In the United States, more than 10 million women and men experience intimate partner violence in a given year; an additional 10 million children are exposed to domestic violence.
Between July 2015 and June 2016, there were 13,665 domestic violence calls in the 16-county region comprising the Triangle – over 5,000 of them from Wake County.
Perhaps more frightening than the trauma being caused to the family during the incidents is the long-term impact. The World Health Organization has found that, worldwide, men who were exposed to domestic violence as children are three to four times more likely to perpetrate intimate partner violence as adults than men who were not.
And new research shows a clear link between domestic violence offenders and incidents of mass violence. One analysis of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016 concluded that 54% of them involved a current or former intimate partner or family member as a victim.
There is no question that now is the time for our community to take domestic violence seriously. But the question is often being asked is, what can we do? How can we stop this cycle?
First and foremost, we must focus on safety and support for victims of domestic violence. Mental health professionals provide trauma-focused therapy to help those who have experienced family violence to rebuild their lives. Programs like supervised visitation, where children and their non-custodial parent can interact in a safe, welcoming environment, play an integral role in reestablishing family stability and preventing the cycle from re-occurring as children grow up.
But we cannot stop there. If we truly want to put an end to this vicious cycle, we must focus on healing the entire family – including the abuser.
We must work with the abuser to challenge their internal belief system that says that violence is the way to solve problems. We must replace the cultural norms of power and control with healthy, effective ways of addressing interpersonal conflict. And we must recognize the complex life situations in which many of these individuals function so that we can address the root causes of their behavior.
Triangle Family Services takes this approach when helping families in crisis – and it works. Rates of individuals with a known/reported re-offense among our Batterer Intervention Program (DOSE) graduates are strikingly lower than national averages. Less than 10% of DOSE graduates have a known/reported offense within the communities we serve. Through our supervised visitation programs last year, 97 local families were able to build stronger relationships in a safe and supportive environment.
Domestic violence is a public health challenge that we can overcome. By healing our families, we can keep our community safe and build a stronger community.
Alice Lutz, CFRE
CEO – Triangle Family Services