In the United States, October marks National Domestic Abuse Awareness month. Domestic violence takes multiple forms in many societies, including physical, sexual, emotional and verbal abuse, destruction of property, social isolation and economic dependency. Anyone can be a victim of domestic violence regardless of age, gender, race, social status or sexual orientation.
The staff and volunteers at Circle of Health International have seen that domestic violence is exacerbated in disaster settings and warzones. In addition to providing these afflicted regions with appropriate supplies, equipment, and volunteers, COHI provides capacity training to combat these endemic social challenges.
By 2014, the number of people displaced by war, conflict or persecution reached a record high of nearly 60 million around the world. The headlines have been focused primarily on the political, economic, and humanitarian consequences of this displacement for the globe’s civilians. What has gotten far less attention are those who are further tormented and subjugated by internal conflicts like domestic violence.
In the United States alone, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. 1 in 3 women have been victims of [some form of] physical violence by an intimate partner within their lifetime. Unfortunately, domestic violence exists in all cultures and remains a problem throughout the world. Domestic violence impacts all socio-economic, cultural, and gender groups. Across the developed and developing world, men and women alike are socialized into accepting its legitimacy under many circumstances.
A COHI capacity training with a group of Eritrean refugee men in Tel Aviv, Israel on gender-based violence made a deep impression. One of the refugee men, who walked from Eritrea to Israel, fleeing persecution, violence, and poverty, shared the following secret: “I didn’t know I didn’t have to hit my wife.”
Domestic violence, when it occurs in refugee families, presents unique difficulties and challenges. The men in this community don’t want to hurt the women they love and are asking for help to end the cycles of neglect that contribute to a reduced quality of life for the victims of the abuse. The exposure to or use of violence as a way of responding to conflict, coupled with past traumatic experiences, is often transferred to the home and may increase the prevalence of domestic violence within future generations if left unchecked. This highlights that the inclusion of men is necessary in improving the lives of women and girls.
COHI is working directly to alleviate the avoidable suffering caused by this lack of access to basic human needs. Domestic violence thrives when we do not combat the root; but COHI has seen that when men and women work together this is one type of violence that can be prevented.