Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault in Popular Culture

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Some groups of people have unique vulnerabilities with regard to intimate partner violence. Victims who belong to racial and ethnic minorities, are lesbian or gay, or are over the age of 50 are less likely to report abuse, fearing that authorities will not take them seriously or be willing to help them. People living in rural or impoverished areas may lack adequate healthcare and service providers, insurance, and public transportation systems.

Teens are also vulnerable and more likely to be victimized through social media. Young people may lack models of healthy relationships or education about relationship violence and may be unaware of services and resources designed to help victims of dating violence.

Teen dating violence is severely underreported, but surveys reveal that it is serious and widespread. Twenty percent of teens who have been in a serious relationship report being hit, slapped, or pushed by a partner; about 10 percent of students report being physically hurt by a boyfriend or girlfriend in the past year. One in four teenage girls who have been in relationships report that they have been pressured to engage in sexual acts. A third of teens report knowing a friend or peer who has been physically harmed by a partner.

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More than a quarter of teenage girls in a relationship report being subjected to repeated verbal abuse, and a similar percentage of teens in serious relationships have experienced some attempts to isolate them from family and friends. A majority of teens say that boyfriends or girlfriends sharing private pictures or videos of them, or spreading rumors about them on cell phones and computers, is a serious problem. Young people who are victimized by an intimate partner in high school are at greater risk for later victimization.

Women are disproportionately abused by intimate partners. Violence Against Women Online Resources reveals that women are 2 to 3 times more likely to report minor physical attacks for example, pushing and shoving than men, and 7 to 14 times as likely to report serious attacks for example, beating, strangulation, and use of a gun or knife.

Domestic Violence in Popular Culture

The National Violence Against Women Survey, furthermore, found that women assaulted by an intimate partner were more than twice as likely to be physically injured than assaulted men. Though some people have unique vulnerabilities or suffer disproportionately, intimate partner violence can affect anyone regardless of sex, race or ethnicity, age, marital status, ability, educational achievement, religion, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.

Many victims of intimate partner violence, whether teens or adults, suffer physical injuries, both minor and serious, ranging from scratches to broken bones and internal bleeding to permanent disabilities. In , IPV resulted in 2, deaths; 70 percent of the victims were women. Even more victims suffer psychological harm, including lowered self-esteem, anger, stress, depression, difficulty trusting others and fear of intimacy, and even symptoms of post-traumatic stress syndrome, such as flashbacks and panic attacks. Victims may also attempt to cope with their trauma in harmful ways, such as smoking, eating disorders, excessive drinking, drug abuse, engaging in risky sex, and suicidal behavior.

There are factors known to increase the risk that a person may commit violence against an intimate partner. They can also lead a person to believe that violence is normal or acceptable, as can having friends or associates who commit abuse.

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Social attitudes encouraging strict gender stereotypes, including male dominance and female submission, or discouraging intervention by witnesses, can create environments conducive to abuse. Symptoms of trauma, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and past violent or aggressive behavior may also be indicators of increased risk. Stressful experiences and circumstances, like economic hardship, unemployment, and overcrowding, can increase the chances that a person may lash out.

Of course, none of these factors necessarily leads a person to become an abuser, nor do they in any way excuse it, but they can be indicators that a person needs help. Because intimate partner violence against both genders is committed primarily by men, the National Institute of Justice recommends that prevention strategies should focus mainly on risks posed by men. Intimate partner violence affects many more people than just its immediate victims and perpetrators. Children and other family members, friends, employers and coworkers, witnesses, and members of the larger community are also affected.

The economic cost alone is enormous. This estimate includes only reported incidents and does not include costs associated with the criminal justice system. Each year, victims of severe violence by a spouse or partner lose an estimated 8 million days of paid work an estimated 8. Other social costs are incalculable. Children frequently exposed to violence among parents or caregivers, for example, bear an increased risk of becoming victims or perpetrators themselves.

All of us suffer some consequences of intimate partner violence, so we must not look the other way.

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We cannot ignore the important role that cultural messages play in how our society addresses intimate partner violence. News media, books, television shows, movies, and music often convey troublesome implicit messages about or closely related to relationship violence. A popular example of romanticized intimate partner violence may be found in the bestselling series of Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer.

The books and subsequent movie adaptations tell the story of a year-old girl, Bella Swan, who falls in love with a year-old vampire, Edward Cullen. In a sense, the novels depict a miniature culture of relationship violence, yet the relationships are portrayed not as a horror, but as passionate romances desirable to girls and women. Implicit messages such as those found in the Twilight series appear elsewhere, too. A newspaper story might describe a crime in a titillating manner or encourage readers to blame the victim.

A novel might suggest it is noble for a woman to allow an abusive partner back into her life.

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Audiences are affected by these messages. How they are affected depends on the extent to which audience members are educated about violence and have developed and engaged critical skills. Conscious, critical engagement is necessary in order to notice problematic messages, especially the more subtle ones, and avoid negative influence.

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Perpetrators actively seek to control their spouses or partners through threats, intimidation, violence, or psychological or economic manipulation. Abusers may make the victim feel responsible for and ashamed of the abuse, as if it is something deserved, or they may make the victim feel economically, legally, or socially helpless. When a victim wishes to leave a violent relationship, serious barriers may include a lack of affordable and safe alternative housing. Other barriers may be a lack of education, job skills, or personal financial resources; fear of losing custody of children or of raising children alone; fear of retaliation, of being discovered and subjected to worse violence; or fear of failure, loneliness, or the unknown.

Victims may have conflicted feelings, including a sense of loyalty to the relationship, a feeling that the abuser needs her help, or an optimism that the situation may change. Religious or cultural convictions that the abuse is normal, or that families must stay together at all costs, or that one must have a partner to be accepted in society can also play a part in her decision to stay. It is crucial to make an effort to understand the victim of intimate partner violence and the difficult obstacles she faces. Whether a person is ready to leave a violent relationship or not, professional IPV counselors recommend devising a clear but flexible safety plan as something that can be done immediately.

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Experts say that such plans save lives and can begin well before a victim actually attempts to leave. To make a safety plan, consider which places in the home, workplace, or other space are safest.

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Avoid rooms with easy access to weapons, like the kitchen, and rooms without exits, like bathrooms and closets. Seek rooms that do have escape routes or where, if one becomes unable to exit, shouting may attract attention, such as near an open window or shared wall. Practice escape routes. Teach children to find safe places with escape routes, too, whom and how to call for help, and never to get in the middle of a fight.

Devise a code word or other distress signal to use with children, family members, friends, neighbors, doctors, or other allies who can contact the police or other help right away. If possible, keep a suitcase of necessary items in a safe and accessible location where the abuser will not find it — with a trusted friend, for example. Review the safety plan regularly. Rape Culture is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.

Rape Culture affects every woman. The rape of one woman is a degradation, terror, and limitation to all women. Most women and girls limit their behavior because of the existence of rape. Most women and girls live in fear of rape. Men, in general, do not. This cycle of fear is the legacy of Rape Culture.

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