “Yours, Mine and Ours”.