Recognizing and understanding abuse can be difficult, especially when reviewing how much of an impact it can have on the surrounding community. Abuse is any behavior or action that is considered to be cruel, violent, or performed with the intent of harming the victim. Many who experience abuse do so in intimate or romantic relationships and are so close to the relationships they may be unaware of the pattern of behaviors that exists. Approximately one-half of all couples will experience at least one violent incident in the in life of the relationship; in one-fourth of these couples, violence is or will be a common occurrence. Domestic violence and abuse is not exclusive to one race, gender, or age group; anyone and everyone can be a victim of abuse.
Abuse does not discriminate. However, the likelihood that someone will experience violent or aggressive behavior from a romantic partner varies depending on demographic features such as gender, race, education, and income, but can also include factors such as sexual preference, substance abuse, family history, and criminal history.
Differences in gender
Approximately eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women. This does not mean men are at a lower risk, per se, but it does indicate that women tend to be significantly more vulnerable to violent behavior than men. Additionally, the violence a person might expereicne at the hand of their partner may differ depending on the gender identify or sexual orientation of each individual. Forty-four percent of lesbian women and sixty-one percent of bisexual women are abused by their intimate partners as compared to thirty-five percent of heterosexual women. Conversely, twenty-six percent of gay men and thirty-seven percent of bisexual men experience violence such as rape or stalking by a partner as compared to twenty-nine percent of heterosexual men.
Differences in race
National statistics of domestic violence based on race and ethnicity reveal the complexities that exist when trying to determine risk factors. Approximately four of ten Black women, four of ten American Indian or Alaskan Native women, and one of two multiracial women have been the victim of violent behavior in a relationship. This is thirty to fifty percent higher than the prevalence statistics for Hispanic, Caucasian, and Asian women. Upon reviewing correlating data, a connection can be made between minorities and common risk factors that minority groups face such as increased rates of substance abuse, unemployment, lack of access to education, cohabitation of unmarried couples, unexpected or unplanned pregnancy, and level of income. For men, around forty-five percent of American Indian or Alaskan Native men, thirty-nine percent of Black men, and thirty-nine percent of multiracial men experience violence from an intimate partner. These rates are almost twice the rate of prevalence among Hispanic and Caucasian males.
Differences in age
Upon review of statistical data, the typical age of onset of violent behaviors (ages 12-18), correlates with the most common ages an individual will first experience violence in an intimate relationship. Women and men ages eighteen to twenty-four experience their first adult episode of violence at a much higher rate than any other adult age. Based on the statistical information available, the age at which a person experiences abuse or domestic violence can differ greatly from the age of the first occurrence.
What can you do to help prevent abuse?
Knowing the data and the statistics is not even to prevent the behavior. It is essential for community members to take an active role in promoting healthy relationships and communication skills. Communities should remain engaged in educating members of the risks, warning signs, and prevention strategies for reducing unhealthy relationship patterns. Many communities offer free education programs and peer support groups to assist citizens in becoming more equipped to step up and intervene if they are a witness to a potentially abusive relationship. Bystander awareness does not mean you have all the answers. It means, if you see something, say something!
But prevention is not always effective. As a bystander or as someone experiencing abuse, it is important to remember that sometimes the most effective help comes from someone who listens non-judgmentally and is there simply to support. When someone exposed to abusive behaviors is ready to talk, listen and believe what is said. Be aware of resources available in your community and be able to inform the person of their options. Be supportive by not criticizing, judging, or blaming the person for past actions. And above all else, do not be afraid to get involved, especially if the physical safety of the individual is at risk.