Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's More Than Just Shock TV: Starting a Conversation About Domestic Violence

The female detective burst through the door to discover Mia standing with a knife sticking out of her chest. “She attacked me!” he lied, ready with his defense in hand. Mia looked frantically around the room, her mind cycling through confusion, shock, and fear, before she collapsed onto the floor. “Call 911!” the detective instructed the neighbor, who had stumbled upon the horrific scene. Blood gushed out of Mia’s chest as the detective applied pressure to the wound. “Call 911!” she repeated, but the neighbor was paralyzed by the sight of Mia’s bright red blood streaming, flowing like water onto the floor, through the detective’s fingers, down Mia’s neck and out of her mouth, staining Mia's teeth red. It took less than a minute for Mia to bleed out – before anyone had called for help and with three people in the room, including the man Mia was supposed to trust most - her husband.

It was the most graphic murder I have ever seen on television. Even now, hours later, it’s still playing in my mind, keeping me from falling asleep. Mia had previously left her husband because of the domestic abuse. She was placed in a women’s shelter for safety, where Mia lamented she felt like the one in prison. Angered by the shelter’s rules, scared of starting a new life without a degree or work experience, ashamed by the situation, and hopeful that things would get better, Mia dropped the charges and returned home to her husband. As punishment for not staying quiet about the abuse, he stabbed her in the chest with a kitchen knife.

One of the reasons Law & Order SVU continues to be such a successful show is that it’s not afraid to tackle the real issues that face younger women. It encourages us to create a dialogue, to do our own research, and to really think about what’s happening in this world, despite the fact that we might have turned on the television in search of a distraction. And research is exactly what the show prompted me to do. Did you know that an estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year?* And according to U.S. Department of Justice, females 20-24 are at the greatest risk.

Domestic violence does not only affect heterosexual relationships. If you are in an abusive relationship of any kind, call a domestic violence hotline to talk to a trained professional ready to help. In Atlanta, the Women's Resource Center to Stop Domestic Violence has a 24-hour domestic and dating violence hotline: 404-688-9436. Younger Women’s Task Force is committed to helping with the movement to stop domestic violence. Representatives from our chapter will be at Sisters Empowerment Network’s 2010 Domestic Violence Awareness Conference. For more information about how you can help fight against domestic violence, consider joining YWTF-Atlanta’s Violence Against Women Special Interest Group. Email our program director Karen Moore at to get involved.

*Costs of Intimate Partner Violence Against Women in the United States. 2003. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centers for Injury Prevention and Control. Atlanta, GA.

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