Opinion Blog

Peter DeWitt's

Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

No One Grows Up Wanting to be Abused

By Peter DeWitt — June 02, 2013 4 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

On Memorial Day Weekend Sir Patrick Stewart gave a speech at Comicpalooza in Texas. He took questions from the audience, and Heather Skye, who blogs at Lemon Sweetie, stood up to ask him a question. Skye had seen a recent speech Sir Patrick had given at Amnesty International about domestic violence. By his own admission, Stewart told the Amnesty audience that his mother was the victim of domestic violence.

Heather Skye asked Sir Patrick, “besides acting, what he was most proud of in his life.” Stewart went on to say that he works with Refuge, which helps women and children who have suffered from domestic violence in the United Kingdom (UK). He stated, “I do what I do in my mother’s name because I couldn’t help her then. Now I can.” In addition, he told the audience that he found out last year that his father suffered from “shell shock” from WWII, which we now call Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). For that reason, he works with the organization in the UK called Combat Stress.

Skye admitted that she was a victim of domestic violence, and Stewart pointed out that it takes men to stop it. He said that men have the power to make domestic violence end. Too often women who suffer from domestic violence are treated as though they are responsible for the abuse. In her blog, Heather Skye wrote,

After seeing Patrick talk so personally about it I finally was able to correctly call it (her experience) abuse, in my case sexual abuse that was going to quickly turn into physical abuse as well. I didn't feel guilty or disgusting anymore. I finally didn't feel responsible for the abuse that was put upon me. I was finally able to start my healing process and to put that part of my life behind me."

According to Women Thrive Worldwide, “An estimated one in every three women worldwide experiences violence, with rates reaching as high as 70 percent in some countries. Gender-based violence ranges from rape to domestic abuse and acid burnings to dowry deaths and so-called “honor killings.”

Girls Don’t Grow Up Wanting to be Abused
As educators, we know that some of our students are growing up in this type of environment. Their only safe place is at school and sometimes even there, they are detached and distant. When they arrive home, where many of our students typically feel safe and want to play, these children and their mothers are worried about what will happen next. They know they will be abused in some way at any given moment when they are home.

Home should be the safest place in someone’s life. No little girl dreams about being abused when they grow up. They are not willing participants, and Sir Patrick Stewart is correct, it takes men to stop this abuse. Too often, it is ignored and adults are bystanders who do not want to get involved.

In schools, we talk so often about bullying and how important it is to stand up for friends or victims, but we sometimes ignore, or feel helpless when it comes to, these most serious situations that are happening at home. As bad as domestic violence is in the US it is worse in other countries, and many times even an acceptable practice.

We have to help all children find their self-worth. We have to talk to all children about dealing with their anger, and work with those who seem to struggle with it at a very young age. Boys and girls need tools to help them cope with stress and anger and we have to continually expose children to healthy relationships because they may not see them in their homes.

American Bar Association Statistics
According to the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence, the following are some staggering statistics:
In a 1995-1996 study conducted in the 50 States and the District of Columbia, nearly 25% of women and 7.6% of men were raped and/or physically assaulted by a current or former spouse, cohabiting partner, or dating partner/acquaintance at some time in their lifetime (based on survey of 16,000 participants, equally male and female).
Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 181867, Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence, at iii (2000), available here.
Approximately 1.3 million women and 835,000 men are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the United States.
Patricia Tjaden & Nancy Thoennes, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 183781, Full Report of the Prevalence, Incidence, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, at iv (2000), available here.
Intimate partner violence made up 20% of all nonfatal violent crime experienced by women in 2001.
Callie Marie Rennison, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 197838, Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief: Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, at 1 (2003), available here.
In 2000, 1,247 women and 440 men were killed by an intimate partner. In recent years, an intimate partner killed approximately 33% of female murder victims and 4% of male murder victims.
Callie Marie Rennison, U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 197838, Bureau of Justice Statistics Crime Data Brief: Intimate Partner Violence, 1993-2001, at 1 (2003), available here.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, between 1998 and 2002:
• Of the almost 3.5 million violent crimes committed against family members, 49% of these were crimes against spouses.
• 84% of spouse abuse victims were females, and 86% of victims of dating partner abuse at were female.
• Males were 83% of spouse murderers and 75% of dating partner murderers
• 50% of offenders in state prison for spousal abuse had killed their victims. Wives were more likely than husbands to be killed by their spouses: wives were about half of all spouses in the population in 2002, but 81% of all persons killed by their spouse.
Matthew R. Durose et al., U.S. Dep’t of Just., NCJ 207846, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Family Violence Statistics: Including Statistics on Strangers and Acquaintances, at 31-32 (2005), available here.

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE

Connect with Peter on Twitter

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.