The headlines would be shocking enough if they had been culled from multiple cities over multiple days or weeks. However, they all appeared the same day — Thursday, Aug. 15 — in only one city, Pittsburgh, and in only one newspaper, the Post-Gazette:
• Boyfriend arrested in woman’s Etna strangling death
• Hearing postponed for Pitt researcher accused in wife’s cyanide death
• Fired Moon police officer accused of assaulting wife ordered to anger management classes
Pittsburghers are not the only Pennsylvanians grappling with the daily threat of domestic violence. Sadly, it’s all too common in our commonwealth. According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 141 Pennsylvanians lost their lives to domestic violence last year, including five in Luzerne County.
Among the state’s victims: an infant, an elementary school music teacher shot by her ex-husband as she played the organ during her church’s Sunday service, and a 20-year-old woman beaten, bludgeoned with a shovel, strangled, drowned and buried alive.
More than half the victims were shot; others were poisoned, burned, pushed down stairs or bludgeoned with baseball bats and pipe wrenches.
Domestic violence is so commonplace in our society – a woman is assaulted or beaten every 9 seconds in the United States, according to domesticviolencestatistics.org — that we seemingly have become inured to its pervasiveness.
In the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury to women aged 15 to 44 — more than car accidents, muggings and rapes combined. One in five teenage girls who have been in a relationship said a boyfriend has threatened violence or self-harm if presented with a breakup. One in three women will become victims of domestic violence in their lifetime
October is national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To mark the occasion, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, of which the Domestic Violence Service Center is a member, and the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape have jointly launched a new campaign to raise public awareness and reduce domestic violence in our communities. A linchpin to the campaign is a new Web site — pasaysnomore.com — that features personal testimonials from survivors of domestic violence, as well as resources available to victims of domestic violence and their significant others.
The campaign also features a new lapel pin, a teal-colored O, or zero, that represents our ultimate goal of no more domestic violence in our communities. Our goal is to make the teal-colored lapel pin as ubiquitous and recognizable as the pink ribbon is for breast cancer awareness.
It’s important to let domestic violence victims know there are alternatives to enduring abusive relationships that threaten their safety and jeopardize the long-term health of their children. Studies show that domestic violence is the leading predictor of child abuse, and that boys who witness domestic violence in their homes are 1,500 times more likely to perpetrate abuse later in life.
With a recent grant from Futures Without Violence, the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence is joining with school nurses and family health practices in six central Pennsylvania communities to teach students about healthy relationships. The emphasis is on building school nurses’ skills to prompt conversations about the topic.
A teen-dating violence law, passed in Pennsylvania in 2010, required the state Department of Education to develop a model policy to assist school districts in developing their own policies on dating violence reporting and response. This law also encourages schools to incorporate teen dating violence information into the annual health curriculum for students in grades nine through 12.
Domestic violence is one of our society’s major problems that hides in plain sight – it’s such an everyday occurrence that most of us tune it out like white noise, oblivious to the physical, financial, and psychological toll it exacts — when, in fact, the cost is high.
Studies indicate that, in the United States, domestic violence victims lose nearly 8 million days of paid work per year — the equivalent of 32,000 full-time jobs. We need to let victims know that help is available, and each of us needs to take action so that domestic violence is no more.