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A building displays a purple ribbon for domestic violence awareness. (DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)

A building displays a purple ribbon for domestic violence awareness.
(DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP/Getty Images)

By Zahra Ali, Plainfield North

Domestic violence is not an isolated, random phenomenon. Like any form of abuse, it’s based on a desire to exercise control over another person. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of some form of physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime.

When examining this issue, we tend to focus on the effects of the violence rather than its cause, when in reality it’s equally necessary to take a big step back and look at the broader picture: Where have we holistically gone wrong as a society? In order to seek prevention, the root causes of domestic abuse must be explored proactively.

Moving beyond the more personal reasons for violent home behavior, the push to stop domestic abuse begins by stopping the major contributing societal problems. It’s notable that drug abuse and alcohol have both been linked to domestic violence, according to a Memphis study on nighttime arrests. About 92% of the assailants in domestic violence calls were using drugs or alcohol, and 67% of them had used alcohol and cocaine in combination.

But these are just some of the factors. Another is the intense sexualization of women in entertainment media. Infamous serial killer Ted Bundy warned of the effects of softcore pornography nearly three decades ago in the final hours before his execution in 1989.

“There are lots of other kids playing in streets around the country today who are going to be dead tomorrow, and the next day, because other young people are reading and seeing the kinds of things that are available in the media today,” said Bundy in an interview with psychologist James Dobson.

Just look at the widely available sexually explicit images of women. Scantily dressed background dancers appear in almost every music video for the purpose of being sexually pleasing objects. What was considered pornographic thirty years ago can appear on prime time television without any major concerns. Objectification continues to become normalized.

But there is hope. Even small prevention plans make a difference. Earlier this month, St. Clair County in southern Illinois received a federal grant for domestic violence prevention. The county State’s Attorney commented on the issue.

“This is not a problem that can just be solved by prosecutors, this is not a problem that can be solved by police, or by advocates,” said Kelley to KSDK.com, “It has to include all of us, including all the different facets of the issues that contribute to domestic violence and sexual assault, and contribute to solutions to those problems.”

Justice for this crime seems to run in a continual circle. The abuser is arrested after the violence escalates, people are inclined to blame the victim, the world shakes its head and adorns itself with purple awareness ribbons, and the cycle continues without a solution.

Yes, of course, helping to stop domestic violence requires immediate solutions such as providing victims with shelter and teaching them to resist abuse. But at the same time, the cycle of violence isn’t going to spontaneously end by only creating solutions that help victims after they have been hurt.

A Stanford University 2014 study revealed that while teaching women how to defend themselves is a temporary answer, it needs to be paired with addressing the abuser’s attitude. The study itself took place in Kenyan slums, where women are often targets of violence, sexual assault, and rape.

“Clearly, girls should never be placed in these situations in the first place.,” said Dr. Clea Samquist, Senior Research Scholar, to the Stanford News Center, “Changing males’ attitudes and behavior about assault is an important area for the team’s current and future work, but with such a high prevalence of rape, these girls need something to protect them now.”

The long-term solution isn’t about analyzing the aftermath, it’s about preventing the abuse. It lies in funding institutions to stop substance abuse, educating people about alcoholism. It’s about ending the objectification of women in entertainment, and finally about reintegrating the basic value of respect as a society.

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