Hunterdon County Shines Light on Domestic Violence

domestic%20violence-2.jpg

Statistics reveal that one out of every four women will experience domestic violence at some point in her life. Women aren’t the only victims, however; men also can suffer abuse. Domestic violence occurs in traditional marriages, same-sex unions, and unwed relationships. It knows no social, economic or ethnic boundaries and, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it ranks third among the leading causes of homelessness in this country. (1)

Because domestic violence is such a prevalent problem in our society, October has been named Domestic Violence Awareness Month in Hunterdon County. Numerous events designed to bring attention to this malady kicked off the month. A display entitled “Clothesline Project” featuring T-shirts decorated with messages of support by victims and survivors of domestic violence will be exhibited in county libraries throughout the month to help bring this issue to light. (2)

Under New Jersey State law residents have the right to live without fear of their safety and to be free from abuse, threats and physical harm. The New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act applies to anyone 18 years or older, as well as emancipated minors, who are victims of violence by either a spouse, an ex-partner or someone who lives, or has lived, in their house. It also applies to anyone, regardless of age, in a dating relationship. (3)

Domestic violence is not limited to physical abuse. It is defined as a pattern of behavior aimed at gaining control over another person. The abuse can be physical, verbal or emotional, sexual, psychological, and even economical. (4) What’s more is the abuse has far-reaching consequences.

This past June, a teacher in California lost her job after her abusive ex followed her to her school, causing the school to be put in lockdown. While this is an extreme case, it brought to light that only six states in the country have laws prohibiting employment discrimination against domestic violence victims. New Jersey is not one of those states. (5)

The statistics surrounding domestic violence are sobering. Women suffer more than 4 million assaults, including rapes, by their partners, while men suffer almost 3 million physical domestic violence assaults. Women, however, are more likely to be killed by a partner than men are. In fact, one in three female murder victims are killed by a current or former partner. The group at greatest risk of becoming domestic violence victims is 20 to 24 year old women. (1)

Direct victims of domestic violence are not the only ones to suffer. Statistics show that children in domestic violent homes are 30% to 60% more likely to suffer abuse or neglect and are more likely to have health problems. In addition, children who witness extreme acts of violence in their homes put themselves at greater risk of being injured or killed because they are more apt to intervene. (1)

If you are the victim of domestic violence it is important to know your rights. You have the right to call the police as often as necessary. Police responding to a domestic violence call must file a report and must arrest the abuser if you show signs of injury, there was a weapon involved, or the abuser has violated an existing restraining order. (6)

As a victim, you also have the right to pursue both civil and criminal charges against your abuser. Criminal charges will seek punishment for the abuser for his or her actions, while civil charges are designed to protect you from future abuse through such methods as the issuance of a restraining order. (6)

(1) http://www.safehorizon.org/index/what-we-do-2/domestic-violence–abuse-53/domestic-violence-the-facts-195.html
(2) http://www.nj.com/hunterdon-county-democrat/index.ssf/2013/09/hunterdon_squares_off_against.html
(3) http://www.womanspace.org/get-educated/the-law/domestic-violence-law/
(4) http://www.safehorizon.org/index/what-we-do-2/domestic-violence–abuse-53.html
(5) http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/06/20/2190691/domestic-violence-employment-discrimination/
(6) http://www.njsbf.org/images/content/1/1/11076/domesticviolence.pdf