In a December 2021 interview, Pope Francis referenced that in domestic violence a dynamic occurs in which a more powerful individual takes advantage of the weakness of another. Sadly, this abuse occurs too often, leading at times to very real and painful physical and emotional consequences. It is estimated by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence that 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will experience severe intimate partner violence. To compound the pain experienced in families, 1 in 15 children will be exposed to intimate partner violence, with 90% of those children being direct eyewitnesses of the violence. Whether experienced or witnessed, domestic violence is traumatic and can leave painful emotional scars.
While the experience of domestic violence is horrible and traumatic, it is often difficult for victims to leave the situation in which the violence is occurring. Victims of domestic violence often are scared of the repercussions of leaving, may experience pressure to stay because of children, may lack the means to leave, or may be holding out hope that the relationship will improve. The fear of the unknown may hold many victims back from making the step to change their life.
Because of this, it is important for us if we know someone who is experiencing domestic violence to treat them with patience and compassion. It is important to balance expressing our concerns for their safety with listening to and empathizing with their experience. Ultimately the decision must come from the person being abused to leave and get help. This decision is something that cannot be forced, and it is important to remember that the victim may fear making a bad situation worse. In the face of this, what we can offer is options and support (such as through hotlines and shelters) and our continued presence so that the victim knows they are not alone.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, help is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-799-7233 or texting “START” 88788. Online support via chat is available at https://www.thehotline.org/.